11 Women On What Self-Love Means To Them

Ashley Batz/Bustle

When it comes to self-love, you can’t have enough; in other words, you need a strong sense of self-love before you can love others. Of course, different people have different definitions of what self-love means to them. Someone may define self-love as making sure that how they live their life promotes their overall well-being and that they continually do everything in their power to live their happiest life. Yet someone else may reframe any negative thinking they have about themselves into positive thoughts. No matter how you celebrate self-love, a common denominator is that self-love is about self-acceptance.

“Self-love is learning to love oneself,” Carolyn Cole, LCPC, LMFT, NCC, tells Bustle. “Just as when you think of being fully in love with a partner, you experience feelings such as unconditional love, adoration, compassion, and forgiveness — and when you experience self-love, you have these feelings about yourself! You look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of how amazing and lovable you are.” She says that, throughout the day, you have loving, compassionate, and forgiving thoughts and feelings toward yourself. However, she stresses that these feelings are not that of being conceited or narcissistic coming from your ego or headspace; instead, they come from a place of authentic and unconditional love for yourself.

All in all, Cole says that practicing self-love should be done daily, and multiple times a day. “Try to think of loving yourself the same way you may experience love with your soulmate,” she says. “Just as investing in a relationship with your partner needs to be a daily focus, the same goes for the relationship you have with yourself. Once you get there, you will never want to go back to a life without self-love, since feeling love for yourself, happiness from within, and general peace is such an amazing feeling!”

Below, 11 women describe what self-love means to them, because loving yourself is essential for your well-being. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate — or get inspired if you can use a dose of self-love yourself.

1Lindsey, 30

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

“Over the past five months, I have been on a critical personal and professional journey: I resigned from my position with a company that had potential to grow, sought out a life coach, and turned 30. I’ve been balancing a mix of emotions during this period, but what I’m learning is that self-love is doing you at its finest and having the courage to bet on yourself. I also decided to try a completely out-of-the box hairstyle, a pink (yes, pink) bob cut. Something small, but daring, gave me a new experience and a positive response, and showed me I can experiment with my beauty and other areas of my life that I hadn’t given myself approval to do before. Through my life coach and a course called, Creative Action Journey, I’ve learned to self-reflect more, journal, find the deeper meaning behind fears, and how to be more kind to myself. This, with following your own mind and doing what you want, is my secret sauce to self-love.”

2Beth, 41

Hannah Burton/Bustle

“Self-love means living with intention and not haphazardly: Life with design and purpose means that you are fulfilling your destiny, and you wake up in the morning and you are ready to face the day enthusiastically and with a positive attitude. That is when you know that you love yourself!”

3Rebecca, 30

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“As a fitness guru and health and wellness expert, I believe self-love means being content with where you are while pursuing where you want to go. Accepting yourself and all of your flaws is an important aspect of self-love. No one is perfect, and once you know that you will never will be, you can start to forgive yourself.”

4Bri, 30

Ashley Batz/Bustle

“I’m a self-love and body image activist/speaker. Personally, self-love is about recognizing and affirming myself for who I am intrinsically. Who I am intrinsically is not based on my appearance or even my abilities; instead, it is who I am, my character. Something I always remember being since a child was compassionate and caring and wanting to help others. Self-love is doing what I just did, either writing or verbally saying out loud who I am on the inside, and affirming myself. It’s also accepting the affirmation, which is the hardest part of self-love. It’s easy to say or write it but not allow the love to really sink in and feel/experience the love. As women, I think we are taught that self-love is selfish — loving others over ourselves is more important and self-less. This is tough, because it gets us into a hard cycle. We need to first love ourselves to truly give love to others, too.”

5Octavia, 34

Hannah Burton/Bustle

“Self-love means freedom to me. It’s been a long journey to where I am now on the self-love scale, and every time I heal different aspects from my past, the level goes up. Self-love means self-awareness; the more I love myself, the more ‘checked in’ I feel. As an artist and author who works in philanthropy, my life work is to think of others; at times, I’ve allowed it to drain me. After my latest bout with depression, I am reminded of how important it is for me to look within and see what it is that I need. I even wrote a book called How The Hell Did You Do That?! that’s a self-help workbook that encourages readers to explore the emotions that continue to plague their lives. Without centering myself, there is no work, but the work will still go on! If I want to be a part of that, I need to love myself enough to give me what I need. As a woman, self-love is most important to me because it helps to provide a balance in the ‘give and take,’ and reminds me that, ‘Girl, you need to take a little more for yourself!’”

6Estrella, 31

Hannah Burton/Bustle

“I went through a pretty difficult time some months ago, with many challenges at work and a heartbreak, and these challenges made me realize that accepting yourself independent of where you are in your life is the biggest act of self-love we can give ourselves. This was particularly challenging to internalize for me, as I’m sure it is for many perfectionist ladies out there, but that level of acceptance can work miracles! I even co-founded an app, B-wom, a digital coach for women’s health!”

7Taylor, 24

Ashley Batz/Bustle

“To me, self-love is accepting that putting your needs first is a priority. This doesn’t mean you’re selfish; it means that you care enough about yourself to take your mental and physical health into account. This will allow you to take better care for the people around you. No one can perform self-love for you, so it’s important to be your own best friend.”

8Audrey, 37

Ashley Batz/Bustle

“For me, self-love is expressing gratitude daily for the body and mind that I have. It is accepting that I am not perfect, and loving myself nonetheless. It is creating a supportive and loving environment for me to thrive. It is also learning to say ‘no’ to the things or people that do not make me feel good or happy. For me, self-love is also trusting and loving myself — no matter what!”

9Becca, 26

Ashley Batz/Bustle

I’m a writer and photographer and feel that some people might think self-love means something negative, a narcissistic trait even to be better than another. For me, it means the ability to accept yourself the way you are. Sometimes in magazines and online, women need to be perfect… but we are all different and perfect in our own way: You can only love another person if you love yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are too tall, too small, etc. As long as you are happy with who you are, you are able to live a good life.”

10Kate, 45-55

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

“In February, my very healthy and adoring husband was diagnosed with cancer; he had his surgery in April, and started chemo and radiation last week. This news and new way of life has been a very difficult thing to adjust to... for both of us. I realized that, as caregiver, I really needed to focus on self-love and care. I started seeing a therapist once a week, and my thinking and focus are becoming more toward what I am doing right in life versus what I may be doing wrong. I also now do Pilates two times per week, go to the gym 3-5 times per week — to work off the fear of the unknown — and attend a caregiver therapy group once per week to help with the waves of fear and grief. Something negative and unexpected that showed up in my life has now become a reason to bathe myself in self-love.”

11Kathryn, 36

Ashley Batz/Bustle

“I believe that self-love is when you take care of their personal needs, wants, and health. It also happens when someone is so comfortable, confident, and accepting of themselves that outside opinions do not deter them from their goals, dreams, passions, desires, and happiness.”

As you can see, there are some commonalities when it comes to how women define self-love. Cole says self-love is a process, and one that you can work on every day. Hopefully, the women’s definitions of self-love above inspired you to love yourself more, starting right now.