Valentine’s Day is all about love. It’s a day to shower our affections on those we cherish and to tell them how much they mean to us. We purchase special gifts, go out for dinner, or do something that demonstrates our deep affection for our loved ones. We’re pretty good at seeing what makes these folks so special and in expressing gratitude for their presence in our lives. So why are we typically not so good at appreciating ourselves?
There are some remarkable benefits to loving ourselves. When we learn to practice self-love every day, it’s amazing how our lives transform. We feel better and we think more clearly. Our sleep improves. We get the jobs we want. Our relationships heal, grow, and become more fulfilling. In short, our quality of life is greatly enhanced. Because loving ourselves is essential for our overall well-being and happiness, it seems obvious that we should focus on it. That sounds simple, but in reality, most of us find it difficult to love ourselves. Still, it’s worth the effort because we must love and accept ourselves before we can truly love and accept others.
How can you begin your journey of self-love? Just as any good relationship requires attention and needs to be nurtured over time, so does the relationship you have with yourself. Try these simple strategies to cultivate a deep appreciation for the special person you are:
- Give yourself positive affirmations. Many of us are conditioned from an early age to be self-critical. We often develop low self-esteem and body image issues because we think we’re not “good” enough. We focus on our perceived flaws and we overlook our awesomeness. You can break these negative thought patterns by practicing affirmations each day. Much like physical exercise, they raise the level of feel-good hormones and push our brains to form new clusters of “positive thought” that override negativity. Each day, tell yourself out loud that you are strong, that you are miraculous, and that you love yourself just the way you are.
- Make gratitude a habit. Make it a point to give thanks for something as soon as you wake up—to be alive, for a sunny morning, or to have a pet to love. Perform this exercise before you turn in at night, too. Keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to chronicle all of the positives in your life, no matter whether they’re big or small. Flipping through your journal can also serve as a powerful mood enhancer anytime you’re feeling low.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation. By simply sitting and connecting to the present moment through our breath, we become reacquainted with our mind and learn to drive it, rather than the other way around. Meditating can help you foster a kinder relationship with yourself, too.
- Be your own best friend. Think about how supportive and empathetic you are with your friends. Have those same gentle, encouraging, and loving conversations with yourself.
- It’s OK to put yourself first. How we treat ourselves unconsciously gives others permission to treat us accordingly. Make time on a regular basis to do the things you’re interested in and learn to say no to the things you don’t want to do. Read a book, go dancing with friends, or take a nap when you’re tired. When you don’t settle for being unappreciated, you’ll attract the love and affection you deserve.
Loving yourself is hard because nobody knows your mistakes and flaws like you do. It’s so easy to beat yourself up when you forget something or make a silly mistake. But be patient. Loving yourself is achievable. You’re awesome and there are plenty of people who know it. It’s time you knew it, too. Happy Valentine’s Day from you to you!
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Founder, CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.