- Anya Szumowski
The Difference Between Self-Love and Selfishness
Some would have us believe that to love and care for oneself is selfish. In fact, it's probably one of the greatest concerns I hear from clients, that we are somehow self-centered and greedy for considering our own needs. But I beg to differ! Here's why...
Arrogant people tend to view themselves as superior to and more important than others. And unfortunately, we're frequently fooled by arrogance. We believe these people are confident and self-assured. Though ironically, despite its effectiveness, arrogance is often just a way to hide insecurity through displays of bravado and indifference. In reality, arrogant individuals often lack self-love and instead anchor their self-worth to how they are perceived by others.
It's not true self-love without accountability. Part of loving yourself is to acknowledge your limits, needs, and worth, and to establish boundaries (both with self and others) to protect them. While self-love absolutely included mental health days and relaxing spa trips, it isn't solely focused on pleasure and comfort. Instead, it's about recognizing areas for improvement, facing challenges, and taking responsibility and accountability for your own growth. Self-love is not always an easy choice, but it is the healthy one.
Selfishness often arises from fear, distrust, and the need for extreme individualism. It's a zero-sum game where you having more means I get less, and as a result, we make decisions and choices at the expense of those around us. In turn, we inevitably feel threatened and resentful. But authentic self-love allows us to hold space for our own needs while also considering the needs of others. It fosters connection, creating safety and trust.
Self-Love Is About...
Part of self-love includes how we treat ourselves, and the ultimate goal is with compassion. Self-compassion means responding to ourselves with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness in times of failure, defeat, and personal shortcomings. A little something to think about; what might happen if you could meet yourself with compassion, and were able to find comfort within yourself? My bet is on 1. a stronger sense of self-acceptance and resulting confidence, 2. strengthened resilience in the face of challenge, and 3. better relationships as we are less likely to seek validation from others. Indeed, external praise is nice, but internal appreciation is even better.
Self-love 100% promotes self-care. Understanding the importance of taking care of yourself, and making active efforts to support your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is a result of self-love. And when we learn to care for ourselves, we are so much better at caring for and being present with others.
When we love ourselves enough to recognize our value and worth, we are better equipped at building healthy relationships. We can recognize the importance of expressing our needs and communicating boundaries. In turn, we're also able to welcome the needs and boundaries of others, without experiencing a threat to the stability of our relationship.
Self-love fosters a positive mindset. Focusing on the positive aspects of ourselves and our lives helps cultivate a sense of gratitude and happiness. We are less likely to look outside of ourselves for comfort and joy, and instead, begin to recognize that we have the power to determine our own happiness - and that's pretty powerful.
We tend to be pretty hard on ourselves, and most of us have the belief that this will somehow make us better. But has hating yourself ever actually helped more than it has harmed? If there is anything I know for certain, it's that authentic growth never stems from feelings of shame. But when we meet our limitations with love, and continue to value ourselves despite our mess-ups and mistakes, we are far more likely to create meaningful change.
See? Not so selfish after all...
The idea that self-love means you’re overly confident, self-absorbed, and willing to trample over all who are in your way is just not true. As shown above, notice how not a single component of self-love is actually selfish. When we are able to acknowledge and celebrate the wonderful things about ourselves, we’re also able to have a positive attitude toward others. And when we take care of ourselves and our happiness first, our hearts are more open to caring for those around us. While self-love ultimately starts with you, it subsequently benefits everyone else too.