The most effective self-love isn’t all about you

Consider it fuel for your purpose.
Consider it fuel for your purpose.
Image: REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
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Think of yourself as an engine that is constantly delivering goods and services to your work, spouse, children, and friends. You need excellent-quality fuel to stay in tip-top shape and keep performing at this level. That fuel is self-love.

Because it’s easy to misconstrue the concept of self-love as narcissism or selfishness, I want to point out that there are two kinds of self-love.

  1. Loving yourself in a self-centric way: You’re motivated to do things for yourself as an escape so you can feel nourished, healthy, happy, acknowledged, fulfilled, and successful outside of your normal roles. Often you desire pampering because of how hard you’ve been working; you feel your life is so difficult and you deserve to be spoiled once in a while because of all the burdens you bear.
  2. Loving yourself in a purpose-centric way: You’re motivated to do things for yourself so you can feel nourished, healthy, happy, acknowledged, fulfilled, and successful, so you can recharge your battery, get back out there, and bring your best self to the purpose you’re working toward.

Most people naturally fall into the first scenario of self-centric self-love. I was no exception. As the president of a media company, I lived to be pampered. Because I was so sick of the toxic situation at our office, I took full advantage of the fact that we curated guides to dining, beauty, and fashion in cities across the country where we held our Girls Night Out events. I remember thinking, At least I’m getting this free spa treatment. At least I’m getting to eat in nice restaurants. At least I can take advantage of company perks. I thought I was taking care of myself, but all I was really doing was masking the misery and unhappiness I felt about my career.

Sometimes we go shopping or get a manicure to pep ourselves up, but it’s just a temporary high. Maybe you forget about your unhappiness for a few hours, but eventually it shows up again. The problem with the self-centric self-love is that it treats the symptom and not the disease. You go on vacation or get cocktails to alleviate the depletion and stress, but the impact stops there.

When you love your purpose-centric self, you have clarity around the greater work you’re trying to achieve, so self-loving, whenever you set time aside for it, has a greater purpose and meaning.

Self-loving is being as good as you can to your mind, body, and heart. In my new job, I might have a bad day or an exhausting week, but if I plan a weekend spa trip, enjoy a date night with my husband, or take an afternoon off to read a good book, I know exactly why I’m doing it—to refresh my soul and refuel for the next stage of purpose. The positive impact I have the potential to make is so massive and important that I need to bring my most healthy and replenished self to it so I can do my best work. Purpose-centric self-love is like the breaks between school semesters. Any downtime I take is a quick burst of relaxation and rejuvenation because I know that’s what my vessel needs, and I can’t wait to jump back into the ring again at full throttle. Pausing for self-love is the calm before the storm, recharging before you’re let loose again.

The best way to incorporate self-love into your life is to make it a regular routine or habit. Personalize a strategic plan for self-love that will address your specific needs for your heart, mind, and body.

You’re going to have different self-love needs for different phases of your life and should design self-love plans for specific elevation periods. For example, if you’re going through a major life event like pregnancy, moving, taking care of young children, transitioning careers, or going through a major breakup, you need to go easy on yourself and your expectations. It’s important for you to eat well, rest to keep your strength up, and find moments for yourself. Self-love can be physical or mental breathers such as getting up for a walk and clearing your head, catching up with a friend, indulging in something pampering like a massage or acupuncture, and taking a vacation with loved ones. Sometimes it can be as simple as making imperfection your goal for the day or celebrating small things as victories.

The climb to the top, where you reach your limitless potential, is long, hard, and riddled with obstacles. Life is not a sprint but rather a game of endurance, which is why taking care of your own needs is so important. You can’t finish the race if your vessel is no longer functional. When you think about it, self-love is simply valuing yourself equal to your potential—what you already intrinsically are and were created to be. God knows how much you’re worth. Do you? When we practice self-love we are saying, I am worth it because I have so much important work to do in order to fulfill my purpose. Leaders are those who can strike the proper balance between service to others and service to oneself.

This article has been adapted from “This Is How We Rise.”