The Complex of Self Love

Everywhere we go, we hear the message: love yourself. You might think that the message of loving yourself is corny or cheesy, or that it’s a catchphrase used by self help gurus with no real substance behind it. You might even think that self-love is unrealistic for you or is simply too much work to try to achieve. But what does self -love actually mean? And how can you put into practice? 


Recognizing Self-Hate

Before hoping to achieve any kind of about self- love, you have to confront the reality of self-hatred. We face countless external pressures- from our parents, peers, from social media, that tell us we have to act, look, behave or exist in a certain way. And when you internalize these expectations and find yourself to be inadequate, you can start to resent or even hate yourself. Self-hate, or even just an absence of self love can manifest itself in many ways: 

Isolating ourselves from friends and family - this is a big one. One that I’ve personally struggled with, and have known people who have struggled with it too. Self isolation can occur for many reasons- if you’re having a hard time and believe that you will be a burden to your loved ones. This is also a coping mechanism for anxiety and depression. 

Self-destructive behaviour - this can be excessive drug/alcohol use, binge eating, engaging with toxic people, procrastinating, etc. Basically, it’s anything that causes physical or mental harm or keeps you from achieving your goals. 

Negative self talk - basically being an asshole to yourself. 

Holding a grudge against yourself - beating yourself up for the same mistakes over and over again. 

All of these behaviors have something in common - they are ways in which we hurt ourselves.



The first step to dealing with these patterns is to acknowledge them.

Look at the way you speak to yourself: Is that the way you’d speak to someone you care about?

Look at your behaviors: If you loved someone, would you want them to engage in the same behavior that you do?

If your answers to those questions are no, then you know you have some work to do. 


Trying to Change for the Better 

There are some things about ourselves that we can’t change-  fundamental parts of our personality that are ingrained in us. For example, if you’re a creative person, that’s something that you can never change - whether or not that creativity is being engaged. 

However, there is much that is malleable about ourselves- our habits, thinking patterns, behaviour patterns, etc. And trying to change these things doesn’t mean that you don’t love yourself- quite the opposite, actually. When you try to change something about yourself, it is because you love yourself. You recognize that you deserve better, and so you try to do better for yourself. 

But that means you have to get to the point of believing that you deserve better. Until you get to this point, doing better will always be that much harder. Self-love serves as the motivation to keep trying, to keep going, no matter how many times you fall down. Self-love gives you a persistence and sense of determination that you can’t get anywhere else - because your motivation comes from inside you, not from anyone or anywhere else. 


Putting It Into Practice

Self love manifests in how you act and think, in both big and small ways. 

Small things: 

  •  Completing an assignment early so you save yourself stress

  •  Going to the gym, even if it’s just once a week

  • Getting 8 hours of sleep instead of scrolling on your phone (Maybe I should take my own advice on this one)

  • Drinking enough water 

  • Keeping a skincare routine

Big things (these can takes months to years to learn): 

  • ending a toxic relationship or friendship

  • building healthy habits like a steady sleep or exercise schedule. 

  • Reaching out to your loved ones for support instead of isolating when you’re anxious, depressed, or just having a hard time

  • Changing the way you speak to yourself: “It’s okay that I messed up today. I’ll do better tomorrow.” Instead of. “I’m such an idiot. I shouldn’t have done x”

  • Forgiving yourself for past mistakes 


Remember that learning how to love yourself isn’t glamorous or easy. Confronting yourself and trying to change yourself for the better, is a painful, arduous process. 


Have Patience 

You aren’t always going to have the strength to do these things. Some days, you’re going to feel like shit, you’re going to put yourself down, you’re going to do things you know that you know you shouldn’t. This is where self-compassion comes in. 

Remember that self-love is not a destination. It is not a place that you arrive at, free of negative thoughts about yourself, to never be mean to or hurt yourself ever again. 

That’s just not how human beings work. 

Like anything else in life, it is a constant battle every single to do what’s best for yourself, to be kind to yourself, to forgive yourself. No one is perfect at it, no one has it all figured out - no matter what others tell you or what  it may seem like on social media. The only advice I can give is to be patient, and try to do a little bit better every day. 


The “Real” You

When you try to change yourself - you might wonder- is this the real me? Which one is realer - the self that I am now, or the self that I am trying to become? 

The ”authentic self” is not set in stone, it’s something that we all have the power to create on our own. For me, I like to think that it’s  somewhere between the current version of myself and the idealized version of myself:


My ideal and what is reality 

They’re so very far away 

But still, by crossing that bridge 

I want to reach you

The real you, the real me

The real you the real me 


-Uhgood by RM 

 translation provided by


Note: Some of the behaviors described in this article are symptoms of anxiety or depression. If you think you might be suffering from a mental illness, contact CAPS at 631-632-6720 (for Stony Brook University students) or use any of the resources below: 

National  Suicide Hotline (Open 24/7):  1-800-273-8255

Crisis Hotline - Text HOME  to 741741

Resources to Find Affordable Therapy: