Self-care and self-love tend to go hand in hand, yet often we can confuse one for the other, equating how we look after ourselves, with how we treat ourselves on the inside.

In general, self-care are your actions and are more external, whereas self-love is your thoughts and emotions, and how you tend to yourself on a more compassionate level.

Practicing self-care is intrinsically linked to your overall wellness like getting enough sleep, rather than staying up to watch one more episode on Netflix, or making sure you have down time over the weekend, getting exercise, taking a soothing bath, feeding yourself healthy food, and doing some breathwork or meditation.

These are all definite acts of love towards yourself, however, if you’re speaking to yourself unkindly, and telling yourself you’re not enough, it doesn’t matter how much green juice you drink, how many laps you run, or how many flowers you buy yourself, there is going to be a disconnect that impacts your wellbeing.

Self-love is the ability to accept yourself as you are, that you are good and whole, despite your wounds and insecurities, or what you may see as your imperfections.

It’s the capacity to be able to speak kindly to yourself, letting go of comparing yourself to others and the self-judgement that sometimes brings, and showing yourself compassion.

Without self-love, we really decrease our possibility to thrive and be happy, as it doesn’t matter what kind of success we have in life, it will never be enough or we won’t feel enough, if we don’t have the self-love piece of the puzzle.  You’ll always be looking for something outside of yourself to fill that hole or gap that you see within yourself.

When we lack self-love, it can show up as berating yourself if you make a mistake, or perhaps you say yes to things that you know will leave you feeling drained and exhausted, or maybe you are unable to create healthy boundaries in relationships.

It can also look like not making yourself a priority.  Often, we can put everything and everyone else first, and put ourselves on the end of the list, or we tell ourselves we are selfish if we look after number 1, that we put our own needs on the backburner, in fact, you may neglect our own self-care that is so vitally important.  Perhaps you have heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup!”  If you don’t take care of yourself and your needs, ultimately it is very difficult to be there for others, so making time for yourself and your care is vital.

There can also be a misconception around people that “love themselves”, that if you value yourself and your worth, that you are egotistical or self-important, we have what we call in Australia the tall poppy syndrome, which likes to cut you down to size if you get “too big for your boots”, so in an effort to not seem this way you could put yourself down in front of others.

However, caring for yourself, being kind to yourself and treating yourself with respect, is actually a very positive act of love and natural for a healthy, well-functioning person.

In this state we are able to create those healthy boundaries, we’re able to say no when things aren’t right for us, and if we notice we’re beating ourselves up with our self-talk we change the conversation.

Sometimes the way we speak to ourselves we would never dream of speaking to a friend, yet that little inner voice can be really destructive.

What we want to start to do is to notice when we go down that path and choose to love ourselves instead.  To ask yourself in that moment.  What do I need?  How can I support myself through this?

Rather than punishing yourself for your vulnerabilities or your perceived weaknesses, closing down on yourself; instead in those moments inviting yourself to soften, and honour your humanness.

Self-love is a willingness to show up for yourself even perhaps when there are times that you don’t feel loveable, but choosing to love yourself anyway.  It helps you to know that you’re doing your best even when times are tough, it’s the part of you that gives yourself a break if you go through a whole packet of Tim Tam’s in one sitting after a bad day, however, it’s also the voice that knows tomorrow is another day, and you will get back to your self-care routine.

If you have self-love, you tend to do more actions of self-care, and the more self-care you give yourself can build into more self-love, so they are deeply intertwined and can be developed.

They are both the key to a more fulfilling life, to give you the fuel, the strength and compassion to move through challenging times, and also show up to the world with kindness for yourself, and for those around you.

Written by Sacha Stewart
Kinesiologist, Mind Body Medicine Practitioner + Meditation Teacher