There’s been many times I’ve heard the term, “self-love”. I’d see it thrown in an
Oprah quote or hashtagged somewhere in the daily smoothy boomerang. I would
often debate in my head if this is a movement with meaning or if it is just a woke
trend. A buzzword that sounds good in the mental wellness discussion. I’d find
many people pin different ideas around the term. I decided to look into books that
reflect it directly, most that do have been written in the last 5-6 years prior to me
writing this in 2020. As I looked deeper I saw similar terms surface.. like a holistic
meal deal - self-esteem, self-acceptance, self care, self-awareness the list goes on.
Were these tangents of the same thing? Were they different? How could there be all
these aspects of my “self” yet I’m so unaware.
Wikipedia defines Self-Love as:
"love of self" or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage" has both been
conceptualized as a basic human necessity and as a moral flaw, akin
to vanity and selfishness, synonymous with amour propre, conceit,
conceitedness, egotism, et al.
This hit the nail on the head for me. Growing up, I’d never heard of “self-love”
before. If I’m being honest; when I first heard it I felt itchy and uncomfortable. When
I was a young lad I’d hear that to “love yourself” was narcissistic, pretentious and
self-absorbed. I anchored the idea of “loving yourself” to vanity because being the
sponge minded child I was, I took in everything around me literally. If I wanted to be
accepted by society I was to stay away from “selfishness” as it was frowned upon.
I’d have it tattooed in my brain that putting others first and emulating selflessness
was rewarded. After some hindsight and coming of age (still currently a work in
progress), I came to realise that growing up with this outlook contributed to deeper
• The relationship with myself was skewed.
• I felt shame and guilt whenever I wanted something of personal gain.
• I needed permission or validation from others to feel accepted.
• I struggled identifying and asserting boundaries.
• I had minimal entitlement and confidence to engage with new people and new
So what changed?
Well, it seemed likely that the taboo of “me loving me” was parallel to having low
self-esteem. I picked this insight up after reading Nathaniel Branden’s “Six Pillars of
Self Esteem” in 2015. A book I’d recommend to anyone for understanding the
foundations of building a healthy relationship with one’s self. This book clarified the
focus but it was the following shifts in my thinking and living that improved my
relationship with myself:
• Imagine looking after your own child. - There’s unconditional love no matter
what. You want the best for them no matter what. If they mess up you assure
them that it’s going to be alright & that failure is part of the journey. If they’re
knocked down you support them in getting back up. You do whatever it takes to
give them the best in life. If they do something they shouldn’t, you make them
aware why they shouldn’t and you move on. They will want to stay up with pals
late on the playstation when they have school early and even eat chocolate for
breakfast every morning. You know those things are what your child wants but
it’s not what’s best for them. The relationship may have its struggles at times but
it’s a loving one no matter what. Your very embodiment is your own flesh and blood. Your child is of your own flesh and blood. When it comes to your child there’s things you don’t question, yet with ourselves things slip.
This analogy is mirrored best with the term “self-acceptance” because of the
unconditional “no matter what” aspect to it. So what about self-esteem and self-
Self-esteem is more like the by-product of living that aligns with that self-
acceptance and radiating self-love. Living in accordance to your own boundaries
and purpose. Many people will have a buzz that mimics self-esteem when they are
applauded by others. This is stemming from the permission and influence of others
but not yourself. When it’s esteemed from yourself, that’s self-esteem.
This by-product is healthy. The narcissism, the pretentiousness, the need for
approval are often products of the ego taking charge. - A whole other beast. Great
books that cover the ego that I’d recommend are: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart
Tolle (very much on the spiritual side) or “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday which
is more grounded and stoic.
Exploring and consuming information from those who have that step of life figured
out and being around the right kind of support can help you realise what aligns to
your path. You can understand more about being that best parent to yourself,
enabling that self-love.