Beyond Bubble Baths: Redefining Self-Love for a Deeper Connection

Self-love seems to have become a buzz word nowadays. If you’re interested in self-help then you know there are so many people talking about how we need to love ourselves and not undermine our value as human beings. But what does self-love really mean? Does it mean spending time doing things you enjoy like taking bubble baths, and getting massages? Or does it mean looking at yourself objectively and taking healthy self-accountability for things that you are doing to contribute to problems in your life? The answer is that self-love is practicing both.

The Yin and Yang of Self-compassion

The term self-compassion often gets conflated with just being nice to yourself. While practicing positive self-talk is a part of being compassionate towards yourself, another equally important part is to practice what Kristen Neff termed the “yang” of self-compassion. It is the complimentary part of a self-compassion practice. The “yin” is the soft and nurturing part while the “yang” refers to how we act in the world. Acting in the world from a health place often involves doing hard things that doesn’t provide immediate gratification. For example, getting up in the morning to exercise is difficult but when you are practicing self-compassion you know that it will be good for you in the long run so you do it anyways. Both the Yin and the Yang are needed to adequately practice self-compassion.

How holding ourselves accountable is an act of self-love

Another way we can practice self-love is to hold ourselves accountable for our own suffering. One of my favorite mindfulness quotes is “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” One of the ways that we suffer is when we don’t have a level of healthy self-accountability. For example, let’s say you’re late to work and miss an important meeting because you stayed up too late the night before watching netflix. Healthy self-accountability would sound like “I know I missed the meeting this morning because I made the choice to stay up late and slept through my alarm, however I believe I can attempt to practice more discipline with getting to bed on time.” An unhealthy way to think about the situation that seems like self-love would sound like this: “Traffic is so bad in this area, that’s why I missed the meeting. It’s not my fault the drivers on the road are so incompetent.” While this statement might make you feel better in the moment because it absolves you from feeling guilty, it also keeps you in a victim mindset because you can’t control other drivers so it makes you feel hopeless. Whereas when you take ownership of your part to play in why you were late it puts you in control of the situation and that is more empowering. When we hold ourselves accountable in a healthy way, we are teaching ourselves that we can rely on ourselves to act in a way that we can be proud of in the long term. However, when we continue to blame other people or circumstances for our suffering we are disempowering ourselves to continue to focus on what we can’t control.

           If you’d like to learn more on how to practice healthy self-accountability feel free to contact me.