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Self Care vs. Self Love: How to Have Both

It may seem like self-care and self-love contradict each other. But…You CAN have both! And it’s important that you work to bring both into your life. Because when you make it a point to prioritize yourself, you’re able to give others the best of you. Below, you’ll find top strategies to start practicing self-care and self-love right away.
Read more about self-care and wellness here.

self-care and self-love, black woman from behind in black shirt and pink leggings walking through desert

What’s The Difference?

First, it’s important to understand what self-care and self-love really are. 

Self-care is taking action to improve or maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health. It is doing the hard(ish) things now that will make you better later. It’s turning off the tv after an episode of your favorite show and going to sleep instead of binge-watching until late at night. You’ve cared for yourself by prioritizing your rest over your tv indulgence.

Self-love is seeing yourself as you really are and caring about that person. It’s having your own back. It’s not egoism or thinking you shouldn’t change…it’s understanding that you are a complete and whole person just as you are. You don’t need to change, but you can want to change. It’s understanding that if you occasionally binge watch tv, it doesn’t make you a bad person or even make you an unproductive person. It just means you are someone who occasionally binge-watches tv.

So, how do you do both?
First, it’s a matter of understanding who you are now and who you want to be in the future. At the same time, you need to love who you are now.
Here are three simple strategies to help you uncover your thoughts about yourself…

self-care and self-love, asian woman sitting crosslegged in rattan chair holding mug and thinking positive thoughts

#1 | Journal

Use a journal to free-write about the five main areas of your life: social, physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. Who are you in these areas and who do you want to be in the future? Think about how you want to show up in these areas. How do you act? How do you live? Write it all down. Write without stopping or editing your thoughts. There is no wrong answer. There is just what you’re thinking. Writing it down can help you get to the center of what you’re really wanting. You may start out by saying you want to quit your job, but you could finish by realizing you really want more time to follow your hobbies. 

#2 | Reflection

You can do the same type of exercise, but without writing. Allow yourself time to sit and think through your future. Allow your mind to create the details in each area. How is that person different from who you are now? How does she care for herself? For her loved-ones? How does she spend her time? Who is in her life?

#3 | Walking Reflection

For some of us, sitting still makes it more difficult to concentrate. If this is you, take your brain outside. Go for a walk to focus on your future. This time, leave the phone, podcasts, and music at home. Let it be just you and your brain. Allow your mind to wander over the possibilities. Again- no censoring! Just see which ideas really resonate with you. Funnel down to find out why those ideas are most appealing.

self-care and self-love, asian woman cutting a grapefruit in a white blouse and tan skirt in modern white kitchen

Now What?

Once you understand where you are and where you want to be, determine the actions that support you in your growth of your weaker areas. As Elizabeth Scott, MS of verywellmind says, “your self-care pan will need to be customized to your needs.” You will need to focus more on different areas during different seasons in your life. Then lead yourself toward better health from a place of love. It’s almost like you’re parenting yourself. “When you discover that you’re neglecting a certain aspect of your life, create a plan for change,” Scott says. 

As you incorporate the self-care strategies that will move you toward better health, this is also the time to make sure you’re practicing self-love. So, if you see yourself as someone who takes good care of her body through her food choices and exercise, then your self-care is to make sure you’re moving regularly and making strong nutrition choices. But your self-love is dressing yourself to look good now, in the body you’re in, without criticizing it or waiting until you “deserve” to look nice.

As parents, we would never – ok, rarely – let our children eat dessert for three meals a day. We also wouldn’t harp on their shortcomings without also pointing out all of their awesomeness to them. That same balance should be how we talk to ourselves.

Need some quick ways to get started? Here you go…

self-care and self-love, Black woman stretching arms overhead eyes closed in white bed

How To Self-Care

#1 | Prioritize Sleep

For one month, make getting enough sleep your number one goal. Practice the discipline you need by starting a nighttime routine of turning off devices, calming the brain, and signaling sleep. See how you feel when you get an optimal amount of sleep for several nights in a row. Really notice how much more energy you have. How you’re much more able to handle the ups and downs of the day in stride. Use that understanding to maintain your discipline.

#2 | Drink Water

I know, I know. Everyone says this. But it’s true! Being even a little dehydrated can make you feel foggy-headed and lethargic. Some people drink a certain amount at each meal. Other women like to drink from one enormous water bottle all day. However, you make sure you’re getting your water is fine. Just make it a non-negotiable.

#3 | Move

It doesn’t matter if it’s a HIIT class or a walk with your dog. Make getting some sort of physical activity each day a necessity. It’s not about hitting a goal weight or burning a certain number of calories. And it’s not about getting in a set number of steps. It’s about giving your body the forward momentum it needs. Our bodies were not designed to be sedentary. Neither were our minds. Treat both with care by making sure you move during the day.

self-care and self-love, woman in cableknit white sweater reading in hammock swing

How To Self-Love

#1 | Notice Your Negative Self Talk

There’s the inner voice in our heads that is really good at telling us how we’re messing up. And it’s also good at knowing exactly what to say to send us into a spiral. But the bigger problem than having that voice in our heads? Most of us don’t even realize we’re listening to it. Start noticing how often you say things to yourself that you would never tolerate if it were a different person saying it.
What makes that voice speak up? What is it saying? You don’t have to tell the voice to stop (I encourage it, though!). Just notice how often that voice comes out.

#2 | Love On Your Body

Many of us have been socialized to be critical of our bodies. We’re good at finding all of the problems we have with it. But it doesn’t do any good to judge yourself so harshly. This is the body you have and to not have it isn’t an option. Work to be gentler in your thoughts about your body. For example, I could lament the fact that the skin on my stomach will never be the same after having four kids, or I could be proud that my body was strong enough to carry four healthy babies to term. I don’t have to love my looser belly skin, but I don’t have to hate it either.
If this seems like a big jump for you, then choose a body part that you have positive or neutral feelings about and start there. If you like your legs, try putting your lotion on slowly, enjoying the way it feels to be kind to your own body.

#3 | Develop a Positive Mantra

Our thoughts show us our focus. So, help your focus become self loving by developing a mantra that reflects that love. Your mantra should be personal. And you should believe it. For one person it could be “You were made for this.” For another, it could be “You are a calm and loving partner.” As someone who often feels the need to be more, my mantra often is “Here is where you belong.” So by giving your brain something positive to focus on, it shows you that you are enough just as you are right now.

Self-care and self-love are often used interchangeably, and while they have much in common, the two should not be confused. To step into your most powerful, fulfilled self, you need to incorporate both into your daily practices and routines.
What are some ways you practice self-care and self-love? How do you feel about doing both? Let us know in the comments below. 

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