What is the difference between self care and self love?

Self care and self love are words that are seemingly used interchangeably. While they are closely connected and can pass interchangeably in sentences and speech, the two have similarities and differences.

With self care making a resurgence during an ongoing pandemic and people worldwide are seeking to find their own calm in mindfulness, knowing the difference between these two popular words can help you have a better understanding of what you’re trying to attain.

What is self care?

By the World Health Organization’s definition, “Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.”

It is definitely a “broad concept” that can be made specific like the aforementioned examples, but how? Activities (or lack thereof) in the name of self care offers some sort of relief physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. 

For example, if you worked a long week and feel exhausted, self care for you might look like an afternoon nap and an evening in bed watching a good movie on Netflix. But self care is never the same for everyone. Another person in your friend group might find relief by exerting more energy through exercise after a long week. That’s self care, too!

The 7 Pillars of Self Care

The International Self-Care Foundation created an outline of self care through the 7 Pillars of Self Care. As a result, many have been creating their own pillars of self care, and ours is inspired by The University of Waterloo's imagining of the ISF's 7 pillars.

  1. Health Understanding - This is your comprehension and consciousness of your health in addition to the understanding of knowledge out there so that you can make decisions towards better health.
  2. Self-awareness - Being attentive to your mental health, scheduling therapy sessions, evaluations, etc.
  3. Physical Activity - Engaging in physical activities that add to your overall wellness like walking, running, etc.
  4. Healthy Eating - Prioritizing foods of nutritional value which benefits your overall wellness.
  5. Risk Avoidance - Avoiding things and habits that can put you in harms way or have undesired, long-term consequences. Examples vary but risk avoidance looks like not smoking cigarettes, using a condom for intercourse, getting vaccinated, etc.
  6. Good Hygiene - This includes washing your hands and frequent grooming (shower, bath, etc).
  7. Mindful Use Of Products & Services - This isn't the pillar that's telling you how to live your life. It's the pillar that's telling you to read the details. For example, if you have a prescription you're picking up, reading the information on the medication and following the instructions is mindful use of products and services.

It’s up to you to decide which of these pillars needs your attention in a way that best suits your wellbeing. Feeling tired and overwhelmed? Pillar #2 for Self-awareness comes to the rescue because you acknowledge the mental and physical exhaustion and act on it.

What is self love?

This is the BFF of self care and is more of a state of mind. Self love encompasses the warm feelings of gratitude, acceptance, and the love and adoration of yourself. It’s the energy and love that you show others...but for yourself

Through acts of self care, you are nurturing a better relationship with yourself if not creating one.

“How can I love myself more?”

There is no instruction manual precise enough to help you love yourself instantly. It’s a process that’s as unique as a thumbprint for each and every one of us, but there are things you can do to nurture the journey of self discovery and self love. 

  1. Journal your gratitude daily. Gratitude as a practice (and through journaling) can encourage emotional lightness, giving a clearer perspective on your life and make room to love yourself further.
  2. Practice self care. Don’t wait until you feel burnt out. Integrate self care into your daily lifestyle through big and/or small self care actions. 
  3. Create new goals for yourself and try new things. A change of pace or environment can influence your mindset.

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