Self-love vs Self-care: Are They Different?

A woman in a yellow shirt stands against a grey wall and is holding up her hands into the outline of a heart

The topics of self-care and self-love have gotten extremely important since the pandemic, and their popularity is only continuing to increase.

These are both topics that I think are so important, and have been needed for an extremely long time. And that isn’t just because I blog extensively about both of them.

However, I often have people say things to me such as:

“Aren’t they basically the same thing anyways?”

“But self-love is self-care, and self-care is self-love”

“Is there really a difference?”

And the short answer to whether are they different is: Yes. Self-love and self-care are two different topics, however we cannot have one without the other. We can’t have self-love if we don’t participate in self-care, and we usually don’t participate in quality self-care if we don’t experience self-love.

Below we are going to look at self-love vs self-care in depth as well as review 6 reasons why we need both self-love and self-care.

What is the difference between self-love and self-care?

Self-love is a broad concept that in essence encompasses how we truly feel about ourselves and our worth as human beings. It is the acceptance and gratitude that we have for ourselves. It is about loving ourselves unconditionally.

Self-care is the actions we take to express that love. Self-care is the physical manifestation of that self-love.

So if we don’t love ourselves, we have nothing to express, and we often don’t take action to look after ourselves the way we should and the way we deserve to be cared for. This is when our self-care often gets neglected.

And if we don’t care for ourselves, our self-love tends to plummet as well because our self-worth and self-confidence tend to decrease as well.

Does this make sense?

Why do we need both self-love and self-care?

There are several reasons why we need both self-love and self-care in our lives and why they form an important part of our emotional self-care:

1) To treat ourselves with respect

Many of us are conditioned to have harsh inner voices or self-talk. We can be our own worst critic, and that criticism can be a hard habit to break. We tend to internalize and hold onto criticism and negativity, more than we hold on to praise and positivity.

However, when we truly love and care for ourselves, we are saying that we are worthy of both. This increases our self-confidence and our self-worth which in turn will increase our positivity and make us more resistant to that criticism.

This leads to us treating ourselves with the kindness and respect that we deserve.

2) To empower us to set boundaries

Many of us have awful boundaries. There I said it.

When we don’t love ourselves or take care of ourselves the way we should, we often allow the people around us to treat us badly too. After all, how we treat ourselves forms the example of what type of treatment we will accept from others.

This usually means that we don’t have strong boundaries, and we rarely will stand up for ourselves.

But boundaries are extremely important to protect us from the negative words or actions of other people. If we don’t maintain strong boundaries (and enforce them!) we often end up getting hurt.

When we have a strong sense of self-love and self-care, we protect ourselves from those negative experiences which leads to us being happier and healthier people.

3) To become healthier and happier

Everyone wants to be happier, healthier people.

When we love ourselves, we make smarter, more thought-out choices that tend to align better with our values and goals. Those decisions are coming from a confident, well-aligned place. They aren’t coming from a place of burnout, or stress, like they normally would if we are currently struggling or in an unhealthy place.

Having a good and diverse self-care routine leads to us becoming healthier people just from the self-care activities we perform alone. Do you think that getting more sleep, drinking enough water, and eating healthier are going to make you a healthier person?

4) To prevent burnout and reduce stress

When I started to experience severe burnout and ended up going on stress leave, I wish someone would have told me that I needed to increase my self-care and learn how to love myself. Knowing that would have prevented me from being put on stress leave for over six months of my career, and spending those six months laying in bed basically watching the days slip away.

That is six months of my life that I will never get back, and I have lost out on so much more time to stress and anxiety than that.

When we love ourselves, and take better great care of ourselves, it gives us a chance to relax and recharge. This reduces our stress levels and prevents burnout.

5) To help us become more confident

Loving ourselves means we accept every part of ourselves–flaws and all. This leads to us becoming more confident people.

The most successful people in the world can often be described as confident. This all starts with self-love and how we take care of ourselves.

6) To live up to our potential

Considering the number of opportunities that I may have missed out on, or things I have said no to, because I didn’t love myself the way I do now, makes me sad.

The times that I did or said things because I am a people pleaser and I wanted to make other people happy instead of doing what was best for myself.

Or the times I didn’t do something, or say something, because I was scared about what other people would think of me.

Life is such a precious gift, and time is something that we can never get back. If we spend that time not being true to ourselves because we don’t love ourselves, then we aren’t living up to our true potential.

Self-care and self-love end up becoming a cycle in the end. When we love ourselves, we take better care of ourselves and when we take better care of ourselves we end up loving ourselves even more. This leads to us becoming happier and healthier people, which increases our self-love and self-care.

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