Due to the world’s current challenges (and even critical state for some), the topic of mental health and “self-love” is increasing and has become one of the bandwagon in the personal development industry and in today’s society. Taking care of your well-being is one of the most incredible gifts you can give yourself and for you to contribute to the wellness of the world.
But what does “Self Love” really mean?
I’m a big fan of self-growth.
One of the reasons why I started writing blogs is to get myself reminded of what matters, what to change, and what to keep doing, and of course to share this journey with other people – to you who’s now reading this.
Over the years in my self-growth journey, reading personal development books, having early morning routines, and doing things that kept my growth and self-care, I’ve done both the toxic self-care and the genuine self-love.
And here I share with you the 7 lessons I’ve learned about the difference between toxic self-care and genuine self-love:
#1 Self-love comes from awareness of being | Toxic self-care comes from the ego
If you do self-care because you want to get revenge on your ex, or you go to the gym because you don’t want to be left behind by your friends, or you buy yourself that new trendy clothes that you’re not even comfortable with because they are “instagrammable,” then you’re not really taking care of yourself. These actions come from the ego mind. And hey there’s nothing wrong with taking “instagrammable” photos, of course (I love taking photos!), but it should come from good reasons.
Self-love comes from good reasons that make you and the people around you feel good. You do self-love not to get revenge on your ex or make them get back to you, but to better yourself and to feel genuine joy within because you actually care about yourself and your peace. And if you do this, you will attract and will get attracted to people who will give you peace and love you deserve, may it be a new partner material, or your ex, or a new friend. You do exercise not because you want to show off or because you don’t want to be left behind by your friends, but you do it because you know it’s good for your overall health and you want to be fit (and be looking sexy, duuh!). You buy new clothes not just because they’re “instagrammable” but because you actually love them and wearing them makes you feel good and confident.
#2 Self-love is selfless | Toxic self-care is selfish
Some people who just started the journey of self-growth will have the misconception of the difference between self gratification and self-love. Self-love is never selfish. If you are stepping someone else’s shoes out of prioritizing your own, then it’s not self “love.” And if you are staying away from your friend or a family member who’s struggling because you don’t want to be inflicted by their negativity, then it’s not self “love” – unless it’s their habit to inflict negativity to themselves and other people’s space.
Self-love is selfless in a way because it doesn’t mind what other people think of him/her and does think the good of other people. Self-love does not take himself too seriously because he accepts himself as a whole and his imperfections, as well as other people’s imperfections.
#3 Self love embraces and validates emotions | Toxic self-care represses negative emotions
Toxic positivity is when you repress your negative feelings. You want to neglect the reality that you’re feeling mad, sad, or you’re having anxieties. Neglecting and invalidating your feelings is unhealthy for you. Trying to pretend you’re not feeling them will only backfire at you tenfold.
The popular “Think positive!”
What does it truly mean?
It means whenever you feel negative feelings, you should not focus on them because it’s not good for your mental health. Right?
Wrong! You should focus and be aware of your feelings. Validate them by feeling them. Feel your emotions, but do not be carried away by the thoughts that it brings. You do not have to act upon your anger, sadness, or stress. The reason for facing them is to not be controlled by the overwhelming emotions and instead deal with them by accepting them and bringing back your balance, not run away from it.
Toxic self-care is when you invalidate your negative feelings. You run away from your fears. By doing that, you are shutting down your emotions. That means not being able to feel the good emotions as well.
When you truly love yourself, “think positive” is never about invalidating emotions. It means you accept whatever you’re feeling. It means you look for the good in all situations. Even when you’re in a stressful state, you find the courage to look for the lessons in it. You are stressed, but what have you gained because of it? What are you learning? Or, what can you learn because of it? The moment you find that one good thing in a situation, other positive things will follow through (because you attract more of what you focus on).
Think positive means you prepare and be aware of the possible worst outcome without overthinking it, and expecting great things to happen because you trust the Universe wants the best for you.
#4 Self-love is imperfectionist | Toxic self-care wants perfection
To want something to happen the way we want it to be, or to become someone we want to become, is wired to us all and is a natural human nature. But it is also very tempting to force things that are out of our control. The reason for self-love and self-care is to accept imperfections.
It is ironic how things happen for us when we accept things the way they are, and how things happen against us when we resist things as they are.
Toxic self-care is desperate on working on themselves so they can achieve perfection, while genuine self-love is forgiving themselves when things don’t go their way and it knows that imperfection is part of humanity and part of any process and the most important thing is to accept things as they are.
#5 Self-love lives in the present moment | Toxic self-care lives in the past and future
Toxic self-care is when you are driven by fears from the past and future. It’s when you’re doing self-care and improve yourself because you don’t accept who you are today and you look down on your imperfections.
Self-love that lives in the present moment means you love and accept who you are right now, and because of that present unconditional love, you tend to improve even more. You manifest more love and abundance in your life when you love and accept yourself from within.
#6 Self-love is enjoying the journey and progress | Toxic self-care is too focused on the outcome
The whole reason for self-care is to accept yourself fully for who you are today and enjoy your little progress to bring out the best version of yourself (and again, for you to be able to be the best version of yourself, accept and appreciate yourself first), and if you’re too focused on who you should be to the point that it’s stressing you out for not being that ideal self yet, then you’re not accepting yourself.
An example metaphor of this is reading.
Just like reading personal development books, being too focused on the outcome will steal away your joy of reading.
Personal development books can get very addicting (well, at least for people like me). When you finish a book you will get a sense of fake accomplishment that makes you want to read another so you can feel that emotion of achievement again. It is a fake accomplishment because you think by finishing the book, you progressed since you already got all the information in it. But you don’t become who you want to be instantly just by obtaining the information in a book. It doesn’t work like that. You obtain the information for the purpose of practicing it, to act upon it. And when you jump from one book to another you will not be able to focus on actually implementing all the knowledge you got. Knowledge without action is empty.
And the danger of that is you will read the books for the reason to finish them fast instead of enjoying what’s in it. You will buy books after another without taking action on the lessons you got from the previous read.
Have an image of your ideal future or ideal self, but don’t dwell your focus on it because the future is an illusion, your real life is now. Stay present, accept the present moment and who you are now, and enjoy the little progress one day at a time.
#7 Self-love is, AGAIN, enjoying the moment | Toxic self-care is too obsessed with improving one’s self
I’ve been working so hard on what I thought was self-love that at times it’s even draining instead of uplifting.
I realized that I was too obsessed with working on my “lack” and what I thought was ugly about my life and myself.
I realized how hard I was on myself, and that I’d never do that to myself (or anyone) again. I am and my life is already beautiful, it was my mindset or limiting beliefs that were holding me back from seeing that.
I also realized that what truly makes you a happy person is not about what you get in the end, it’s your daily focus on the things that make you feel good while you’re on your way to what you want at the end (which is the icing of the cake, the booster of the happiness you already have).
It’s about taking care of yourself to make yourself feel good now.
During those draining times I had, all those “How to overcome ____”, “How to be happy.”, “How to become rich.” and stuff, only told my subconscious that I’m really “having” that problem because I want to overcome it, or that I’m not happy now because I’m asking how to be happy, and so on.
Plus, I don’t think they’ll ever take my focus on what matters more: the ones I wanted before that I now have (which will then eventually attract more of the things that I want).
Living the moment, being aware of what I can enjoy now, and just let life surprise me… just feels so much better!
So friends, if you’ve done that toxicity like I did, let’s forgive ourselves. This is no one’s fault, this isn’t taught in school (not even our Psychology teachers!).
If you noticed, all mentioned above are connected with each other.
The bottom line of all of them is to do things for yourself that come from “love” and not from any kind of fear (revenge, jealousy, insecurity, etc.). You want all your self-love language to come from peace, it means the actions you do are good both for yourself and the people around you.
I’m a big fan of self-growth, which I’m still learning too.
I’m still practicing all these too.
And my main reason for delving myself in it is not only for myself, but for the people that I love – my family, my partner and our future family, my friends, and the people around me.
For me, it’s useless if your reason is just mainly for yourself. Well, that definitely sounds lonely.
Just like what Dalai Lama said, “The reason of life is to be happy.”
And to be truly happy, you want to share that happiness with other people.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, sometimes you hurt and get hurt, sometimes you stray and forget what’s good for you because we’re only human beings, and that’s inevitably part of life.
So, I hope you enjoyed and learned from this article, and let this be a reminder on your way to becoming more of your real self through your self-love journey.
Thank you for reading!