By Sarah Wilkinson
We hear the words self-love and self-care thrown around a lot in the wellness community.
But what do they mean?
Self-love is the act of deep listening to yourself. Our inner voice is frequently communicated through our bodies, so we start the self-love process with listening and coming back into our bodies. As we become aware of our body, we’re able to move our awareness into our heart, mind, and spirit to fully acknowledge what our inner self is saying.
We’re moving towards acceptance of all aspects of what our inner self is sharing—however uncomfortable it may be.
Self-love constantly evolves as we deepen our listening skills. We develop, slowly and with practice, a deep trust in the knowledge that each of us has the wisdom and ability to know what we need in every moment. That wisdom is the hardest thing to share with other people. Ultimately it’s called self-love because we need to find and discover it ourselves. No amount of books, podcasts, or blog posts can do the work for us.
Self-love is the acceptance of ourselves exactly as we are. Can you love your full self, right now, no matter where you are, how your body looks, what your mind is thinking, and how your spirit feels?
So if that’s self-love, what is self-care? Self-care is all about action taken from our listening practice. This beautiful poem, by Holly Holden, is a great illustration on the distinction between self-love and self-care:
Today I asked my body what she needed,
Which is a big deal
Considering my journey of
Not Really Asking That Much.
I thought she might need more water.
But as I stood in the shower,
Reflecting on her stretch marks,
Her roundness where I would like flatness,
Her softness, where I would like firmness,
All those conditioned wishes
That form a bundle of
She whispered very gently,
‘Could you just love me like this?’
Holly highlights the distinction between self-love and self-care. Self-care is focused on action. Do you need yoga, better food, movement, connection, or sleep? The answers to those questions, and the actions inspired from those answers, is self-care.
Sometimes self-care is action and other times self-care asks us to pause.
In this case, the action is inaction. It’s the acknowledgement that there is a need for rest. That’s not easy. It’s taken years of practice for us to be present in rest and inaction as much as when we’re checking off our to-do list.
So many of us are “fixers.” Have you ever said to yourself, when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, “Just give me a list of what to do to solve this! I will go to therapy, I will do support groups, I will take my supplements.” We just want to do that those actions to fix ourselves.
And those actions are absolutely OK, that’s your internal system to take action to take care of yourself. But when you take it one step further to pause and ask, “Are supplements what I need right now? Is therapy the answer?” The answer you arrive at after a deep listening to yourself is self-love. Self-love is that deep, deep listening, and creating a beautiful home within ourselves to come to understand the next right action.
Perhaps, your self-care is just loving yourself as you are today, and that is the ultimate self-love.
Sarah Wilkinsonis co-owner of Love Yourself Events and owner of Saugerties Yoga. Sarah is a yoga teacher, meditation guide, energy healer, and community builder. She has taught across the United States, including at Kripalu and Omega Institute as well as internationally in Peru, Mexico, and India. Her yoga and meditation classes focus on empowering students with the skills needed to heal themselves and become stronger in body, mind, and spirit. Sarah has been practicing yoga for 25 years.
Her yoga studio, Saugerties Yoga, serves as an oasis in the Hudson Valley, acting as a community gathering place in addition to a place where people can reconnect with their bodies and step into a more empowered life of their making.
Prior to committing her career to self-love, Sarah worked for more than a decade in politics and heart-centered causes learning the importance first-hand of balancing a busy career with self-care to avoid burn out and make lasting change. Her college degree, from Hamilton College, is in philosophy and art history. To this day she loves diving deep into the beautiful why’s of life.