Self-Care vs. Self-Love

Author: Subrina Singh


Two phrases you see everywhere: self-care and self-love. But what do they actually mean? What is their relationship with mental health and mental illness, more specifically with bipolar disorder? I often ask myself, which of the two is more important? Which is more beneficial? What do I need more and what will help me the most? Today, both of these phrases have become a sort of “click-bait.” While for years, we have frequently used the word “self-esteem,” we are now in a time where love for one’s self is promoted and it seems as though self-care is the way in which people achieve this. The mistake we make is when we take these two phrases and make them synonymous with mental wellness.

Living with bipolar disorder, I have learned that when it comes to recovery and stability, it takes a village. And sometimes, the village is not all the people around supporting you but rather comes from within. The village I am speaking of is a combination of the many different forms of healing and treatment necessary to just simply stay afloat. At 16 years old when I was diagnosed, I did not know how I would learn to live with a mental illness of this nature, especially one that is constantly changing and always cycling. Over time, I have learned that it is never just one thing but rather multiple components that together help me feel whole. While, most of these components consist of appointments with providers for therapy and medication management, there are also many things that I have committed to, which has bettered me in many ways while also helping me grow as a person. Some of which has been self-care. For me, self-care is simply taking time out of the day to devote solely to myself and what I require at that very moment. This ranges from journaling to face masks, long showers and of course weekly manicures. I, personally, enjoy doing all these things for myself and by myself. I have learned over the years that becoming my own friend and enjoying time alone has allowed me to earn my own self respect.

Showing self respect was the very first step for me in realizing my value, my worth and moreover what I deserve not only from myself, but from others and life as well. I witnessed this process over a very tumultuous journey but mostly towards the end of a difficult episode. The more my mental illness challenged me, I began to notice my tenacious nature. It was only then that I realized how immensely important it is to show ourselves grace and treat ourselves with kindness. I did this through self-care. Stepping back from social “obligations” allowed me more time to nurture myself. Eventually these moments of self-care would end with me staring into the mirror, that I once yelled at, spewing words of hate to myself. Slowly, those “I hate you” or “You’re nothing” remarks became quiet but deep gazes into the mirror, learning to love the girl staring back at me. It was not the type of self-love that was overly gushing. And it was not the type of infatuation that left me saying, “I love you.” Rather, it was a subtle look of understanding and appreciation of the woman I had become.

So, would I say I love myself? Not always. Would I claim to have a boasting self esteem? Never. But, I would stand up for myself to others and continue to advocate for my needs. Simply put: I show love to myself, even in the moments that I don’t 100% love myself. This love full of gratitude, strength, recognition and courage comes not only from journey but rather from the village I created, many years ago to care for myself. That to me is the greatest form of self-care. Moral of the story: self-care vs. self-love is basically a question of who came first? Chicken or the egg. Years of committed self-care shall lead to self-love. At the same time: it’s rare to find someone giving so much time to themselves without recognizing the love behind it.



The content of the International Bipolar Foundation blogs is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and never disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in any IBPF content.
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