My word for 2020 is self-love, but that’s not what I first thought it would be. When I was thinking about my word for this year I first thought about extending my word from 2019 into this year as well. That word was “refuah” which is Hebrew for healing. My entire 2019 was a healing journey, and it’s not over yet. I thought it was appropriate to continue exploring the meaning and themes of healing and applying them to my life, and I fully intended to bring that word forward.
And then, I changed my mind. I was working with a coach in December and January (yes coaches need coaching, too!) and she asked me if I love myself. My natural and immediate response was, “Well of course I do.” But then I started really thinking about it, and I realized that I didn’t even know what it means to truly love yourself. If I didn’t know what it meant then I obviously couldn’t say that I do. So, I changed my word for 2020 from refuah to self-love.
So what exactly is self-love? That’s the million-dollar question, and like any good question the more people you ask the more answers you will get. But I didn’t want a million different answers. I wanted THE answer. I can’t promise you that what I have learned so far this year is the be-all and end-all to what it means to love yourself. This year isn’t over yet (although we all wish it was!!!), and I’m sure that I will learn more this year and going into the future. But, I want to share with you a bit about what I have learned about love for oneself.
There is a misconception out there that loving yourself is taking flower-laced baths or enjoying a day of indulging in yourself. That is not self-love. That is self-care. There is nothing wrong with these things, and quite frankly, I think self-care is critical. But, it’s not the meaning of loving yourself. You can care for yourself in these ways (and others) and really have no self-love at all. In all honesty, if you never engage in self-care then you are likely to burn out very quickly and just end up as nothing. So, we engage in self-care to recharge and keep going. This is good. This is not self-love.
Another misconception about self-love is that it’s a more easily acceptable form of narcissism- that loving who you are is thinking highly of yourself and viewing yourself as better than others. This is so far from the truth that it makes me laugh. True narcissism can never be mistaken for self-love, and many people who project themselves and are labeled narcissistic are actually saying things that they don’t believe about themselves to cover up a very low self-image. But, that’s another story entirely. Loving yourself is not narcissistic.
In trying to define self love I broke it down into its two components- self and love. Self love is love for self. So what does that mean? Well, in all honesty that would depend on how you define love. Once you understand how you view love then self love is applying that to yourself. We all define love a little differently because it’s one of those words that isn’t conveyed well in the English language. I’m not talking about romantic love here, although you can certainly apply that to self. What I’m talking about, however, is the love we have for friends and family and applying that to ourselves. How do you love your friends? What manner do you use when speaking to your friends? How do you interact with them? How do you care for them? That is love and can be applied to oneself.
Think of how you react when your best friend speaks negatively to herself. Would you say those things to her? Do you stop her saying those things to herself? Take that same approach with your own self-talk. That is a basic component of self-love.
I could continue on and on with examples, but I’ll wrap up with this. True love for yourself is the respect that you have for yourself because you see yourself as valuable and worth the effort. It’s knowing that you are a marvelous human being who is worth so much more than what you can give yourself, but giving yourself those things that you can. Narcissism has no place in truly loving yourself because it is not respectful in any way. Loving yourself is not about spending money on fancy spa days although that can be a part of it. It’s about respect, pure and simple. Self-love is respect for yourself and honoring what you need because you are worth it.