“I had to learn to love myself first…”

“Yoga taught me self-love….”

“I was broken and didn’t know it….”

2013 Jen’s response: Um, barf. Are you kidding me? What kind of hippy household did you grow up in, where dinner conversations around the table centered on self-awareness and achieving enlightenment?? Real kids were learning fractions to avoid getting spanked. Please get your self-absorbed head out of the clouds and join us in the real world.

2016 Jen’s response: OMG me too!

It’s amazing how much a person’s thoughts can change ;).

The topic of self-love is more than prolific on the interwebs and in the self-help section of Barnes & Nobles (hollerrrr, totally the best aisle there!). But, what does self-love really mean?

For my homies out there who also identify as “realists,” “left-brained”, and “practical,” let’s break it down:

Self-love = Love of self.

But why would we ever not love ourselves? Doesn’t that contradict the very existence of our being??

Correct. That’s exactly what I thought too when I first heard about this concept, and I immediately shrugged it off as something that I didn’t have a problem with.

However, I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Self-love is indeed the act of loving ourselves, and it is a constant practice. It is an act that we do for ourselves, not just a belief we carry in our heads.

There are many facets to self-love, and one very important aspect is valuing and considering ourselves as a priority in each situation that arises in our lives. In order to better understand self-love, let’s begin with the opposite side of the spectrum: Self-hate.

Intuitively, I think we can all deduce what this means: Self hate = We hate ourselves.

Seems pretty obvious, and I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to give some examples of what that looks like (“I hate myself! I suck! I am THE worst!”).

But remember that guy whose book we all had to read in high school English class? Yep, it was Elie Wiesel who said, “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.”

Say whaaaat?

If my powers of logic and ability to transpose sentences are still working, then I can extend this as:

The opposite of self-love is not self-hate; it’s self-indifference. Jen Choi (Click to Tweet!)

Unlike Captain Obvious Self-Hate, Self-Indifference is insipid and often insidious. Self-indifference shows up every time you ignore you – your wants, your needs, your dreams – and you don’t even notice that you’re doing it.

The bottom line is, you don’t care enough about yourself to care about yourself.

For my mathematically-inclined friends, let’s write it another way:

Self-Love = Situation + Others + You

Self-Indifference = Situation + Others (Notice the absence of You)

Self-indifference will sneak up on you in ways that will catch you so off guard, that you can’t help but feel blindsided. Self-indifference is sneaky and will show up in ways that we think are “noble”:

Staying late, again, to work on the boss’s last minute request and missing our favorite workout class.

  • How we think we look noble: I’m a dedicated worker who is willing to go above and beyond
  • What’s actually self-indifference: Regularly de-prioritizing and ignoring our needs and wants

Bending over backward to help everyone to the point where we’re exhausted, but never asking others for help.

  • Noble thought: I’m so generous and helpful!
  • Self-indifference: Not even thinking of, let alone including, ourselves in that list of people to help

Buying nice towels and luxurious hand soaps for your weekend guests, meanwhile you’re using the same ragged towel you’ve had since college and pumping antibacterial soap that you bought in bulk at Costco (such a steal!)

  • Noble thought: I treat my guests to the best and am a wonderful hostess
  • Self-indifference: Others deserve nice things because they are special, but I’m a regular person so no need for things beyond the basics. (Um, hello? How about you being special because you’re the head of the household?! See what self-indifference did there??)

Are you nodding your head “yes” yet??

I encourage you to explore where in your life right now you may be experiencing self-indifference. Is it at work? At home? In your relationships? With your family? Begin noticing where you haven’t been considering YOU in the equation of the situation, and start becoming more aware of your own behavior.

Knowledge is power, and the first step to gaining knowledge is increasing awareness. Remember to be kind to yourself (aha! Sneak inject by self-love!) as it may feel shocking to uncover these truths about your own behavior. All sorts of different reactions may come up and no need to hulk out….yet. We’ll process these weird feelings together.

Comment below to share your thoughts!

Jen Choi is a Life Coach, Yogi, Surfer, Adventurer, Travel Lover, and Recovering Left-brained Engineer who’s having the time of her life exploring this wacky world of feelings. Learn more at www.jenchoicoaching.com.

Image courtesy of SplitShire.