Do you love yourself? Weird question! And no easy answer either. Despite the old wisdom “Love yourself first before anyone else can love you”, we feel odd about expressing self-love. With every attempt to put our interests first, we get an urge to justify why we do that.

And what does it actually mean to love yourself? Is it going to a spa? Or building a perfect body? Or being OK with an imperfect body? Where does self-love begin?

The idea of self-love interferes with our concepts of who we are and how we wish to be viewed by others. To maintain an image we’d like to project, we often sacrifice self-love, because we’ve come to associate it with wrong things. By understanding that self-love does NOT equate to what we grew to perceive negatively (due to our upbringing or societal influences), we can get on a path towards loving ourselves without cringing first.

Self-love and egoism

One thing you learn growing up is that egoism is bad. Your needs are not above all. You have to care for your siblings. One for all and all for one !

In your spectrum of values, an egoist is someone you resent rather than aspire to be. And self-love looks like a baby-version of egoism with angel wings. Why put yourself close to what looks like a bad virtue in disguise? You go ahead dismiss self-love as something that does not align with your values. Too early! But more on that later! 

Self-love and career outlook

You live in a fast-paced environment where getting 4 hours of sleep is a stamp of approval for how valuable you are. Your most popular answer to “How are you?” is “Just busy.” And unless you eat lunch at your deck, or, better yet, on the go from a store back to your office, you are not pushing it hard enough!

In our desire to portray achievement and ambition, we learned that self-care is for those who got too much time. And you? You can only spare a tiny break to run into a nail salon and jump out with your nails half dry. Taking care of yourself? – Nobody got time for that!

Self-love and social media

In the meanwhile, everyone on social media is also trying to show how hardworking and busy they are. In between flights, workouts, and deals, they somehow manage to stay flawless. Maybe they are just perfect on their own! And, as you sip a cup of your inferiority complex, you wonder whether your meagre attempts of self-care are even worth it…

Then you discover someone from Instagram who proclaims to have learned to accept and to love themselves. You respect and admire their journey. But somehow growing underarm hair is not doing it for you (sure enough it isn’t about it in the first place).  

Trapped by wrong assumptions

So the ideas of self-love are either 1) awfully close to egoism, which you dislike; or 2) prerogative of those with excess time, which you think you got none; or 3) manifesting in ways that are not close to you. As the result, you shy away from entertaining whether and how you should love yourself.

You can work through the fear of stopping in the race to appreciate that caring for yourself does not turn you from an A- into a B-player. You can also get to know your fear of inferiority to understand that the way you love yourself should not be compared to anybody else’s methods. With all that, however, a threat of coming across as an egoist is a powerful factor keeping us estranged from self-love. What we don’t get is that self-love does not equal to egoism.

Self-Love unequal egoism

Without a claim for the best definition, egoism is when you improve yourself at the expense of others. In other words, within a social context, you share a resource, which, if you take more, you leave less for somebody else. Like sharing an imaginary blanket!

For instance, you meet with your friends and you spend an entire time talking about yourself. Egoism. The shared time you got together – you took it all for yourself!

An important thing, however, is that the limited resource you share with others can never be YOU yourself. If someone calls you asking for a favor and you say NO – it is not egoism. Yes, that person gets less of your availability, but you are not a blanket to share! 

In contrast to egoism, with self-love, you gain something for yourself without taking anything away from others.

It is no longer a zero-sum game as there is no limited resource to share!

So when you defended yourself in abusive relationships, you are not taking anyone’s treasure – it was not theirs to start with! Moreover, if you are giving yourself some love, it does not diminish your capacity to also give love to somebody else.

But the devil, of course, is in the details. Give yourself a drink of choice, and your memory will be no short of situations where your shy attempts for self-love were inverted to look like an utter egoism by someone else. And vice versa!

Our hesitation and even aversion to self-love stem from fear of becoming egoists. Self-love, however, unlike egoism, does not diminish (and even increases) the love we can give to others. Understanding that difference might not make you fall in love with yourself immediately. But it will definitely help feeling OK about sleeping for 8 hours in the society with highly praised sleep deprivation and effortlessly perfect social media pictures.

Originally published at