I had an interesting twitter exchange last week with Terri Cole. Terri describes herself as a “transformation coach,” which I find intriguing, but our exchange left me thinking of a transformational idea I find fundamental to interpersonal relationships: self’-love.
She asked about a “self-care action,” in theory to stimulate this behavior in her followers. It’s a top-down idea — compile enough self-caring or self-loving actions together, and you’ll effectively be taking care of yourself. Here’s the exchange:
I wasn’t sure if Terri was catching my drift, especially after her last comment. Whether or not she followed my distinction, we can view self-love in two fairly different ways:
- An isolated event (a single act)
- A perpetual state (a mindset)
The first is a discrete event, separate from the rest of the day. (This is what sparked our exchange in the first place.) Perhaps much of the day is viewed as “work” or stressful or even altruistic, so then an act of self-care is something like:
- buying yourself a gift
- taking a hot bath
- relaxing at the spa
These are acts of self-love, but this is not how I view self-love. Instead it’s a mindset. It’s a constant state. It is about doing what is best for yourself at all times.
Self-love isn’t dichotomous — people can “mostly” love themselves, but those people simply perform acts of self-care “most” of the time. When they don’t do what they want, they aren’t achieving their goals, lowering their happiness, and thus aren’t demonstrating self-care.
Tangible gifts or alone time are acts to temporarily increase happiness. Self-love is a state that leads to happy acts.
To come full circle to Terri’s final example, a “busy” mom shouldn’t be feeling like she’s giving her love away to her kids and neglecting herself until she can “get to herself” on her daily checklist. She should be loving her kids because she wants to. This is already a form of self-love — her choice to have kids and raise them should make her very happy, after all, it was her choice (excluding times where she changed her mind about her desires or misjudged them in the first place).
In other words, her ostensibly selfless acts — taking care of her children — should really be coming from a healthy selfishness. She should always be doing what she wants to do. That’s effective self-care.