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Self-Love: Selfish, Narcissistic and Arrogant?

Five self-love myths debunked.

Self-love can seem like new-age babble tied to the millennials' obsession with selfies and sharing their lives on social media. This couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, there are elements of the self that are sometimes taken a bit too far on social media but contrary to common belief, this has got nothing to do with self-love. Let's look at why.

Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

Myth: Self-love is a new-age concept brought forward through selfies and social media.

Truth: Self-love has been around since ancient Greek philosophy around 350 BC.

Self-love can be traced as far back as Aristotle. In the Nicomachean Ethics VIII, he explained how he believed one must not merely love oneself, but to love oneself most of all. He believed self-belief was a prerequisite to loving others. This discussion around self-love has continued since then through philosophers and psychologists alike. In the more modern years, it was Eric Fromm (1950s) who tied self-love to a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

Myth: Self-love makes you selfish, narcissistic and arrogant.

Truth: Self-love makes you more positive, confident and resilient.

In truth, narcissism and arrogance are both signs of a deep lack of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love. Self-love isn't about you ignoring everyone else's needs, becoming super obsessed with yourself and everything you do, or behaving like you're the queen or king of the world. Instead, it's about having a more positive relationship with yourself in which you take care of yourself, support yourself and believe in yourself. It makes you more resilient against challenges and keeps you motivated in working towards your dreams because you believe in them and in your abilities. Self-love eliminates your patterns of negative self-talk and replaces them with bold and confident cheerleading.

Myth: There is no science behind self-love.

Truth: There are many concepts, especially in positive psychology, that link to self-love.

Self-love is inherently tied to self-esteem, which Adler and Stewart (2004) define as "values, approves of, appreciates, prizes, or likes him or herself". Then there is the concept of self-enhancement (Sedikides and Gregg, 2008) which is about taking a positive view of oneself. If we look at popular self-help streams, Brené Brown's work on vulnerability and courage also ties closely. In general, self-love both supports and is supported by authenticity, confidence, growth mindset and a positive mindset just to name a few.

Myth: Self-love is basically self-care.

Truth: Self-care is one form of self-love.

When you love yourself fully, you take better care of yourself, both physically and mentally. That is clear. But acts of self-care, such as taking a hot bath, having a massage, practicing yoga, or taking a walk in nature, aren't the only ways to practice self-love. Self-love goes far deeper than that and is about embracing yourself, with all its qualities, wholeheartedly. It's more than just an act but a deeply rooted belief that drives your acceptance of yourself. Self-care does help you to experience more self-love and vice versa.

Myth: Self-love is about showing to the world that you love yourself.

Truth: Self-love is about believing in yourself and treating yourself with love.

You don't need to post selfies to show that you love yourself. In fact, you don't need to tell anyone about that. However, your actions and thoughts should reflect the love you feel towards yourself. To help you get started, here are three ways you can practice self-love:

  1. Be aware of how you talk to yourself.
    It's easy to lose control of the little inner critic that sits within you. The best way to avoid this from happening is to become aware of it. Don't fight it or get angry with it. Instead, talk to it with love and kindness. Ask yourself, "Is this something I would say to my best friend?" And, "How can I put a more positive and supportive spin on this?" The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.
  2. Be kind towards your body.
    Talk to it and treat it as if it was someone you love. Don't use exercise as a punishment but as something that gets the positive endorphins going. Find an activity you enjoy doing and look forward to doing, rather than something you dread. Talk to your body positively too and regularly express gratitude to your favourite parts. It might not be perfect and there might be bits you'd like to improve, but it is a magnificent temple keeping you alive here on planet Earth.
  3. Learn to receive compliments with grace.
    If someone compliments you, smile and say thank you. This might sound silly and perhaps you already do this, but there is a surprisingly high number of people who struggle with this. I used to be one of those people too. Fortunately, today, I accept them, I cherish them, and I believe them. You should too. Something that can help with this is to also get better at giving out compliments. It's fun and fulfilling and gets positive energy into every interaction.

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