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4 misconceptions about self-love, from Dr. Shainna Ali

Dr. Shainna Ali on self-love myths

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Shainna Ali, PhD, a mental health counselor and best-selling author. She is dispelling 4 myths about self-love and replacing them with truths that can empower you, you… and you! Her newest book, Designing Healthy Boundaries, is a workbook designed to help you define and improve the boundaries in your life to build self-love and create more fulfilling connections. Now, I give the floor to Dr. Ali.

Dispelling 4 self-love myths for a stronger you

Self-love is the active practice of accepting, caring for and encouraging oneself. While self-love is not a new term, it has gained attention in recent years. Many meet the concept of self-love with skepticism. As a mental health counselor, educator, advocate, and author of The Self-Love Workbook, I have to say, I don’t blame you one bit if you have had some hesitancy towards self-love. I once shared that uncertainty.

In my personal and professional journey with self-love, I have come to realize that this doubt stems from the vagueness that generally persists surrounding self-love. In addition, there are some clear misunderstandings that persist in the cloudiness. Here are four common misunderstandings that exist about self-love:

Myth #1. Self-love is selfish

Humans are wired for connection. Regardless of where we lie on the spectrum of introversion to extroversion, it is our human tendency to want to belong.

Somewhere along the way, self-love became associated with selfishness, which could be an obstacle to being able to be care for and be cared by others. Perhaps this link started simply due to the shared “self” and was cemented by the notion that investing in yourself would somehow rob others.

Genuine self-love is the opposite. It isn’t mandatory to put yourself before anyone else but to see that you are just as worthy of the love you give to others.

When you honor your self-worth, the benefits do not end with you. You are better able to be kind, caring, and compassionate with others too.

Related Read: Author and keynote speaker Jessica Dennehy explains why selfishness is a superpower

#2. Self-love is prescriptive

We all need love from ourselves as much as we do from others. Sometimes when we awaken to this reality, we are hungry for the solution to fill our void.

We may turn to those we believe are self-loving for examples. While our social support is certainly a catalyst for self-love, we have to remember that self-love is rather subjective. Although we all need it, what it looks like for one may differ from another.

Similarly, what works for someone may or may not be effective for you. Examples can be a great source for inspiration. However, a key aspect of self-love is turning that attention inward to reflect on your inner knowledge and trust your truth.

#3. Self-love is extravagant

Contrary to what many of the ads in your inbox may claim, self-love does not need to be expensive. Depending on your needs, it is certainly possible that it may come with a price tag from time to time. However, many forms of self-love, such as setting aside time for rest and reflection, pursuing your joy, and setting healthy boundaries, do not come with a dollar amount.

With that being said, self-love may come with some sort of cost. For example, choosing to set a boundary with a loved one may not technically cause you financial debt, but depending on the scenario, you may pay a cost. Yet, this cost is outweighed by the potential improvement in your well-being, honors your well-being, and is not extravagant.

#4. Self-love is dangerous

For many of us, self-love goes against what we were told to value. Self-sacrifice for the sake of loving for others, despite the personal cost, is often celebrated.

When you realize that genuine self-love helps you better love others, you may gain mental readiness to practice self-love however it may feel inherently wrong. While it may feel unfamiliar and uneasy that does not mean it’s unhealthy.

Beyond yourself, as you practice self-love you may experience friction from others. Oftentimes this is because you are breaking a long-withstanding pattern.

In these moments, we have to remind ourselves that we are not responsible for others’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Nevertheless, self-love allows us the space to be compassionate towards others’ adjustments as we make space to continue our practice.

Moreover, self-love improves our awareness, conscientiousness, accountability, and ability to grow. Therefore, genuine self-love couldn’t possibly promote neglect, abandon, or harm others in the name of loving ourselves.

Designing Healthy Boundaries by Shainna Ali
Book cover of Designing Healthy Boundaries by Dr. Shainna Ali

About Dr. Shainna Ali, today’s writer

Dr. Shainna Ali is a mental health counselor, educator, and advocate who is passionate about destigmatizing mental health counseling and helping individuals worldwide recognize the importance of fostering mental wellness. She is the author of The Self-Love Workbook, The Self-Love Workbook for Teens, Luna Finds Love Everywhere: A Self-Love Book for Kids, The Self-Love Planner, and Designing Healthy Boundaries.

Dr. Shainna is the owner and operator of Integrated Counseling Solutions, LLC, a strengths-based clinical mental health and consulting practice located in Central Florida. In addition to her books, she also offers free mental health information through her Psychology Today-hosted blog, A Modern Mentality. She shares her insight through news outlets such as ABC, CBS, NPR, Washington Post, Insider, and Bustle.

Dr. Shainna has been honored with the Association for Specialists in Group Work’s Al Dye Award, the Pete Fischer Humanitarian Award, and the 30 under 30 award from the University of Central for her efforts in promoting mental wellness. You can learn more through her website or follow along on Instagram (@DrShainna).


Top photo: Meet Dr. Shainna Ali, PhD. Photo courtesy of Shainna Ali.

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