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Self-love defined as "love of self" or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage"[1] has both been conceptualized as a basic human necessity[2] and as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness[3], synonymous with amour propre, conceit, conceitedness, egotism, et al. However, throughout the centuries self-love has adopted a more positive connotation through pride parades, Self Respect Movement, self-love protests, the Hippie era, the new age feminist movement as well as the increase in mental health awareness that promotes self-love as intrinsic to self-help and support groups working to prevent substance abuse and suicide.


Aristotle's words about self-love (philautia) are recorded in the Nicomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics. Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Chapter 8 focuses on it particularly. In this passage, Aristotle argues that people who love themselves to achieve unwarranted personal gain are bad, but those who love themselves to achieve virtuous principles are the best sort of good. He says the former kind of self-love is much more common than the latter.

Cicero considered those who were sui amantes sine rivali (lovers of themselves without rivals) were doomed to end in failure – a theme adopted by Francis Bacon in his condemnation of extreme self-lovers, who would burn down their own home, only to roast themselves an egg.[4]

In her eponymously-titled award-winning book on The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels surveys scholarship of the Nag Hammadi library and the Greek New Testament arguing that Christ taught that self-love (philautia) was intrinsic to neighborly, or brotherly-love (philia) and to live according to the law of the love of the most high (agapē)[5]. She and later scholars such as Étienne Balibar and Thomas Kiefer have compared this to Aristotle’s discourse on proportion of self-love (philautia) as intrinsic to philia (in Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Chapter 8).[6]

Paul of Tarsus wrote that self-love was opposed to love of God in his letter to the Phillipian church.[7] The author of the New Testament letter of James had the same belief.[8]

Augustine – with his theology of evil as a mere distortion of the good – considered that the sin of pride was only a perversion of a normal, more modest degree of self-love.[9]

It was later studied by philosophers William James and Erich Fromm, who studied emotional human behaviour, such as self-esteem and self-worth.

In 1956 psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or egocentric, meaning that instead caring about oneself and taking responsibility for oneself. Fromm proposed a re-evaluation of self-love in more positive sense, arguing that in order to be able to truly love another person, a person first needs to love oneself in the way of respecting oneself and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one's strengths and weaknesses).[10][11]

Erik H. Erikson similarly wrote of a post-narcissistic appreciation of the value of the ego,[12] while Carl Rogers saw one result of successful therapy as the regaining of a quiet sense of pleasure in being one's own self.[13]

Self-love or self-worth was defined in 2003 by Aiden Gregg and Constantine Sedikides as "referring to a person's subjective appraisal of himself or herself as intrinsically positive or negative".

Robert H. Wozniak described William James's theory of self-esteem and claimed that self-love was measured in "... three different but interrelated aspects of self: the material self (all those aspects of material existence in which we feel a strong sense of ownership, our bodies, our families, our possessions), the social self (our felt social relations), and the spiritual self (our feelings of our own subjectivity)".[14]

Mental health[edit]

The role of self-love in mental health was first described by William Sweetser (1797–1875) as the maintenance of "mental hygiene". His analysis, demonstrated in his essay "Temperance Society" published August 26, 1830, claimed that regular maintenance of mental hygiene created a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and the community as well.

Lack of self-love increases risk of suicide according to the American Association of Suicidology,[15] The association conducted a study in 2008 which researched the impact of low self-esteem and lack of self-love and its relation to suicidal tendencies and attempts. They defined self-love as being "beliefs about oneself (self-based self-esteem)[16] and beliefs about how other people regard oneself (other-based self-esteem)".[16] It concluded that "depression, hopelessness, and low self-esteem are implications of vulnerability factors for suicide ideation" and that "these findings suggest that even in the context of depression and hopelessness, low self-esteem may add to the risk for suicide ideation".



Self-love was first promoted by the Beat Generation of the 1950s and in the early years of the Hippie era of the 1960s. After witnessing the devastating consequences of World War II and having troops still fighting in the Vietnam War, western (especially North American) societies began promoting "peace and love" to help generate positive energy and to promote the preservation of dissipating environmental factors, such as the emergence of oil pipelines and the recognition of pollution caused by the greenhouse effect.

These deteriorating living conditions caused worldwide protests that primarily focused on ending the war, but secondarily promoted a positive environment aided by the fundamental concept of crowd psychology. This post-war community was left very vulnerable to persuasion but began encouraging freedom, harmony and the possibility of a brighter, non-violent future. These protests took place on almost all continents and included countries such as the United States (primarily New York City and California), England and Australia. Their dedication, perseverance and empathy towards human life defined this generation as being peace advocates and carefree souls.

The emergence of the feminist movement began as early as the 19th century, but only began having major influence during the second wave movement, which included women's rights protests that inevitably led to women gaining the right to vote. These protests not only promoted equality but also suggested that women should recognize their self-worth through the knowledge and acceptance of self-love. Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the Declaration of Independence as a guideline to demonstrate that women have been harshly treated throughout the centuries in her feminist essay titled "Declaration of Sentiments". In the essay she claims that "all men and women are created equal; ... that among these [rights] are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness";[17] and that without these rights, the capacity to feel self-worth and self-love is scarce. This historical essay suggests that a lack of self-esteem and fear of self-love affects modern women due to lingering post-industrial gender conditions.

Self-love has also been used as a radical tool in communities of Color in the United States. In the 1970s Black-Power movement, the slogan "Black is beautiful!" became a way for African-Americans to throw off the mantle of predominately White beauty norms. The dominant cultural aesthetic pre-1970s was to straighten Black hair with a perm or hot comb. During the Black Power movement, the "afro" or "fro" became the popular hairstyle. It involved letting Black Hair grow naturally, without chemical treatment, so as to embrace and flaunt the extremely curly hair texture of Black people. Hair was teased out the hair using a pick. The goal was to cause the hair to form a halo around the head, flaunting the Blackness of its wearer. This form of self-love and empowerment during the 70s was a way for African-Americans to combat the stigma against their natural hair texture, which was, and still is, largely seen as unprofessional in the modern workplace.

Modern platforms[edit]

The emergence of social media has created a platform for self-love promotion and mental health awareness in order to end the stigma surrounding mental health and to address self-love positively rather than negatively.

A few modern examples of self-love promotion platforms include:

Literary references[edit]

Beck, Bhar, Brown & Ghahramanlou‐Holloway (2008). "Self-Esteem and Suicide Ideation in Psychiatric Outpatients". Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior 38.

Malvolio is described as "sick of self-love...a distempered appetite" in Twelfth Night (I.v.85-6), lacking self-perspective.[18]

Self-love or self-worth was later defined by A.P. Gregg and C. Sedikides in 2003.[14][19][20]

Origins of Self-love by Willy Zayas in 2019.[14][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [Merriam-Webster dictionary]
  2. ^ Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  3. ^ B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget's Thesaurus (1998) p. 592 and p. 639
  4. ^ Francis Bacon, The Essays (1985) p. 131
  5. ^ Matthew 22:36-40 and similar references in Synoptic Gospels of Mark and Luke
  6. ^ Kiefer, Thomas. Aristotle’s theory of knowledge: Continuum studies in ancient philosophy. London & New York: Continuum, 2007. ISBN 0826 494854 (ISBN 13: 9780826494856
  7. ^ Philippians 2:3-5
  8. ^ James 3:13-18, 4:1-4
  9. ^ D. Sayers, Dante: Purgatory (1971) p. 66-7
  10. ^ The Art of Loving (1956) by Erich Fromm. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-091594-0.
  11. ^ "How to Stop Beating Yourself Up and Start Loving Yourself More | Build The Fire". Build The Fire. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  12. ^ Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (1964) p. 260
  13. ^ Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961) p. 87-8
  14. ^ a b c Wozniak, R. H. (1999) Introduction to The Principles of Psychology. Classics in Psychology, 1855-1914: Historical Essays.
  15. ^ Drapeau, C. W., & McIntosh, J. L. (for the American Association of Suicidology). (2016). U.S.A. suicide 2015: Official final data.
  16. ^ a b Beck, Bhar, Brown & Ghahramanlou‐Holloway (2008). "Self-Esteem and Suicide Ideation in Psychiatric Outpatients". Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 38.
  17. ^ Anthony S.B., M.J. Cage & Stanton, E.C. (1889). A History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1
  18. ^ L. Anderson, A Kind of Wild Justice (1987) p. 116-8
  19. ^ Sedikides, C. & Gregg. A. P. (2003). "Portraits of the self"
  20. ^ Hogg, M. A. & J. Cooper. Sage handbook of social psychology.
  21. ^ Willy Zayas (2019). "In the Beginning"