Knowing and loving ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our friends, partners, family members and the wider community.
Studies have linked self-care and self-compassion to many positive traits, such as greater psychological wellbeing, emotional intelligence, feelings of social connectedness and life satisfaction – all of which have beneficial flow-on effects to those around us.
Accepting and loving ourselves is essentially about achieving inner happiness, which the United Nations has described as a fundamental human goal.
Let’s take a closer look at how our self-love can actually help others:
It helps us make better decisions
Most of us will know from personal experience that when we’re feeling lousy, we don’t always treat those around us with the patience and kindness we ought to. Daily stresses like a rough day at work, a disheartening changeroom visit or conflict with another person can impact our ability to have a clear mind and happy headspace.
Indeed, the research has confirmed the anecdotes. Studies have explored the links between bad moods, self-defeating behaviour and a person’s ability to self-regulate, while renowned neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has talked at length about the huge role our emotions play in social cognition and decision-making. In an interview with Scientific American, he explained that social feelings such as shame and pride form a foundation for morality.
But we think a toothy troll from Frozen may have summed it up best, when she sang: “People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed. Throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best.” Of course Bulda’s sentiment applies to self-love, too – loving ourselves will help us to be our best version for the benefit of those around us.
It leads to greater resilience
Anyone who has struggled with self-love will know how much headspace and mental energy can be consumed by our insecurities. It’s exhausting! Imagine freeing our minds from the countless hours spent stewing over our perceived flaws and looking outwards instead. Learning to love ourselves on a deeper level can help us to feel more optimistic and able to help shape the world we want around us.
Having more self-compassion is also believed to result in greater psychological resilience. A number of studies have demonstrated this link in various groups ranging from teenagers to people experiencing a relationship breakdown.
It motivates us to do better
Studies have shown that treating ourselves with self-compassion after making a mistake can motivate us to improve next time. A series of four experiments saw participants who took an accepting approach to personal failure more motivated to improve on personal weaknesses, moral transgressions and test performances in the future.
It helps us have more compassion for others
The extraordinary Brené Brown has talked widely in her books and interviews about the strong link between boundaries and compassion. She says the most compassionate people are often the ones who are able to set clear boundaries and insist they are respected by others, thereby keeping them free of resentment. So by looking after your mental health and setting boundaries in your work and personal life, you may exhibit greater compassion and consideration for others.
Self-love is empowering – when we look after ourselves we have further capacity to function happily and healthily, and therefore can benefit other people and the planet.
It encourages others to love themselves too
By proudly practising self-compassion and self-love, we can empower our partners, children, friends and relatives to do the same. By collectively supporting self-love, we can inspire each other to be better self-regulated, resilient, compassionate and motivated for a healthier, happier world.