As Valentine’s Day descends upon us, so does the bombardment on the topic of LOVE. We buy chocolate for our partners, let our friends know we are grateful for them, send Valentines to school with our children, yet few will take time to consider the most important relationship in our lives: the one we have with ourselves.
The idea of self-love has been defined in many ways and has been both romanticized and demonized. A common understanding of the term is the equivocation of self-love with self-obsession or ego; however, for our purposes, we define self-love as the love we extend to ourselves. Simply put, self-love does not mean thinking you are the smartest, prettiest, most fun, and all-around best of all the time. Instead, it means you value your well-being and happiness.
The idea that we are in a long-term relationship with ourselves and what that entails can be a lot to take in, particularly when considering how we treat ourselves on a regular basis. It is not surprising that the idea stirs up feelings of discomfort for some. Instead of turning away from the discomfort, what if we explore the root of it?
Consider the following questions:
- Do I treat myself with the same regard I would a friend or an acquaintance?
- Am I kind when I speak to myself?
- Do I allow myself a break from the day to day grind without feeling guilty?
- Do I forgive myself for making mistakes?
- Do I honor my values with healthy boundaries?
Beginning to identify the source of the discomfort, yet? Socialized, as we are, in a society that praises the idea of martyrdom and hustle culture, it is understandable that we struggle to make time to pause and care for ourselves, and develop a deeper sense of love for our one true ride-or-die.
If you answered no to any of the above questions, let us explore some ways you can honor yourself:
If you struggle to speak in a self-compassionate manner, consider adopting a positive affirmation practice. Morning and night, take a few moments to look in the mirror and repeat an affirmation that resonates with you such as:
“I am enough.”
“I am worthy and valuable.”
“I have strength in my heart and peace in my mind.”
If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or self-critical throughout the day, take a moment to repeat the chosen affirmation in your head. Over time, our brains internalize these positive words, and they become more and more believable until we see them as objective truth.
Self-care looks different for everyone. Take a moment to consider what makes you feel relaxed and refreshed. Perhaps it would be helpful to also disconnect from technology during this time and be in the moment. Examples of self-care we see often are taking a warm bath, doing an enjoyable workout, and reading a good book—but do not let that limit you! If you are desperate for a night with Netflix and a cheeseburger, do it.
Your self-care is individual to you, your interests, and your needs. It is helpful to schedule time for these activities as though you are scheduling a meeting. Would you ditch a meeting with a colleague last minute? Probably not, however we often push aside our commitments to ourselves. Scheduling self-care activities helps hold us accountable.
Maybe you often find yourself stretched so thin that it feels impossible to make time for yourself. The need for healthy boundaries exists in many areas of our lives, including work, friendships, family, and romantic relationships. A healthy boundary is one that leaves you feeling mentally and emotionally stable while considering your personal needs and limits.
Establishing good boundaries can feel awkward at first, especially if you are used to not honoring your needs; however, consistently choosing not to implement them can lead to exhaustion, resentment, and burnout. It is important to remember that if setting boundaries is a new endeavor in our lives, people may feel surprised or have emotional reactions towards them. This is entirely normal and not an indication that you are doing anything wrong; we all respond to change differently, just as we all have the right to prioritize ourselves.
Practicing Self Forgiveness & Non-Judgmental Thinking
If you took a few moments to consider how you speak to yourself and found your inner monologue to be harsh or judgmental, then this intervention is for you. If you have an inner monologue, it is likely the voice you hear most throughout the day, which means it is extremely impactful on our moods and self-esteem.
Questions to ask yourself when addressing a negative inner monologue include:
- Would I speak this way to a friend or child?
- Who benefits from this way of thinking?
- What evidence do I have that this thought about myself is true?
- Am I thinking in absolutes (for example: I always…, They never…)?
It can then be helpful to write the negative thought down, reflect on your answers to the above questions, and create a more neutral or realistic thought.
“I always mess this up.” → “I am still learning.”
Like positive affirmations, the more we reframe these negative thoughts, the more we train our brains. Over time, we will recognize that our automatic thoughts are not always accurate representatives of ourselves or situations. The goal is to create a pause that allows space to address this thinking instead of operating on the assumption they are gospel truth. It is challenging to be your best, most loving self when negative thoughts are dragging you down, but do not fret; you have totally got this! You learned this thinking; you can unlearn it, too!
This February, take a moment to check in with yourself. Make time for some of the exercises listed here. Remember, there is no one else on this earth just like you, which is a beautiful thing. Our relationship to self will be our compass, and our self-talk, the soundtrack, as the years pass. Cultivate a journey with yourself filled with love and kindness.