Why Self Love Matters: We Accept The Love We Think We Deserve

By Corrina Horne |Updated April 25, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Kelly L. Burns, MA, LPC, ATR-P

If you search the term “self-love,” you might find a series of “self-care” tips, such as taking a luxurious bubble bath or listening to your favorite music as you relax. Many of these tips and suggestions come from good intentions. Surely, making time to relax and luxuriate will help you develop and cultivate self-love. While this might be a good place to start, true and lasting self-love requires more than a few moments of face masks and good music; true self-love comes from introspection, compassion, and self-awareness, all of which require time, effort, and attention to cultivate.

What Is Self Love?

Self-love is the practice of treating yourself with kindness, compassion, and love. Just as you’d give a loved one your time, your understanding, and your respect, you must give yourself time, respect, and understanding in order to truly engage in self-love. Loving yourself is a powerful thing to do but it can often prove difficult; you are usually your own worst critic, and because you know your thoughts, motivations, and habits, you might be under the impression that you are the worst person you know-or at least the most poorly adjusted.

Part of self-love is recognizing that because you are in your own head and no one else’s, you see parts of yourself no one else can or ever will see—and that the thoughts and experiences you have been very likely repeated in those around you. You are not the only person who thinks judgmental thoughts about other people, nor are you the only one who is extremely annoyed by a coworker’s needy behavior. If you are experiencing a significant, negative emotion or reaction, the people around you may be experiencing the exact same thing.

Self-love means accepting the parts of yourself you think need to be changed, in addition to the things you like about yourself. It is acknowledging your faults and welcoming them with an “and that’s okay!” instead of looking at yourself with judgment and condemnation. Self-love means loving yourself the way you hope others will love you.

Why Is Self-Love Important?

Self-love is important because the way you see yourself will play a significant role in how you view others and how you present yourself to the world. Someone with low self-esteem, for instance, will be more likely to judge and ridicule other people, as doing so applies something of a balm to their own injured self-esteem. Conversely, people with a healthy sense of self do not need to tear others down in order to feel good. They already have positive feelings toward themselves.

Self-love is also important because of the way you feel about yourself projects to others how they should feel about you. If you constantly tear yourself down and point out your flaws, the people around you are far more likely to focus on those flaws, as well; after all, that’s what they are constantly directed toward. If you show yourself love and respect, the people around you are far more likely to reflect those feelings back to you and treat you the way you should be treated.

How Self Love Impacts Relationships

We accept the love we deserve—or, at least, the love we think we deserve. If your self-esteem is poor, you might indulge the whims and behaviors of abusive men and women because you might not believe you are worthy of better treatment. Abuse might not be involved at all, but a lack of respect and consideration might be because you, too, do not give yourself respect and consideration. Self-love impacts your relationships in that it projects to your partners how they should see and treat you.

Self-love also impacts the way you relate to others. If you do not know and love yourself well, you may not feel safe, comfortable, or whole enough to truly open up to another person, which can limit the amount of intimacy and love you experience. If you do not love yourself, you may find yourself struggling to truly love someone else; love requires compassion, understanding, and sacrifice, and being unable to give yourself these things can make it difficult to extend them to someone else.

Improving Self-Love: Meditation

Meditation can act as a form of self-love for numerous reasons, the most prominent of which is its ability to positively impact your overall health and well-being. People who meditate have been shown to possess lower levels of anxiety, are less likely to be depressed, and are more likely to report feelings of contentment. Cultivating a consistent meditation practice can help you get to know yourself in stillness and without distractions and help you create a calmer, more stable presence.

Improving Self Love: Positive Self Talk

Positive self-talk is one of the simplest ways to improve and foster self-love. While negative self-talk is often the norm, positive self-talk will more effectively encourage you to treat yourself with kindness, respect, and compassion. Positive self-talk has been linked to greater self-esteem, better adaptive skills, and greater life satisfaction. Although the term “positive” often gets a bad rap as something fake or forced, positive self-talk does not require you to invent reasons to like yourself. Positive self-talk includes neutral statements, simply focusing on and noticing what is going on in your life and mind.

Improving Self-Love: Introspection

Checking in with yourself is a pivotal part of cultivating self-love. After all, if you do not know yourself, how can you love yourself? If you scoff at the love portrayed in children’s movies or common media, where love is declared after a mere day of knowing one another, shouldn’t you scoff at the prospect of loving yourself without getting to know yourself, too?

Introspection need not be heavy or indulgent. Introspection can be as simple as checking in with how you are feeling throughout the day or taking a few minutes to evaluate why you reacted the way you did to a difficult or uncomfortable situation. Journaling can be a useful tool in introspection and can help you identify patterns in your behavior or areas you most need to grow in. Going back through your journal can also be helpful, as you can see how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come in developing self-love and compassion.

Improving Self Love: Self Care

Finally, although it can be a bit more frivolous than useful, engage in regular self-care. While that might mean taking a bubble bath or sitting in a hot tub with your favorite musician playing in your ears, it can just as often mean saying “no” to overcommitment, making time for yourself, or treating yourself to a healthy, home-cooked meal.

Self-care means evaluating exactly what you need at any given moment and giving yourself permission to make space for that need. Some days, you may require some time alone to regroup and gather your thoughts. Others, you may need the exact opposite, and make a plan to meet up with friends. Still others, you might need a good, long talk on the phone, followed by time on your own. In this instance, self-care is not a frivolous undertaking but a legitimate, powerful form of caring for and loving yourself.

Love Yourself, Love Others

Self-love is not a simple matter of thinking well of yourself when you’ve succeeded or experiencing a surge of happiness when you are looking particularly attractive one day. Self-love is a whole-hearted acceptance of yourself just as you are, with flaws, talents, bad habits, and beauty all in one incredible package. Self-love is not a simple goal to achieve and can take months or even years to fully develop and may even require you to seek help. So much of our culture focuses on self-care but fails to truly encompass how to love yourself and show yourself the same care and deference as you would show your loved ones.

Although self-love might seem indulgent or unnecessary, this practice is actually an integral part of leading a full, balanced, and compassionate life. If you cannot give yourself grace for your flaws, setbacks, and difficulties, you are unlikely to extend that same courtesy to other people. If you are unwilling to love yourself as a whole human with a complicated history, rich backstory, and complex series of hopes, dreams, and fears, you are similarly unlikely to regard the people around you as such, which limits your ability to sincerely see and love others.

Because we accept the love we think we deserve, failing to love ourselves is tantamount to saying, “I don’t deserve love.” Although this sentiment certainly seems to be a pervasive one, it is a lie. Everyone deserves to experience the richness of love unmarred by disappointment, unmet expectations, and judgment. This type of love is best found in yourself first before seeking it out from others.

Seek Help

By working with a licensed counselor, you can learn strategies to become more confident, increase your self-esteem, and find ways to love the real you. Consider exploring online therapy, which research shows is an effective option with many added benefits. For example, this study, conducted by Brigham Young University researchers, found that technology-based therapy is as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy, with the potential to be delivered at a lower cost and with more convenience.

Online therapy is a safe place, and counselors at BetterHelp are specially trained to help people explore their feelings without judgment. BetterHelp makes it incredibly convenient to connect with someone you can trust. You choose how to interact with your therapist—by email, text, video, or phone—all from the comfort of home. Read these patient testimonials from people who have turned to BetterHelp.

“Zach is great. He has a more relaxed approach than a clinical one, which I personally find to be helpful when talking about certain issues. He has never been a judge or a jury, just a helpful voice to talk to, to vent to, and who, by the end of every session, leaves me with something to look forward to in the way of my own self-care.”

“I’m very pleased with my accomplishments while working with Lisa. She listens and offers tools that have led to great improvement in my mental health as I have put them into practice. She has helped remind me of the importance of engaging in self-care, healthy habits, and being self-aware.”

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