By Kristina Yates
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
It’s a bit weird to admit, but for much of my life I didn’t resonate much with the concept of self-love.
The whole “self-love” thing all just sounded a bit trite to me, awash in clichéd images of spa days and bubble baths with champagne. In reality though, I wasn’t sure what self-love looked or felt like in practice. I could say the words out loud, “I love myself” – but it always felt different from the love I had for other people (and animals) in my life.
And then on top of that, there seemed to be this societal notion that “self-love” equaled narcissism – which of course didn’t seem too appealing.
So sure, I treated myself to lovely experiences and things from time to time – but a conscious self-love practice didn’t really exist in my life routine. I’d roll my eyes at all the sparkly memes touting self-love posted by life coaches on Instagram – the words felt empty somehow, devoid of any real instruction on how to genuinely feel the love they so enthusiastically preached.
I “loved” myself in theory. I “loved” myself, but I still let people walk all over me. I “loved” myself, but I had weak-ass boundaries and was terrified of disapproval. I “loved” myself but doubted my abilities, constantly compared myself to others, and subconsciously sabotaged my own success.
What I didn’t understand about self-love then was that it is literally the core foundation for a grounded, peaceful, and positively impactful way of being in the world – and it’s key to play our part in healing the collective. Far from narcissistic or obnoxiously self-indulgent, real self-love is a quiet glow of pure wholeness from within – a purely personal and joy-filled state of being that ends the search for fulfillment from the outside. In this way, we can turn our energies to uplifting those around us and creating a better world to live in.
What I didn’t understand then was that self-love is an embodied state that we feel – a state that honestly took me years of conscious practice of pushing through my inner resistance to reach.
But once I did, it shifted something in me – something that’s remained to this day. A reminder that loving myself is more than just for myself – I become the type of person who can create positive change in the world.
We all do, when we come to realize the monumental importance of self-love.
Self-Love is Selfless Expansion
That which we love, expands.
Looking at children who are loved fully and thoroughly, we see them expand and flourish as they grow. Of course many other factors contribute to a child’s well-being, but genuine love and care are inevitably at the top.
The same goes for other people, animals, and even plants. When given loving care, they thrive – and when neglected, they wither. Love is nature’s fertilizer; whether offered through loving attention, presence, touch, empathy, or any other expression, it helps living beings to flourish into their potential.
So why do we often miss that the very same applies to ourselves? And why does there seem to be a mild stigma in society that self-love is “selfish” and only deserves our focus after we’ve taken care of everyone and everything else first?
What many neglect to realize is that we ourselves are living beings who need and are infinitely worthy of the loving energy we share with others. This is why having a practice of self-love is so helpful – it reminds us to turn our attention and loving care inward.
Without this practice, we seek love from the outside, looking for others to love and validate us so we feel like “enough.” I know I did, anyway. Constantly striving for the next benchmark of “success”, seeking validation from my family, friends, and loved ones to feel like I was doing okay in life. Like the way I was being was enough.
But love from the outside can never fill this space inside of us – it must come from within.
And when it does, we become a fully expanded, living and breathing example of thriving health, with our love easily radiating out to others. We give freely from our own internal state of expansion, and we genuinely want to see everything and everyone around us thrive.
Rather than draining others to fill our empty space with validation, we give our energy back to the world in positive ways.
Self-Love is Neither Selfish Nor Narcissistic
It seems there’s a fine line between self-love and narcissism as buzzwords in our society, but in fact, they are two completely different concepts and states.
Self-love is a personal and quiet practice of simply being with yourself in acceptance, joy, and peace. It is giving freely to yourself the very same way you’d love someone else in your life. It’s taking care of your body, your heart, your mind and soul in whatever way that means to you.
A lack of self-love tends to split into two camps: narcissism and victimhood. The narcissist appears to embody self-love, but it’s coming from a place of actual emptiness inside which can generally be felt from others. Their “self-love” is showy, needy of attention and praise, and tends to carry an “icky” energy of self-aggrandizement. These are people who do not actually love themselves at all, but whose egos have created the illusion of self-love as a defense against total emotional collapse. In truth, they are dependent on the love and praise of others to fill their empty space within because their own “love” is just a mirage.
The victim, on the other hand, does not carry an illusion of self-love, but collapses fully into dependence on others to fill it for them. They tend to be people-pleasers, stuck in a hamster wheel of chasing validation and love wherever they can find it. Often, these people engage in unhealthy relationships and tolerate behaviors from others that spiral them deeper into self-hatred. They experience a mirror in the outside world reflecting the feelings they have inside.
When we do not fully love ourselves, there is an empty place that we need love from others to fill. This creates a codependent, hooky type of love that does not actually fill us anyway – because that space can only be filled by us, from the inside. This hooky love manifests in the often toxic relationships of both narcissistic and victim-minded people.
True self-love is both an internal state and an active practice. It’s a quiet glow from within that requires no showiness or attention from others, a purely personal and joy-filled state of being with yourself. And it’s so much deeper than going for a massage or treating yourself to dark chocolate. It’s a daily practice of knowing yourself, caring for yourself, and ensuring your internal cup is full so you can show up for yourself and for the others you love.
My Personal Self-Love Journey
I was never someone who particularly lacked confidence, but was plagued for many years by a vague sense of “not-enoughness” that held me back from playing big out in the world and in relationships.
It’s the same “not-enoughness” that kept me from resonating with the idea of self-love in any sort of real way. (And, as Marisa Peer explains, is a far more common insecurity than I had imagined.)
While I’d done many self-love practices, affirmations, and taken good care of myself over the years, it wasn’t until I really slowed down during the pandemic that I started to understand what self-love really felt like. Having traveled constantly for a decade, I was constantly skating over my shadows and this time of forced deepening helped me to be fully with myself, and embody the practices I’d previously glossed over.
Something shifted in me as I connected deeply with nature, with my body, and the longings in my soul. I started to uncover passions I’d never given myself permission to look at, and to trust my inner knowings as my number one compass.
Slowing down to be with myself and stop running off to new distractions was one key to my self-love “awakening” – but it’s different for everyone. The key is to listen deeply to your inner voice, your inner needs – and to honor them as a priority in your life (which requires slowing down!) This begins to build self-trust and ultimately, an authentic self-love unique to you.
The five love languages describe different ways that people tend to express and receive love – through quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service. While often used to understand how we relate in love with others, these are excellent tools to use with yourself as a starting point for your own self-love journey.
Why Self-Love is Key for Collective Healing
Reflecting on my own path to self-love, I realize that this practice reaches far beyond our personal healing (although that is obviously of huge importance!) The way we love ourselves is the core of the good and grace we can offer out into the world – to those close in our life, to strangers on the street, through our personal life mission and our small day-to-day acts.
Because when you love yourself, you genuinely and completely want to see everyone and everything around you thrive.
When you love yourself, you wish no ill upon anyone or anything. You want to see suffering end. Your energy naturally moves towards uplifting those around you and the planet we live on.
It seems that self-love is like an inner healing power that naturally wants to emanate from inside of us out into the world. Notice that when you feel truly connected to self-love, your thoughts, words and actions tend to be uplifting not only for yourself, but for those around you. You want to treat yourself well, of course, but you also want to treat others well. You want to share the way you feel with others – and this energy helps them feel self-love, too.
Self-Love and Power/Influence
When connected with the opportunity for influence, genuine self-love begets graceful and humble leadership, and a genuine desire to serve and uplift. Those who hold power and actually embody love tend to be compassionate leaders dedicated to the service of those they influence.
Because genuine self-love is connected to “enough-ness”, there is no need to push anyone down or gain power for power’s sake. The leader who comes from love knows they are already enough, and is humble in their undertakings for their people.
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. When connected with power and influence, a lack of self-love begets domineering superiority and a desperate desire to raise one’s self (and push others down) out of a sense of fear and lack. These are leaders who thrive on power for power’s sake, and who tend to prioritize money and status over genuine concern for the good of those they influence.
Can you feel the difference between these two? As we live in a world so utterly divided today between varying energies of power, we can use this as a distinction to see what individuals and groups are driven by the energy of love, and which are driven by the energy of lack.
Finding True Empowerment and Collective Healing
Self-love is key for true empowerment, the positive manifestation of “power”. When truly empowered from within, we embody a whole person radiating light from a full cup inside ourselves, able to give freely to others without depletion and without expectation of anything in return. In other words, we become a light in the world for both ourselves, and those we touch with our energy.
As we practice cultivating love in our own inner worlds, may we keep one eye looking outward as the hologram inevitably shifts around us.
Your own inner work truly does leave its ripple effect on the collective; your drop in the vast ocean truly does matter in the healing of the collective consciousness.
About the author:
Kristina Yates is a certified life coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher, and somatic healer with a passion for helping people connect to their innate confidence, clarity, and calling. She weaves together her background in psychology with holistic health and embodiment, energy work, nature-based shamanic practice and intuitive guidance into her guided journeys of personal transformation. She is the host of the Wild Awake Podcast and YouTube channel, and hosts transformational retreats and workshops worldwide in a mission to inspire people to activate their truth and inner power as the key to their freedom.
Connect with Kristina here: www.kristinawild.co