Self Improvement

Self Care vs Self Love

Self care isn't manicures and spa days and netflix binges, self care starts long before that, way smaller than that. It's showing yourself kindness and compassion, being as generous and forgiving to yourself as you are with your friends and loved ones. There's a big difference between self care and self love and this matters because...

I often hear people talk about self love and self care interchangeably without making the distinction between how these two states of being differ so much. Self love and self care are two sides of the same coin but each side looks very different in my opinion. Striving for both without acknowledging these differences will change nothing beneath the surface and leave you exactly where you started - frustrated, confused, and lost. This week I'll tell you why it's important to understand self care and self love and how to get started so you can do them both sustainable deep down beneath where it matters the most.  


Let's start by defining them. Self care is the practice of showing yourself consideration and kindness both physically and mentally. Self love is the ability to recognise and accept all the wonders and flaws of who you are without judgement. When you truly love someone you only want what's best for them. In this same way, when you truly love yourself, you'll only want what's best for you. Self love isn't the end of a journey and it's not some magical place where you can stop growing and trying. Self love is the ideal starting point for the longest and potentially most fruitful relationship you'll ever have - the one you have with yourself.

I look at self love as the starting line and self care as all the steps you take to get to that start line ready to run/speed walk/cycle/hurdle/etc. If self love is the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, self care is all the training you have to go through in order to prepare for the journey up the mountain.


I do not believe that loving yourself is a pre-requisite for self care.

You can absolutely practice self care without loving yourself but you cannot begin to love yourself if you don't practice self care.

It won't happen overnight and wishing it into existence doesn't work either. Trust me, I've tried. It takes consistent  action in order to change the way that you feel about yourself in any sort of meaningful way.

Take the home you live in right now for example. You might live in a space that you don't love but you still take good care of it because it's the only home you have and because you want living there to be pleasant - kinda like the human brain. You could say you what's the point in trying to keep it nice around here when I don't love it but then you'll end up living in a dump and feeling rubbish about it too which will just make things objectively worse. Clearly, taking the effort to make it nice is the only way to eventually feel good in that scenario. Over time and with consistent caring action, you may even find yourself growing fond of the home because you've put so much care and effort into keeping it pleasant. I reckon this works the same way with people.


Self care isn't manicures and netflix binges and eat pray loving your way around the south of France (a movie I reference quite a bit considering I've never actually seen it). These are all circumstances, external scenarios we put ourselves in to try to escape our thoughts and feelings. Changing the external scenario or situation you're in without addressing what's actually going on in your brain will leave you with pretty nails and the same unhealthy disdain for yourself and your life as you had when you made the appointment.

Self care starts long before the grand declarations, memes on your feed, and trips to find yourself. It's actually starts way smaller than that. To truly self care, you have to show yourself kindness, patience, and compassion. You have to be as generous and forgiving to yourself as you are with your friends and loved ones. This can be quite the uphill battle for some people especially those who don't believe they are worthy of being considered in that way or those who perhaps grew up thinking it was selfish to consider yourself in that way (thank you patriarchy). It's that belief that we want to tackle, the one your brain keeps reminding you of that says: "I don't deserve to be considered". Your brain is offering you that belief for a reason. Addressing that belief is the number 1 bare minimum first step.

If deep down you don't believe that you deserve good things, then all the good things in the world could happen to you or for you and it still wouldn't change your belief.

That's why all the netflix binges, fancy candles, shopping sprees, and bubble baths don't actually make us feel better because once the dopamine hit has faded, we are still us with our same brains and our same beliefs...albeit better moisturised and fully up to date on the latest season of Too Hot To Handle.


One unexpected place a lack of true self care can show up is in the quality of our relationships with other people. Despite telling people that I wanted them to treat me with kindness and respect, I'd often find myself inexplicably drawn to people who treated me like utter garbage because they (like me) did not value my time or my sheer existence. Our brains will only ever look for evidence of what we already believe so if deep down you don't believe you're worthy, your brain will make being around people who agree with that statement feel better than being around people who don't agree. If you've ever said the words "I hate compliments" or "So and so is too nice it's such a turn off" then this could be why. When you don't practice true self care, you only know what it feels like to be treated like shit, that's what feels familiar, feels like home. Because you don't know what it actually feels like to be valued, you then don't know what to look out for when you're out and about in the world. All you know is what you know anything else feels wrong.


For me, I knew I couldn't go from "I'm not worthy" straight to "I deserve everything" because it was too much of a stretch. So instead, I turned to attachment style theory to better understand how I usually feel considered and cared for. I know, it's not for everyone and there are a lot of conflicting theories about attachment styles but this was my approach. I'm a cross between words of affirmation and acts of service. I feel loved when someone says nice things and then does nice things for me. With this in mind, I started experimenting with variations of both of those things.

This involved a mixture of changing how I talk to and about myself and also doing more considerate things for myself, things I'd appreciate a loved one doing for me. I stopped saying things to myself like "omg you're so stupid why did you say that lumes" and started saying things like "that was a brave choice lumes, well done on being so courageous". I started doing little things for myself like washing out my cafetière right after brewing coffee so that it would be clean and ready to go for my next coffee. Normally I'd leave it in the sink and then get annoyed at myself later on when I'd find it dirty when I really needed it.

Self care might look different to you but the underlying principle stays the same. It's the desire to treat yourself well.

It's not about running away from all your thoughts and feelings, it's about being gentle and non-judgemental with yourself about those thoughts and feelings. It's not about going on a spa day for the gram, it's about making choices that support you living a life that's free from aches and pains because you know that's what you deserve. It's not about only eating healthy, it's about consciously and intentionally deciding that you want to eat an entire chocolate bar because you enjoy the taste of chocolate and a life of enjoyment is the type of life you know you deserve.

It's about training your brain to learn what it feels like to be truly cared for so that when others come into your life offering you a less than, you'll not be tempted to allow those "good life" standards to slip.

True self care is prioritising your physical and mental wellbeing so the path is clear and easy for you to eventually fall in love with yourself.

No pressure, no commitment.

Just 20 minutes to share what’s on your mind

I sat down about an hour ago to write this week’s post on motivation (LOL) and in that hour, I’ve customised a PAX wardrobe on the IKEA website.

Book your free session