On Facebook, I host a group call Living Type Me for those who have read my book From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It. Every day I post quotes, articles, and other tidbits to help grow awareness, inspire, and assist the participants in their personal growth.
In April I shared the Shakti Gawain quote, “You can love other people only to the degree that you’ve come to love and accept yourself.” Group member and founder of ARTemis, Sam Hull, had this question in response, “Love or acceptance? Self-love is immeasurable, but self-acceptance is easily documented and weighed against self-neglect. Yes? So what is the difference that would place love or acceptance?” Great question Sam!
To me, self-acceptance is only one part of self-love. Self-love is unconditional and is part self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-care. To fully experience self-love, all of these components must be present.
To truly experience self-love, it must be unconditional. It is easy to love ourselves after we win an award, lose 10 lbs. or have some other tangible accomplishment. True self-love does not need a reason to love. The love exists through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. It neither needs a reason to love nor is deterred when we are not at our best. Self-love is constant.
Self-love comes from self-awareness, knowing who we are completely. If we are loving the mask we wear, it is not true self-love. To truly love ourselves, we can not hide who we are. We need the strength and vulnerability to see who we truly are, not who we want to be or believe we are supposed to be. Self-awareness is being courageous enough to see our truth.
With this awareness, we then need to accept ourselves wholeheartedly, warts and all. We can be aware of our truth, but if we do not accept it, if we judge ourselves because of it, or we perceive it as unworthy, that is not self-love. Self-love is knowing ourselves intimately, the perceived good and bad, and still loving ourselves deeply.
One step further than unconditional acceptance, is appreciating ourselves just the way we are. This is not about praising our accomplishments, but about seeing our true selves and appreciating how our uniqueness is a gift to the world. No one can be and do what we can. We are unique, with unique contributions to offer. Embracing and appreciating our inherent gifts is a key component of self-love.
Where the other components of self-love revolve around thought and belief, self-care is about action. You can say you unconditionally love yourself but if you are not eating right and providing the body, mind and spirit what it needs, you are not acting on your self-love. Self-care is the manifestation of our awareness, acceptance, and appreciation.
To Sam’s question, self-acceptance is not the opposite of self-neglect. Self-neglect may be a symptom of the lack of self-acceptance, but it is not the other end of the spectrum. Many people do not accept themselves and therefore shower themselves with self-care, but if they can not accept themselves, self-care may just be a Band-Aid and a weak attempt to fill the self-love void.
What does self-love mean to you? Are you truly loving yourself unconditionally with total awareness, acceptance, and appreciation? Are you gifting yourself with the care you inherently deserve?
Until you can love yourself with this unconditional love, you may find it difficult to truly, deeply love another.