I never liked the term ‘self-love’.
Perhaps it’s my fear of egotism, a semantic bias, or my tendency against stereotypical ideas of romance, but pairing the word ‘love’ with ‘self’ just never felt right. Love makes me think of family, boyfriends, and sushi — trying to turn those emotions around onto myself feels discordant.
“You gotta learn to love yourself!” Ok. How exactly does one do that when you are yourself? What is it supposed to feel like?
I feel like the L-word gets in the way for many people.
They’ve used it and heard it too many times when nothing deeper was demonstrated. Or they hardly knew it. Or the words and the physical were confused to be the real thing.
Love gets so lost in the depths of the complexities of human emotion and culture, and that is why it can feel so conflicting to turn that word towards yourself.
The real thing doesn’t feel like clinging, manipulating, drama, or guilt. Those only manifest out of fear of losing love. Neither does it feel like eternal glowing rapture.
Leaving myself love letters or wrapping my arms around my shoulders and repeating “I love you” can help during darker moments, but on a normal day it turns me off.
What does light a spark in my mental loins, though, is self-care.
The idea of care immediately connects me to a place that feels like the heart. Caring is when I’m aware of how I’m treating myself and if I’m truly considering my best interest. I’ve cared for pets, for plants, for people; and I know the blatant difference between when I’m caring for myself and when I’m neglecting myself.
Another word that induces the same warm fuzzies for me is self-understanding.
Giving understanding is sweet and true. I take it as a sign of something deeper and special astir when someone takes the time and effort to ask me questions and listens, and wants to understand where I’m coming from and why. Likewise, I know I truly am interested and devoted when I’m really trying to comprehend what’s turning the gears of their heart, their mind. Taking the time to really sit and try to learn and understand myself and my experience is one of the most loving things I can do for me.
And the third term that completes this triad of amore is self-respect.
Respect. Sadly it’s often the one missing quality that is tolerated when the rest of the aspects of “love” are there. In a world of pampering and adoration, respect is seen as boring and undramatic, and it’s easy to forget how much it means to us when we receive it. It’s not being reserved or worshiped, it’s a quiet acknowledgement of worth and a reverent acceptance of another human. That is deep. When I am respecting myself, I don’t convince myself to hang out with negative people even though I “should”. I don’t waste away a day by allowing myself to be angsty. I consciously make a decision to live up to the kind of standards that keep me feeling good and growing.
We all want a love that truly and deeply cares. A love that seeks to understand who we are. A love that shows respect to our truth as a unique and worthy human being. Everything else is just a distraction.
We need to create this for ourselves first. And that is why it’s so important to understand what it is.
When I felt it for the first time, it didn’t feel like the googly-eyed kind of self-adoration I imagined it would be. It didn’t feel like perfection or super confidence. But it felt really good, really strong yet soft, really warm and grounded. It felt like a deep understanding and respect of everything. All the decor and nonsense dropped away. It was beautiful.
It comes in brief moments, but I know the more I work on it, the more I will feel it.
If self-love terminology always made perfect sense to you, then don’t think you need to change a thing! But if you happen to feel the same inner turmoil as I, I offer these words for consideration and encourage you to discover other terms that get you closer to creating your personal lexicon of self-love.