Self-care and self-love are two words that have become popular in regard to mental health and well-being and are often used interchangeably, but are they the same or different? Is one more beneficial than the other? How do they relate to one another? And can you have one without the other? We’ll cover these and so many more questions and everything else you need to develop a life filled with more self care and self love so that you can have a healthy relationship with yourself!

Key Differences Between Self-Care vs Self-Love

The key difference between self-care and self-love is that self-care is the actions and practices you take to develop or enhance your self-love. Self-care is more action-based, while self-love is more of a mental and emotional state regarding how you feel about yourself.

Acts of self-care help support and lead to self-love. Self-love is the most important feeling you can have. Self-love is a foundational component of mental health. Together self-care and self-love help support your resiliency, stress management, and mental health when dealing with the stresses of everyday life and hard times.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is the actions and practices that you can take to support your mental health, emotional health, physical health, and overall well-being. Self-care practices are what lead you to find inner peace, love, and happiness in life- all in support of your overall well-being. Self-care can be seen as a verb, the actions that are taken to develop and support self-love. In many ways, self-care is the oxygen that gives you life.

Self-care requires setting boundaries around how you spend your time, energy, and money. Things such as work and relationships become secondary as what you prioritize the most is taking care of your own needs. While there may be times that, at the moment, you put others’ needs before your own, such as when a mom is taking care of a child. But at the end of the day, self-care means you are reflecting on ways you can take care of yourself and have your needs met while finding balance with the responsibilities you have for others and other parts of your life, such as your career.

Self-Care and You

Getting to know yourself and what you need to feel good is a key to developing good self-care practices. Take note of sleep patterns, how you feel after physical activity, after consuming alcohol, spending time with friends, having a clean home, taking a walk, time for play and enjoyment, etc. Being mindful of what makes you feel good and what drains you helps support you in knowing what you need to care for yourself.

For instance, if you know you function better when you prioritize your sleep, self-care is taking time to create a schedule that allows you to get enough sleep. It may mean not watching television during the week. limiting work emails in the evening or sharing bedtime routines for children with a partner. It may also mean leaving social events earlier or limiting or abstaining from consuming alcohol. It may mean leaving work and going to work out, even when a part of you finds it easier to keep working.

Self-care is the actions you take that help you be at your best physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Self-Care Practices

While self-care can be touted on social media as spa days, bubble baths, and a face mask, the truth is that the practice of self-care is so much more. Self-care can help improve energy levels, increase happiness, improve physical health and help one to have a more positive outlook on life. It’s ongoing, which is why it’s referred to as a practice. Self-care can be enjoyable, while other times, it means doing things that take discipline at the moment but that you know are healthy and beneficial to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Self-care is made up of many little things that create big positive changes in your life. Self-care is getting rest. It’s cooking for yourself. It’s healthy eating. It’s making healthy choices, even if it’s not enjoyable at the moment, like eating vegetables even when you don’t feel like it. It’s incorporating fresh air and physical activity into your daily life. It’s taking genuine care of your health and choosing to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s taking days off. It’s indulging in a good book and putting it down when it’s time to rest. It’s quiet time. It’s journaling. It’s taking a relaxing bath, getting a facial massage, or mani/pedi. It’s giving yourself what you need to be your best. It’s listening to your body and responding. It’s asking yourself when something feels off, if you need quiet time, to connect with a friend, to go for a walk, to hydrate, etc. It’s giving yourself whatever you need or ask for support so you can show up in this life as your best self.  

Self-care includes things such as setting boundaries with others, saying no when you are asked to do things, using your voice to stand up for yourself, ending toxic relationships, being vulnerable, and taking risks when necessary to improve your mental and physical well-being and overall quality of life.

Benefits of Self-Care

Let’s first look at what happens when you don’t practice self-care. People who don’t practice self-care are more vulnerable to feeling run-down, having mood swings, and experiencing anxiety and depression. They tend to experience less joy and overall fulfillment and satisfaction with the quality and enjoyment of their life. All of which may lead to being more prone to illness, disease, and mental health struggles.

Incorporating self-care into your daily routine has been clinically proven to support one’s well-being and overall mental, physical and emotional health. Engaging in self-care daily can help reduce or eliminate anxiety and stress while helping to regulate your emotions better and helping you to have better focus. Self-care can help improve energy levels, increase happiness, improve physical health and help one to have a more positive outlook on life. Overall, self-care is the best way to invest in feeling good about yourself!

What is Self-Love?

The concept of self-love is based on loving yourself at your core. The regard you have for your well-being and your own happiness in life from a place of love and caring about yourself. Self-love is a noun. It is a state of mind or a feeling you have about yourself.

Self-love means you value yourself and prioritize yourself with love. You care about yourself, you think and talk positively about yourself, you are kind to yourself, and you show yourself compassion and respect. Self-love means you take part in self-reflection rather than self-judgment. It means you forgive yourself and release the need to be perfect. It means you trust yourself and are true to who you are. Self-love requires that you set healthy boundaries around your time and energy and honor your needs.

Self-love doesn’t come easy for everyone, especially if you’ve experienced childhood trauma or other difficulties in life or grew up having to achieve, be perfect or perform well to receive love and recognition.

Developing self-care practices and performing acts of self-love have been one of the key factors in my personal journey of finding self-love, which I find to be true with many other clients as well.

Benefits of Self-Love

The benefits of self-love are similar to the benefits of self-care as they help support a deeper and more loving relationship with yourself. The benefits of self-love include living a healthier lifestyle, more motivation and confidence, personal growth, and lower stress and anxiety levels.

When you love yourself, it becomes easier to set boundaries, speak up for yourself, feel worthy of what you desire, believe in your hopes and dreams, and achieve your goals. It becomes much easier to care for yourself as though you would care for a small child, protective, loving, and nurturing.

How to Cultivate Self-Love

Self-love develops from getting to know your true self. Healthy self-love comes from taking time to honor and heal past hurts, traumas, and stressors that block your connection with love. Many of our significant traumas happen when we are children. As children, we aren’t developmentally capable of understanding that these traumas are not our fault and that they are not because we are flawed or inherently unworthy of love.

As adults, we want to heal our relationship with our inner child. We want to reconnect with the parts of ourselves that we have hidden or felt shame around. We want to live as our true selves and honor our whole selves.

Practicing self-care is a great way to do this. Self-care helps us honor the parts of us that may need time to rest and the time to connect with a friend. Self-care helps us honor the parts of us that like to play, learn or be active. Self-care is supporting the different parts of yourself so that you can love yourself.

Being in a State of Self-Love

When you are in a place of true self-love, the thoughts you have about yourself are more loving and positive thoughts. When you are in a state of separation from self-love, you are more likely to have a harsh inner critic thinking negative and judgmental thoughts about yourself. When we love ourselves, we think and speak kindly to ourselves.

When we are in a state of self-love, we hold natural boundaries that show care for ourselves. We naturally want to meet our own needs and care for ourselves with the same nurturing and love we would for a young child. We have unconditional love for ourselves, and despite making mistakes or being a flawed human being we are still worthy of love from ourselves and others.

Being in a state of self-love means we care for ourselves, and an added benefit is we find more loving relationships with others.

The Self-Care Journey to Self-Love

As I look back to the early days of my self-care journey, I would love to sit here and tell you how amazing it was to start taking care of myself at first, to start prioritizing my needs; but the truth is it was really hard. It was hard to accept that I had needs. It was hard to be present with myself. It was hard to ask for support or admit I couldn’t do it all. It was like I had to relinquish (a false sense of ) strength and independence.

It was hard to restructure my day to make time for myself. It was hard to put work and grad school down at the time. Achieving and caring for others was a way I earned validation and felt I was valuable in life. Creating boundaries around my personal time was tough. I was learning a whole new way of being, a whole new way of showing up for my life.

However, the truth is when I consistently put others before myself and overrode my own needs, it only felt good on the surface, like a quick fix or high. The truth is it left me empty, lonely, and feeling worthless deep down, and I was avoiding the feeling of that emptiness by any means possible.

That’s self-care, though, it’s not always the most fun or enjoyable at the moment, but you are taking action, investing your time and energy in ways that directly support you in being the best version of yourself.

Many of us, especially those of us who tend to have the role of a caregiver in our families or our jobs, or if we have grown up being rewarded for being selfless and taking care of others, have a hard time with self-care. Growing up, I was taught that my purpose in life was to give of myself and care for others- it made me a good person. What I wasn’t taught is that the more we take care of ourselves, the more we can truly show up for others. I have found that in developing my own self-care practices, which has led to more self-love, I can be more caring, empathic, and present for others in ways I never could before. It’s allowed me to connect better with others and genuinely love myself and others.

If self-care is new to you, try starting with daily practices that you know make you feel good, such as a daily walk, physical activity, quiet time, or a hot cup of tea. Aim for one or two simple things that don’t take much time or effort, and go from there. Over time you can start to incorporate more and more acts of self-care into your daily life.

Sharing is caring!

Author Biography

Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach with a background in Energy Medicine and a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to, heal trauma, overcome their past and use it to fuel their future. You can learn more about her own healing journey here.