What does “self-love’ actually mean?

I received this question after last week’s writing. Here are my thoughts on what self-love actually looks like:

If we all woke up tomorrow with complete self-love and acceptance, there’s this notion that entire industries would tumble. That somehow self-love means the decimation of the multi-billion dollar industries centered around self-improvement.

But I disagree.

Loving myself exactly as I am today, does not mean I don’t want to improve myself for tomorrow.

  • It means I’m doing it from a place of love instead of fear or lack.
  • It means I’m doing it because I know I’m worth it, not because I feel unworthy or require external approval to feel valid in the world.
  • It means improving myself is defined by me, and not some imposed measurement of my value.

Self-love is not about acceptance through defiant resignation or surrender. Self-love is about standing up for yourself and who you are inside, and making decisions in alignment with that inner knowing. It’s about being accountable to yourself, on every level. If you want to be more fit, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you want to dye your hair, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you like to wear make-up, have body piercings, or only wear designer duds, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself.

Today I could have fruit and yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I could have sausages and pancakes. I could weigh less in a year, or I could weigh more. I could be stronger and healthier or I could be more flexible. Or I could be exactly as I am today.

Self-love is all of that, because if my actions are in alignment with who I am, then I am practicing self-love. The variable is the answer to the question: Why? As in, why am I doing what I’m doing?

The only time it means you don’t love yourself is when you’re doing all of that (or more) in order to be somebody you’re not inside: If your actions are out of alignment with your inner self.

If you’re trying to gain approval or you’re seeking acceptance by others, then perhaps the decision to work out 7 times a week is not loving. Similarly, cookies every day because you don’t care anymore and/or you’re defying the Madison Avenue propaganda, is not loving.

But, if you enjoy a cheeseburger with friends, or you like to do yoga daily, and the decisions you make are from a place within, then that, my friends, is self-love. Even when it includes a desire for self-improvement, however you define that. Perhaps especially when it includes a desire for self-improvement.

It’s time we re-labeled what it means to practice self-love. It’s not about defying anything; rather, it’s about embracing everything from a place of alignment with who you are inside. And that makes all the difference.

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