I want to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day, and not just those with partners in loving relationships, but everyone. For some, Valentine’s Day can be a painful reminder that they haven’t yet found their special someone. But I think it’s an excellent day for a more positive reminder — one that I believe has the potential to be far more important.
It’s a great time to remind ourselves that before we can be fully ready to commit to share ourselves and our lives fully with someone else, we must love ourselves first.
It feels cliché, I know however many of us dismiss self-love as cheesy, vain or narcissistic, and this likely stems from a common myth in society that we have to earn or prove our worth by ticking off a certain number of external achievements in life — having a nice house, being good looking, having a successful career, and a caring, well-spoken and successful partner.
You spend the most time with yourself in this life, and you are the common denominator in all areas of your life, so of course your relationship with yourself is going to have a massive impact on your quality of life. In fact, the truth is that self-love is essential to living your best life. But why?
Benefits of Self-Love:
There are many benefits to cultivating self-love can bring to our life, some of these include:
- It gives you the courage to believe in yourself and go after your biggest dreams.
- It radically increases your daily joy and happiness levels because let’s face it, it’s hard to feel good when you’re living with negative self-talk.
- It empowers you to stop settling for less than you deserve, so the quality of your relationships and life as a whole improves.
- It helps us to learn to manage our inner critic so we become more at peace with who we are.
I can’t emphasize enough that self-love matters and should be a key part of your daily life just like self-care. I talk a lot about self-care however self-care and self-love are fundamentally different.
The Difference between Self-Care and Self-Love:
Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. It’s a way of engaging in activities that make you feel good to make sure you are refilling your own energy cups so that you can continue to give the best of yourself to the world. Regardless of whether or not you are exercising, meditating, or taking bubble baths you can still suffer the consequences of not loving yourself (these consequences can include things like anxiety, depression, anger, addictions or relationship problems)
So, while self-care is about building and maintaining our energy and resilience, self-love, on the other hand, is about cultivating gratitude and acceptance toward yourself, as well as loving yourself unapologetically. To be clear, loving ourselves is not about putting ourselves above others. It’s not about making life about us or having the world revolve around us. That’s not self-love, that is the ego and it’s ultimately self-centred.
While these two are different, they are both essential to a healthy, happy and fulfilled life. Just like self-care, self-love is not transactional, and It’s not something we do every once in a while. It’s a daily practice that involves being mindful about the stories we tell ourselves, and being intentional about what we focus on. Loving yourself isn’t easy, but like all things, it gets better with practice, and it’s definitely worth it.
Ways to Cultivate Self-Love:
There are many ways in which we can cultivate self-love. I consider some of the main ways to be:
- Nurture Acceptance, Understanding & Forgiveness:
Everything we want other people to accept, we must first accept about our self. These may include but are not limited to:
- Your body
- Your mistakes
- Your imperfections
- Your past
- How much you get done in a day (this one was a big one for me following my injury and took me a long time to accept how much I could do whilst now living with chronic pain)
We need to learn to replace self-criticism with praise and acknowledge that we are constantly growing and learning. However, if we are seeking understanding, then we need to understand that we only need to validate our self to feel validated and not from external sources. In most cases, when people are grasping for external validation, it’s because they aren’t turning inward and using their own knowledge, and confidence.
Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s important to we forgive others for ways that we may feel wronged. If we don’t learn to forgive we are keeping ourselves in an invisible prison that prevents us from fully feeling joy and living our life. We never have to like what others have done to us but it’s the way we react and move forward that matters. We also need to forgive our self for mistakes that we may have made Reframing mistakes that we have made as a lesson can help us to learn and grow from our mistakes. We are human after all.
- Be Mindful of your Thoughts and how you Speak to Yourself:
Experts say that we have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day and it’s said a very high percentage of those are often negative or repetitive. Wow! That’s a lot of bad energy right there. We create our reality from our thoughts so if our mind is unguarded and unsupervised it can wreak havoc on our life.
We all know from experience that it’s easier to take on negative feedback than it is to take on positive feedback and so the same goes with our thoughts. Therefore, we need to work at practicing to notice our thoughts and step in and change them when they are critical, judgemental, or negative towards our self and others.
A note on comparison: Our culture is currently more ‘plugged in’ than ever before and it with that comes the ease of comparing our self to others. As we scroll through your social media feeds, we may find yourself comparing how we look, what we have, and our life in general. However, what we often forget that as we are scrolling that other people is only showing the highlights of their life and not necessarily what it means to walk in their shoes without the unrealistic filter that is social media. Quite simply it’s the image of a life they want us to see. So let’s stop comparing our whole life to the highlights of another person’s life, and instead focus on being the best version of our self, because we have so much to offer the world.
- Discover your own Love Language:
Dr Gary Chapman coined the term love language as a way to express and experience love. By discovering our love language, we can provide our self whatever we need to feel loved. The five love languages that Dr Chapman discusses includes: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, actions of service (devotion) and physical touch. Discovering our own love language ultimately helps us to be able to communicate this to our partner when we are in a relationship, but in the meantime will allow us to give our self what we need.
Some ideas may include:
- Buy yourself a small gift or invest in things that bring you joy. Money can’t buy love, but it can buy a sense of satisfaction and allows you to meet your own needs rather than waiting on others to notice and fulfil them.
- Book in for a massage or even better, give yourself a massage
- Spend some time alone doing something you enjoy, take yourself to the movies or a restaurant. Do forget to be mindful and enjoy the time alone. Celebrate you in a way that you love.
- Develop kind affirmations about yourself. Start them with “I am………” Read them daily so that you absorb and believe them.
- If you like acts of service, hire someone to do some jobs around the house.
We need to show our self the love that we may so desperately want from others.
- Define your Worth:
Often, we put much of our self-worth into things that are not actually ourselves — a job, another person, etc. I’ve mentioned previously that a few years ago I went through a very challenging time with being injured at work and in my case the considerable majority of who I felt I was, and ultimately my worth, was based on my work. And when my injury meant that I wasn’t able to fully do my job, my self-worth and my identity crumbled. I felt empty of self-love, and unsure of who I was anymore. After a period of healing I realized that for too long I’ve shown far more love to others within my job than to myself and pinning too much of my self-worth and identity onto my job.
We are more than our job, our salary, or even what our best friend or worst enemy thinks of us. Our worth is innate and we were born enough! We did not come here to prove our self, we came here to play, love and laugh and make our big dreams a reality.
- Know your boundaries
It’s not anyone else’s job to define how we should be treated. It’s our job, and ours alone, to set those boundaries. We teach others how treat us. So, if we treat ourselves poorly then we are giving them permission to do the same. What are your non-negotiables? What will you accept? Develop your boundaries within the terms of what you want and value and not someone else’s. Be fierce and stick to it.
Many of us make the mistake of putting off self-love until “someday”. We think “I’ll love myself when……” we get the partner of my dreams, the perfect job, the bigger bank balance, or the better body or once everything falls into place. I’m sorry to say that when we think like this we have life backwards. We need to love and accept our self first, and then everything can fall into place. The world is a reflection of us. If we want our reality to change, we have to rise first. We have to love ourself first, own our gifts and worth and celebrate our successes today.
We get more of what we focus on in life. So if we focus on our flaws and imperfections then that is all we begin to see. We must focus on our gifts and strengths, and on what we do well, instead of only noticing what we do wrong.
My hope for this post is that perhaps we might be able to look at Valentine’s Day a little bit differently — that it’s not just a day of chocolates, roses and fancy dinners, celebrating the love we can share with others, but also a day in which we can celebrate the love that we can show ourselves.