Dr. David Koehn is a psychologist practicing in Fort Myers, FL. Dr. Koehn specializes in the treatment of mental health problems and helps people to cope with their mental illnesses. As a psychologist, Dr. Koehn evaluates and treats patients through a variety of methods, most typically being psychotherapy or talk therapy.... more
Self-Love – Why it is so important for Good Mental Health
Dr. David J. Koehn
Taken from a series of resources from the Internet, here is a treatise on self-love. Self-love is a popular term today that gets tossed around in normal conversation: "You have to love yourself more." "Why don't you love yourself?" "If you only loved yourself, this wouldn't have happened to you." "You can't love another person until you love yourself first." These are just a few of the self-love directives we give or get to suggest a way to more living fulfillment.
Self-love is important to living well. It influences who you pick for a mate, the image you project at work, and how you cope with the problems in your life. It is so important to your welfare that I want you to know how to bring more of it into your life. What is self-love? Is it something you can obtain through a beauty makeover or a new set of clothes? Can you get more of it by reading something inspirational? Or, can a new relationship make you love yourself more? The answer to all of these questions is No. Although they feel good and are gratifying, you can't grow in self-love through these types of activities.
Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good. It is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve. Self-love is dynamic; it grows through actions that mature us. When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept our weaknesses and our strengths, have less need to explain our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.
Self-love can mean something different for each person because we all have many different ways to take care of ourselves. Figuring out what self-love looks like for you as an individual is an important part of your mental health. What does self-love mean to you? For starters, it can mean: talking to and about yourself with love; prioritizing yourself; giving yourself a break from self-judgement; trusting yourself; being true to yourself; being nice to yourself; setting healthy boundaries; and forgiving yourself when you aren’t being true or nice to yourself.
For many people, self-love is another way to say self-care. To practice self-care, we often need to go back to the basics and listen to our bodies; take breaks from work and move/stretch; put the phone down and connect to yourself or others, or do something creative; eating healthily, but sometimes indulge in your favorite foods. Self-love means accepting yourself as you are in this very moment for everything that you are. It means accepting your emotions for what they are and putting your physical, emotional and mental well-being first.
So now we know that self-love motivates you to make healthy choices in life. When you hold yourself in high esteem, you're more likely to choose things that nurture your well-being and serve you well. An 8-Step Prescription for Self-Love involves:
- Become mindful. People who have more self-love tend to know what they think, feel, and want. They are mindful of who they are and act on this knowledge, rather than on what others want for them.
- Act on what you need rather than what you want. You love yourself when you can turn away from something that feels good and exciting to what you need to stay strong, centered, and moving forward in your life. By staying focused on what you need, you turn away from automatic behavior patterns that get you into trouble, keep you stuck in the past, and lessen self-love.
- Practice good self-care. You will love yourself more, when you take better care of your basic needs. People high in self-love nourish themselves daily through healthy activities, like sound nutrition, exercise, proper sleep, intimacy and healthy social interactions.
- Set boundaries. You'll love yourself more when you set limits or say no to work, love, or activities that deplete or harm you physically, emotionally and spiritually,
- Protect yourself. Bring the right people into your life. I love the term frenemies that I learned from my younger clients. It describes so well the type of "friends" who take pleasure in your pain and loss rather than in your happiness and success. My suggestion to you here: Get rid of them! There isn't enough time in your life to waste on people who want to take away the shine on your face that says, "I genuinely love myself and life." You will love and respect yourself more.
- Forgive yourself. We humans can be so hard on ourselves. The downside of taking responsibility for our actions is punishing ourselves too much for mistakes in learning and growing. You have to accept your humanness (the fact that you are not perfect), before you can truly love yourself. Practice being less hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Remember, there are no failures, if you have learned and grown from your mistakes; there are only lessons learned.
- Live intentionally. You will accept and love yourself more, whatever is happening in your life, when you live with purpose and design. Your purpose doesn't have to be crystal clear to you. If your intention is to live a meaningful and healthy life, you will make decisions that support this intention, and feel good about yourself when you succeed in this purpose. You will love yourself more if you see yourself accomplishing what you set out to do.
- Making room for healthy habits. Start truly caring for yourself by mirroring that in what you eat, how you exercise, and what you spend time doing. Do stuff, not to “get it done” or because you “have to,” but because you care about you.
If you choose just one or two of these self-love actions to work on, you will begin to accept and love yourself more. Start by being kind, patient, gentle and compassionate to yourself, the way you would with someone else that you care about. Just imagine how much you'll appreciate you when you exercise these eight-steps to self-love. It is true that you can only love another as much as you love yourself. If you exercise all of the actions of self-love that are described here, you will allow and encourage others to express themselves in the same way. The more self-love you have for yourself, the better prepared you are for healthy relating. Even more, you will start to attract people and circumstances to you that support your well-being.
In summary, there are 10 Reasons Why Self-Love Is Important. Self-love, which is also often referred to as self-compassion, involves taking care of your own needs, accepting your weaknesses and failures as well as your strengths, and staying in touch with your emotions. Because selflessness is such a prized virtue in many circles, many believe self-love is egoistical. Caring for other people is important, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your own well-being. Why? Here are ten good reasons:
#1 Self-love helps reduce stress. Self-care is a significant part of self-love. When you love yourself, you recognize signs of burnout and can take steps to reduce your stress. Without self-love, you might not believe you deserve a break. The thought of doing something “just for me” might be very challenging to accept. You are therefore more likely to power through a stressful time even when it hurts. People with healthy self-love are more willing to take time to care for themselves when they’re stressed.
#2 Self-love can help you develop healthier habits. Data suggests that loving yourself can help you make better health decisions. In a Health Psychology meta-analysis of 15 studies, researchers found that when people accepted themselves without harsh judgment, they were more motivated to make positive changes in their life. One study showed this was the case when people began to quit smoking. Other behaviors included eating healthier and exercising. Self-compassion helped people form new, healthier habits.
#3 Self-love improves your emotional resilience. During hard times, it’s easy to slip into despair. Depending on the environment you’re in, you might be dealing with people who blame you for hardships. You might blame yourself. Self-love helps counter negative, critical self-talk and put things in perspective. Even if your struggles are a result of a mistake you made, self-love encourages you to learn from the mistake and move forward. This builds your emotional resilience and prepares you for future challenges.
#4 Self-love improves your relationships. There’s a common saying that states you can’t truly love others until you love yourself. While this quip is a bit extreme, loving yourself does help improve your relationships with others. When you love yourself, you won’t feel as dependent on other people for your sense of worth. This helps you set boundaries or, if necessary, end unhealthy relationships. People who love themselves also tend to understand themselves better, which helps them identify the kinds of relationships they want or don’t want.
#5 Self-love makes you more productive. Procrastination is a productivity killer. To get yourself motivated, you might resort to harsh tactics. Some people use threats of self-punishment to try and get going on a task, but research suggests that’s not an effective motivator. It’s better to have compassion for yourself when you procrastinate. Use your “failure” as a learning opportunity for the future. Instead of being bogged down with self-criticism, you’ll feel lighter and ready to make changes to your behavior.
#6 Self-love can help manage anxiety and depression symptoms. Research suggests that people with high levels of self-compassion have a lower risk for developing anxiety or depression. This doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of loving yourself if you’re anxious or depressed. It does imply that aspects of self-love (such as self-care, self-compassion, and positive self-talk) can help manage symptoms. Self-love can also help free you from the common belief that mental illness is somehow your fault.
#7 Self-love can increase your happiness. Accepting and loving yourself is linked to higher satisfaction with life, and therefore, more happiness. When you’re constantly analyzing your flaws and criticizing your choices, it’s hard to feel happy about anything. Self-love encourages you to think of yourself like a dear friend. You can acknowledge that you’re not perfect, but still worthy of acceptance and support.
#8 Self-love boosts your confidence. It’s very difficult to feel confident if you’re focused on criticizing yourself. People with negative self-talk often struggle with low self-esteem. A lack of confidence naturally follows. If you want to feel more confident, self-love is a good way to exercise that muscle. Recognize your worth and skills, be compassionate when you’re frustrated with yourself, and you’ll notice your confidence building.
#9 Self-love helps you achieve your goals. Self-love teaches that your dreams deserve priority. It isn’t selfish to go after what you want in life. People may try to tell you otherwise, but as long as you aren’t trampling on others to reach your goals, you should live life in the way that fulfills you. Self-love also provides the tools you need to achieve your dreams, such as reduced stress, emotional resilience, increased productivity, and confidence.
#10 Self-love inspires others. The concept of self-love can be very challenging. You might be working through the belief that says self-love equals selfishness. The benefits of self-love we’ve given thus far may not be quite convincing enough. Consider this: loving yourself helps other people. Like happiness, self-love can be contagious. If you model what a healthy relationship with self looks like, it helps others see why that’s important. They’ll begin to practice more self-care and self-compassion. Everyone around you – and not just you – benefits when you love yourself.