What is love, really?

We’ve all used the word “love” to describe a variety of positive emotions that we experience throughout our lives and on a daily basis. We use it to express affection to another human being, when talking about a delicious meal, describing a passionate hobby, a favorite sweater, or a dream car. The English vocabulary only has one term, “love”, to describe this array of complicated feelings – however love itself is much more diverse and embodies much more than a word.

Just as coffee comes in different varieties – cappuccino, lattes, americano – “love” also comes in varieties. The ancient Greeks recognized six types:

  • 1. Eros: sexual passion
  • 2. Phila: deep friendship
  • 3. Ludus: playful love
  • 4. Agape: love for everyone
  • 5. Pragma: longstanding love
  • 6. Philautia: love of the self

Philautia and Love of the Self – Two Types

Self-love has been the topic of debate over the centuries and has been often been grouped with selfishness, vanity, narcissism and self-obsession. French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau called this negative form of self-love “Amour-propre” where self-esteem is based on the opinion of others – an unnatural form of self-love that arose only with the appearance of society and individuals’ ability to compare themselves with one another. This form causes vice and misery in both the self and others.

In contrast, philosophers and enlightened leaders believe self-love in its positive form holds the key to personal happiness and widened a person’s capacity to love. Aristotle stated, ”All friendly feelings for others is an extension of a man’s feelings for himself”. Rousseau called this “Amour de soi”, the type of self-love that is not dependent on fame, fortune or the esteem of others, but the idea that you like and feel secure in yourself regardless of your circumstances or situation. This type of self-love tends to be for individual well-being, naturally good and not malicious because it does not involve pursuing one’s self-interest at the expense of others. This sentiment does not compare oneself with others, but solely concerns oneself as an absolute and valuable existence.

Self-Love and why it is vital

Self-love is vital in improving our health, relationships, and outlook on life. It is just as important as the love we give to others. Here are five good reasons to practice the healthy self-love:

  • 1. Self-love is important for a healthy mind and body. Not loving yourself can make yourself physically ill.
  • 2. As you love yourself, you automatically receive the love and appreciation that you desire from others.
  • 3. You cannot accept love if you do not feel yourself worthy to be loved. Every time we tell ourselves we are not good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough, we are essentially telling ourselves we don’t deserve love.
  • 4. If you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others.
  • 5. The better you feel about yourself the better your life will be.