5 Signs You’re Not Selfish, It’s Self-Love

What do you think it means to have self-love? Would you say that you love yourself? And if so, do you think your actions reflect this self-love? 

Some people might feel guilty about practising self-love, mistaking it for selfishness or narcissism. But self-love is anything but selfish. In fact, famous psychologists such as Eric Fromm and Alfred Adler believed self-love to be necessary for a healthy sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-enhancement. 

According to licensed psychotherapist Sharon Martin, self-love means accepting yourself fully, treating yourself with kindness and respect, and nurturing your own growth and well-being. Now, does that sound like a bad thing to you?

Well, if you’re still on the fence about it, here are 5 psychology-backed signs from experts that what you’re doing isn’t selfish — it’s self-love!

1. Positivity vs Superiority

Just because self-love is about taking care of yourself doesn’t mean it should come at the expense of others. This is one of the most common misconceptions people have and why they sometimes mistake self-love for selfishness. Self-love isn’t about ignoring everyone else’s needs, explains self-help author Susanna Newsonen. Rather, it’s about having a more positive relationship with yourself and supporting yourself as much as you do those around you. That’s why one of the most telling signs that what you’re practising is self-love and not selfishness is if it brings more positivity into your life.  Your actions and choices need to balance loving and respecting yourself just as much as you do everyone else. According to psychology researcher and author Courney E. Ackerman, some benefits of self-love include more peace of mind, greater authenticity, less anxiety and stress, and better overall life satisfaction.

2. Self-Confidence vs Narcissism

The ironic thing about narcissism, according to licensed clinical social worker Jill Daino, is that it’s actually rooted in a lack of self-confidence, not an overabundance of it. People who are selfish and narcissistic put themselves above everyone else because they lack a sense of security in their own worth and value, so they feel they need to be as competitive and show-offish as possible to convince everyone else of it. But the ones who do things that come from a place of self-love don’t feel the need to boast about their accomplishments or tear other people down just to feel good about themselves. They are able to accept praise and compliments for a job well done without being too high and mighty about it because they know they’re not desperate to prove anything. They know their own positive deeds and qualities and they celebrate it, not rub everybody else’s face in it.

3. Self-Compassion vs Self-Criticism

According to psychologist Dr. Nicole Siegfried, most of us are often raised to believe that we need to criticise ourselves in order to push ourselves to be better. But what most people fail to understand is that it can do a lot more harm than good to our ego because it may keep us from treating ourselves with compassion. So the next time you make a mistake, observe how you react and talk to yourself about it. Are you quick to blame yourself and say harsh things to yourself about it? Or do you try to show yourself some understanding and compassion? It’s not selfish to do the latter instead. 

4. Resilience vs Self-Sabotage

When you focus on yourself and your own growth, that self-love can pave the way for more happiness and peace to come into your life. Practicing self-love and treating yourself with kindness, even in the face of hardship, cultivates hope, optimism, and emotional resilience, says psychologist Sharon Martin. So the next time you’re struggling with something, know that it’s self-love to ask for help when you need it, not selfishness, according to therapist Dr. Sheri Jacobson. This is because self-love encourages self-awareness and self-improvement, while selfishness encourages self-destruction. It’s a form of self-love to know your limits,  respect the limits of others, and communicate what you need clearly.

5. Setting vs Overstepping Boundaries

According to psychologist Dr. Cristina Gomez, self-love in action can look a lot like taking initiative and being more assertive. That’s because when you love yourself, you prioritize your well-being and strive to meet your own needs, not just leave it up to everybody else. You make healthy choices most of the time and set healthy boundaries for yourself. You understand that you don’t need to sacrifice your own happiness just to give other people theirs and that thinking that way is harmful. Self-love is about knowing what truly matters, says Dr. Gomez, so it’s not selfish to take care of your own needs. What’s selfish is taking from others and using them for your own gain without any consideration for their well-being — which is what you would be letting other people do by not setting healthy boundaries!

To quote American self-help author Wilferd Alan Peterson, “Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” 

Let us know in the comments down below what are some of the ways you practice self-love in your life. Til’ next time, Psych2goers!


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