“Love Yourself,” “practice self love,” “put yourself first” are phrases that are heard and seen often in our society and on social media. But what is self-love anyways?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines self-love as “an appreciation of one's own worth or virtue.”
Self-love is not just done through words or looking in the mirror and saying “I love you” to yourself; it goes far beyond this. It's more than just saying a few positive affirmations and moving on with your day.
Self-love is when you accept yourself for who you are, treat yourself with kindness, don’t compare your life to the lives of others, put yourself first and take care of and appreciate yourself.
Leslie Ralph is a clinical psychologist at Counseling and Psych Services at the University of Arizona, and she is also the coordinator of mental health promotion.
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“The most basic way I think of [self-love and self-compassion] is treating yourself like somebody worth caring about and worth taking an active interest in, and then, by extension, choosing to take care of ourselves as if we are somebody worth taking care of,” Ralph said.
An article by Medical News Today explains the concept of self-love by stating, “for many people, the concept of self-love might conjure images of tree-hugging hippies or cheesy self-help books. But, as many psychology studies attest, self-love and -compassion are key for mental health and well-being, keeping depression and anxiety at bay.”
The journey to find self-love can be difficult and it takes time. It’s not something we are able to accomplish overnight. We are our biggest critics, and it can be hard to appreciate ourselves for who we are and let go of small mistakes and challenges that we run into.
“I think because we're with our own selves 24/7 and so [we] are very intimately aware of things that feel like a big struggle,” Ralph said.
Ralph explains that the “insider view” we have of ourselves and our own life can sometimes make the self-love and compassion journey difficult for us.
When we don’t show ourselves self-love and self-compassion it often means that we are giving into the negative self-talk and thoughts, neglecting our own feelings and not doing things to make ourselves happy or feel our best. Practicing self-love and compassion is beneficial for our mental health, well-being and happiness.
There are small steps that we can take to practice self-love and self-compassion in our daily lives. For example, listening to our thoughts and stopping the negative self-talk and thoughts we may have about ourselves. Treat yourself how you would treat your best friends and family members.
“Start prioritizing our own self care just in daily life. Asking ourselves things like how do I want to feel today or how do I feel today, and then choosing to do something about it,” Ralph said.
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Julianna is a senior majoring in journalism and sociology. She enjoys writing and reporting on topics related to mental and physical health and wellness.