Self-care vs Self-love

Our columnist explores the need for self-love and self-care in our lives…

My dear Kintsugi readers: this season’s theme is love, likely one of the most used words in our lives. The first thing we feel when we arrive on this planet, love is a word that is heard in songs, seen on greetings cards, and used to express everything from liking a haircut (‘I love it!’) to our deepest emotional feelings. Sometimes it is a word that feels overused, but I believe that we are all seeking the fulfilment and connection that real love brings.

Though love is often used in the context of our connection to another, I would like to talk about the love we have within ourselves. To look at how we must first have self-love before we are able to execute self-care – which is really just the physical expression of our self-love.

Self-love and self-care are ubiquitous themes these days, found littering our social media platforms, TED Talks and self-help bookshelves. We are constantly encouraged to embrace both self-love and self-care. But do we really understand the difference between them?

Self-love is the starting point for all love. It is an act of self-compassion and acceptance. An awareness of our own worth and determination to prioritise and protect it.

Self-care, however, is about taking action, doing things to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. It includes activities such as getting enough sleep, eating well and doing activities that we enjoy. It is a way of honouring ourselves, treating ourselves with respect, and recognising our emotional needs.

They are distinct but related concepts. On the surface, they can appear to be the same thing. Both involve taking care of oneself, setting boundaries and preserving one’s mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. However, self-love goes much deeper than self-care. Self-love is about valuing your own worth and recognising that you are worthy of love and respect in all areas of life. It’s about forgiving yourself for mistakes, making peace with your past, and accepting your weaknesses and strengths. It’s about loving yourself unconditionally even in difficult times and cherishing the person you are becoming.

Self-care, on the other hand, is about taking responsibility for your own mistakes and insecurities, and taking practical steps to ensure your wellbeing.

It’s about listening to your body: knowing when to rest and when to take action. It’s giving yourself permission to take care of yourself first.

The two are intricately entwined. It is impossible to have one without the other: when we have unshakable self-love, we recognise that we are worthy of true self-care. Of course, this also translates to our relationships with others, as how we treat ourselves shows others how we will allow ourselves to be treated. It’s our job to make sure that that is the right way.