You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and compassion. – Buddha.
What is the difference between self love and self esteem?
Taken at face value, these two could be mistaken as the same thing, like Donald Trump and a Troll Doll.
Under the microscope, however, we can see that self love (or “self compassion”) and self esteem feature crucial differences. Specifically, they are different aspects of our relationship with ourselves.
Good self esteem is all about how highly you think of yourself. Are you proud of your accomplishments? Do you consider yourself a valuable person?
We can better understand self esteem by comparing ourselves to other people whom we deem successful. We respect and value successful people. For instance, as a meditation teacher I have the utmost respect for people like (Zen Master) Thich Nhat Hanh.
To say we respect and value someone means we hold them in high esteem. And if we hold ourselves in similarly high esteem, then we can say we have good self esteem.
Self love can actually be very different to self esteem. With self love we also accept the weaker parts of ourselves.
This is more easily understood when we consider how we love other people.
We can love someone even if we do not hold them in particularly high esteem. We all know people who perhaps are not overly successful or who have flaws but we love them anyway.
Similarly, we can recognise our own imperfections and love ourselves anyway.
Self love and self esteem are very closely related.
If we love someone, there is a good chance we hold them in high esteem as well. We tend to love people who we see the good in. And when we see the good in people, we tend to hold them in high esteem.
However, we can hold someone in high self esteem without loving them. We might respect the government, for instance, but few people love them.
The key difference between self esteem and self love is that self esteem is based on valuing your good points over your weak points, where self love is not.
If we have good self esteem, we think we are good at important things. For instance, maybe you high yourself in high esteem when it comes to your work, but hold yourself in low esteem in terms of your social life.
Genuine self love, however, is not about whether we are good or bad at something. We don’t stop loving family members when they make a mistake. And if we have genuine self love we do not stop loving ourselves for mistakes, either.
I used to have self esteem but not self love
It is entirely possibly to have high levels of self esteem without having self love.
I used to think I was pretty awesome (well… I am pretty awesome, ha ha). I truly valued my sense of morals, as someone who spent a good portion of my life helping others. And I valued my body, being a guy who was in the gym 12 hours a week.
But I did not have self love.
I expected myself to be perfect. And as such, I was hard on myself every time I made a mistake. I would actually punish myself for my mistakes.
That’s not love.
While I thought highly of myself, I didn’t have self love.
Self love would mean I forgave myself for my mistakes and accepted both my strengths and weaknesses.
How To Know If You Have Self Love, Self Esteem, Or Both
It’s import to know whether you have self esteem, self love, or both. When you know what you’re lacking you can fill in the gap.
If you have high self esteem but no self love, you will be very aware of your strengths but you will either hate or straight up try to reject all weaknesses.
At one point in my life I was extremely fit but also painfully shy. I would focus entirely on my fitness (my strength) and completely ignore my social life (my weakness).
That’s not self love. Self love is accepting both your strengths and your weaknesses.
On the other hand, you might find it very easy to forgive yourself of your weaknesses and to be proud of your strengths, but at the same time you might downplay your abilities In certain situations.
At another point in my life, I was very loving to myself, and forgave every weakness, but I would also lack the confidence to do certain things. D.I.Y was my weakness. Anytime anything went wrong with a home I would presume that I would fail if I tried to fix it.
When we have self love but not self esteem we do accept ourselves, but we also tend to think we are incapable.
The critical difference between self esteem and self love is compassion. If we have self love we are compassionate to ourselves, even when we made mistakes.
Which Is More Important, Self Love Or Self Esteem?
If we want to have mental strength and happiness, we need both self love and self esteem.
A lack of either self esteem or self love is linked to suicide, depression, negative thoughts, anxiety, anti-social lifestyle and other complications.
Some research suggests that self compassion might trump self esteem.
One longitudinal study followed 2448 ninth graders and found that low self esteem did not cause mental health problems in those who had high levels of self compassion. Even if we suffer from low self esteem, its effects will be significantly reduced if we have self love.
While self esteem is very important, the research suggests self love is even more so.
Naturally We All Want High Self Esteem. Here’s How To Get It
As someone who has suffered from low self esteem, I wanted to help you if you are suffering from this issue.
I’ve written an in-depth guide to 10 psychologically tested ways of improving self esteem.
That guide is real life changer. Take a look.
To Develop Self Love, Try To ACT
One of the best ways to improve both self esteem and self compassion if through Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM)
However, we’ve already covered that in detail. So, click the link above to read out guide.
Another way to improve self compassion is to practice a technique called ACT: Acceptance And Commitment Therapy.
Russ Harris has written an excellent guide to ACT on ActMindfully.com. I highly recommend you read Russ’s work. He is an expert in the field and the author of the transformative book, The Happiness Trap, a must-read for anyone who wants to change their thought habits and purse better mental health.
To briefly introduce ACT,
ACT is a process of accepting our thoughts and feelings. To do it, we mindfully observe our thoughts and feelings, recognise our core values (what truly matters), and then commit to an action that moves us towards those core values.
Research has shown that ACT is a powerful way of boosting self compassion.
The difference between self love and self esteem is that the former is about compassion, where the latter is about personal value.
Both self esteem and self compassion are important to our mental health. However, self love is most important.
To develop self compassion,
Mashall, S. et al. Self-compassion protects against the negative effects of low self-esteem : A longitudinal study in a large adolescent sample. Personality and Individual Differences. 74(2015): 116-121.