By Melody Li

On the first day of the school year, social science teacher Frank Cava said something along the lines of: “You have to love yourself before you can love others” — a quote that anyone who has ever done a Google search of “inspiring quotes” has encountered over and over again.  A quote that an overwhelming amount of teenagers include in their Instagram bios.  A quote that everyone uses but no one really understands.

I am guilty of all the aforementioned.  Although I never even did a Google search on the definition of the word “self-love,” I’ve always told the people around me to love themselves.  I didn’t think much of it.  I simply used the quote to promote positivity and what I thought was self-love.

So what really is self-love?  According to Google, it’s the “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.”

This vague definition can often mislead people into thinking that self-love is the selfish idea of putting one’s own needs and wants before anything else.  Why, then, would anyone want to practice something that sounds so selfish?

However, self-love actually couldn’t be more selfless.

According to Mr. Cava, self-love teaches people how to treat other people.  Once people understand that others’ emotions work similarly to their own, they develop more empathy and begin to be more careful with others’ feelings.  Self-love teaches people to treat others with the same respect they expect for themselves.

“If you know, respect and love yourself, you’ll have a better connection with your own feelings, which will help you understand how other people feel and learn to be careful about how you treat other people,” explains Mr. Cava.

By first learning how to make good decisions for themselves, people can then also make good decisions for others and further benefit those around them.

“Self-love is having enough self-respect to make the right decisions and becoming a more responsible and caring person.  It’s that feeling of happiness you feel when you realize you are able to bring positivity to the world around you,” says Mr. Cava.

Although Google will provide copious articles titled “Ways to Practice Self-love” that contain lists including tips such as “buy yourself flowers,” “meditate,” and “find your happy place,” there really is no tangible way to learn how to love yourself.

Mr. Cava believes self-love is not something that you can just practice.  It takes time and

it comes from building yourself up.

“Self-love comes from self-respect, which comes from having self-esteem and believing in your worth. Without self-esteem, you can’t care about someone else,” explains Mr. Cava.

To build self-esteem and self-worth, he suggests keeping a “track record” to remember “some successes and some challenges that you were able to surmount so that you can say you’re worthy and capable of doing good things.”

Therefore, it’s important that people practice and do things that make them feel good and better about themselves.  It’s important that people remind themselves of their capabilities and that they seek to expand what they can do for themselves as well as what they can do for others.

Ultimately, self-love is not selfish.  It is necessary to understand and practice self-love in order to be a better person for your loved ones.

Even on a day like Valentine’s Day, self-love must be practiced whether or not you have a significant other.

If you refer to Valentine’s Day as Single Awareness Day, take some time to appreciate yourself and what you have to offer to the world around you.  Set aside time from your busy and hectic schedule to take care of yourself first.  Find what you truly enjoy doing and do what makes you happy.

If you celebrate Valentine’s Day with friends, family or a significant other, it should be no different.  Show the people you love a healthier and happier side of you.  Help them gain your trust by showing them you can care for them the same way you love and care for yourself.  Assure them that you can be happy alone, but happier together.

“Before you can love others, you have to know your own self. Before you can understand another person’s needs, you need to know how your own needs are met and what makes you happy,” reinforces Mr. Cava.

You truly have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.

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