Self-love and self-care have both found their way into the mainstream, and for good reason. They help us live our best lives.
While they work in tandem, more often than not, there’s confusion between self-love vs. self-care.
“Self-care is about surviving, while self-love is about thriving,” explains Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley, in her book, Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life. When you’re aware of which one is which, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your needs and how to best take care of them.
As author Katrina Mayer says, “Loving yourself isn’t vanity; it’s sanity.” So give yourself the space to practice self-love and self-care; you may just find so much beauty, awe, and wonder that you never knew existed.
Self-Love vs. Self-Care: What’s the Difference?
Self-love? Self-care? Pshhh… Same difference.
One would think so, right? After all, both help us better ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally.
But to say they’re one and the same is like saying apples and oranges are the same thing (when they’re clearly different).
When it comes to self-love vs. self-care, one is about loving yourself, while the other is about taking care of yourself. And to give you a better understanding of each, let’s explore deeper into what they are separately.
What is self-love?
The concept of self-love is a lot of things mixed into one—being kind to yourself, providing yourself with some compassion, and treating yourself with respect. And above all else, it’s about accepting and embracing all that is good about you as well as all the bad.
“It is a relationship, not just an act of service,” says Kristina in her book. That requires you to hear, understand, soothe, cry, laugh, play, and hold—all the things you need for a healthy relationship, especially one with yourself.
It’s like that verse from the Corinthians: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.” While most will take that as love for another, it’s also applicable to self-love. Because that’s what it is, really—valuing your own worth and learning how to be authentic.
“Loving yourself is a skill you have to master if you want to live a happy life,” Kristina adds. “Because self-love is the beginning of true transformation.”
What is self-care?
Self-care is basically giving yourself some TLC. It’s like a big ol’ hug you give yourself as a way to say, “Thanks for being awesome.”
And there are endless ways to do things for yourself that make you feel good. For example, reading a good book or perfectly imperfect quotes, making a good cup of coffee, or even just putting on your favorite sweatpants and Netflix-ing it up for the night.
But is self-care an act of self-love? It is to a certain extent.
Doing activities in all the different areas of your life is a way of showing yourself that you’re worthy of care and attention. However, self-care doesn’t equal self-love.
“No amount of self-care can compensate for the lack of self-love,” Kristina explains. “You can be in excellent physical shape because you exercise vigorously, eat healthy, sleep well, take time for meditation, walks in nature, and massage, you can pamper yourself with spa treatments and occasional shopping and do all the proper rituals of self-care, but none of it adds much to how you actually feel about yourself deep inside.”
That said, knowing how to take care of yourself is still important. So much so that practicing self-care on the regular can reduce your stress levels and improve your mental health, according to a 2014 study.
And when you feel good, you’re better able to handle all the stuff life throws at you.
What Does Self-Love vs. Self-Care Look Like?
So self-love is about accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care is taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If it’s as simple as that, why do people confuse self-care vs. self-love? It’s a topic Kristina gets into in Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life.
“Often, when we talk about self-love, we actually mean self-care,” she explains. “A lot of self-love rituals and practices mix up love for oneself with taking care of one’s mind and body.”
So what do self-love and self-care look like? Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two:
|Purpose||Increase self-acceptance||Enhance overall well-being|
|Examples||Practicing self-compassion, setting boundaries, accepting and embracing your flaws||Exercise, healthy eating, meditation, therapy|
|Benefits||Better emotional well-being||Better physical, mental, and emotional health|
|Time Frame||Ongoing||Daily or weekly|
Look at it this way: If you had a baby, you’d wash, feed, clothe, and teach them. These are all aspects of care.
Then you also are present when they’re showing you something, you show empathy and compassion when they’re having a rough day, and you give them advice when they’re in need of it. These are all aspects of love.
While they’re separate entities, self-love and self-care go together like avocado and toast. They just make each other better.
By taking care of yourself, you show yourself love. And when you practice self-love, you create a foundation for practicing self-care.
It’s a beautiful blend of self-improvement and self-acceptance that can help you live your best life.
How to Love Yourself: 3 Tips From Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani
Happiness seems to be many people’s final destination in life. But in actuality, happiness is an experience that happens many times along the journey.
So how can you enjoy it as it’s meant to be? Step one, learn to love yourself first. And Kristina has some incredibly powerful tips that can help.
1. Be honest with yourself
We all lie to ourselves, according to Kristina, and we’re often unaware of it. That’s okay as long as you’re honest about not being honest.
So in order to love yourself, you need to really know who you are and what you stand for. It means acknowledging your feelings, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and accepting yourself as you are. It’s the essence, really, of being honest with yourself.
Doing so helps tone down the levels of stress and anxiety, which, as you may already know, leads to greater well-being. One study shows that when you self-reflect and are honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings, you’re more likely to feel happier and more satisfied with your life.
“Honesty is a sharp weapon,” says Kristina. “And you have to learn to use it properly before you start wielding it.”
How you can be honest with yourself: One great tool is to start journaling. Write down what you think would be the best version of yourself.
Be brutally honest about every nook and cranny of what you think the perfect you would be. Be bold about it.
And in that dig for what you really want for yourself, you may just find the person inside is someone different than who you know. They may just be the exact person you’re looking for.
2. Show yourself kindness
Life can be challenging at times, so it’ll do you some good to cut out the self-criticism. Research has even shown that showing yourself kindness and compassion can do wonders for your life satisfaction and happiness.
As Kristina points out in her book, there’s magic in kindness, and you can be kind in certain situations where love can’t be expressed.
For example, you can be kind to someone, but you don’t have to necessarily love them, like an ex, a bully, or strangers on the street. You don’t even have to respect them. Or even truly care. But you can still be kind.
And that goes the same for self-compassion.
How you can show yourself kindness: Being present opens the way for kindness and acceptance toward yourself. As you become more aware of your own needs and feelings, you can respond to them in a caring and nurturing way.
“You are the person who’s the most important in your life,” says Kristina in her Mindvalley Quest. “You have to treat yourself with kindness.”
One way to practice this is through loving-kindness meditation, where you focus specifically on compassion for yourself.
3. Have the courage to live an authentic life
“Authenticity” is one of those buzzwords floating around—not everyone really understands its true meaning, yet it’s being sprinkled around in conversations like confetti.
So what exactly is it? It’s not about being honest. It’s not about being perfect. Nor is it about pretending to be someone you’re not.
“Authenticity is your relationship with yourself,” Kristina explains. “There is only you and no external object; no one but you to exert the force towards.”
Simply put, it’s about having the courage to own who you are—quirks, imperfections, weirdness, and all.
Even science has proof to back up the goodness of being authentic. According to a published study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, people who own their authenticity experience less anxiety and depression, which in turn leads to greater psychological well-being.
And as you learn how to embrace the very essence of who you are, you’ll likely find that you’re no longer hiding behind a façade or pleasing others at the expense of your own happiness.
How you can live an authentic life: There’s a certain level of self-awareness that comes with being authentic. It’s internal, as Kristina explains in her book, adding that it’s “the resulting state of healing your most important relationship—your relationship with yourself.”
So identify what’s important to you, don’t be afraid to speak up and share your thoughts, avoid trying too hard to be like others, and—of course—practice self-care. It’s the combination of all these elements that allows you to live life as your authentic self. And to shine in the glory of your flawesomeness.
(Self-)Love Makes Your World Go ‘Round
Take a moment to appreciate yourself. Okay, maybe not just one moment. Take moments.
Just like putting on your oxygen mask first before helping others on a flight, showing up for yourself in all your flawesomeness allows you to be your best self for others.
After all, this is your life, and no one else is living it but you. It’s not selfish to practice self-love; on the contrary, it’s essential.
And if you’re curious to learn more about yourself, you can dive in deeper with Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani in her book Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life.
Now, go forth and spread the love—starting with yourself.
Images generated on Midjourney except for the one of the Mindvalley trainer.