By Dr. Perrin Elisha, PhD
Spring is a time of regeneration, and new beginnings. Research shows that happiness and health are profoundly linked to relational wellness—the depth and quality of your human connections. If you are ready to rejuvenate your relationship life this year, your relationship to yourself is like the soil in which you will plant all of your connective seeds.
Self-love has become a popular, yet highly misunderstood idea. Some fear self-love is self-indulgence, selfishness, or narcissism. In my work as a psychoanalyst, I help people leverage the power of their inner world and unconscious mind to achieve integration and agency.
From this point of view, self-love creates personal balance, and is the essential foundation of emotional health and well-being, which deeply protects and enriches our ability to care for others. Self-love is less about spa days, good sleep, or exercise, and more about the vital relationship we have with our own inner world.
This kind of emotional intelligence evolves naturally when we have secure attachment bonds in infancy and childhood. These bonds are the source from which we internalize understanding and compassion for the complexity of our emotional lives, develop the skills to regulate our emotions, and act on them in constructive ways. Individuals who lack secure attachment bonds may struggle with self-love, and the related emotional skills later in life.
To build self-love, we need to first develop emotional literacy: the ability to name the complexities of our inner experience from moment to moment. This sounds simple, but in my experience all adults need help with this skill, due to the unconscious blocks, gaps, or assumptions we carry from our past.
Compassion—an integral part of love—is not an anything-goes ticket. Rather, compassion is the depth of understanding for where any emotion might be coming from, based on your personal history, value system, and needs. This compassionate view will directly lead to healthy discernment, better regulation, and more beneficial decisions. Herein lies the feedback loop of true self-love, including healthy, constructive behaviors, emotional regulation, and a capacity for empathy with others.
Developing self-love takes time, effort, and often expert help to understand how your subconscious and unconscious assumptions may be a barrier to a healthy self- relationship. However, the benefits of self-love are enormous in your own wellbeing as well as your capacity to give and receive love.
My online course—Love Thyself—can empower your transformation into truly loving yourself, and lead to stronger relationships overall.
“I help people leverage the power of their inner world and unconscious mind to achieve integration and agency.”
Dr. Perrin Elisha