Love, relationships, self-help

Be Your Own Valentine: Learning to Love Yourself

It’s Valentine’s Day!

Feelings toward Valentine’s Day pretty much run the gambit of emotions, ranging anywhere from a Romeo and Juliet-like romantic swooning over the day, to an all out vocalized hatred, complete with skull piercing eye-roll. Couples, Singles and “It’s Complicateds”, Married, Engaged, Dating, Hook-Ups, Friendationships, Soulmates, Single-and-Loving Its, Cat Ladies, Bromances…and everything in between will all agree that you cannot get away from the epicness that this holiday has taken on over the centuries. There are many legends surrounding the history of Valentine’s Day, not the least of which concern a martyred saint! If you would like to learn more about the history of Valentine’s Day, you can check it out at The History Channel.

No matter your personal take on this strange but love-centered holiday, however, Valentine’s Day has come to be known as the end-all-be-all of romantic days of the calendar year. I personally have a love-hate-love…maybe hate, but still…kinda love relationship with Valentine’s Day (and to be honest, it’s mostly because of the chocolate…because let’s face it…Valentine’s Day chocolate is way better than regular chocolate. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s true). But I digress.

Today, on this Valentine’s Day, I want to focus on something else, or rather, someONE else. I want to focus on you, and I want YOU to focus on you, too.

This is not going to be one of those posts that emphatically waves its hands in the air and calls you to stop everything and love yourself first. That’s silly. Love, by its very nature, requires you to think of others first. That being said, though…this IS one of those posts that is going to emphasize the importance of loving yourself TOO.

This is for two VERY IMPORTANT reasons:

  1. Being capable of authentic love toward yourself is 100% necessary to being capable of fully, genuinely loving someone else (at least in the true sense of the word).
  2. Loving yourself is 100% necessary to your own emotional wellness, happiness, and fulfillment in life.

The downside to all this self love is that its not always easy, at least not for everyone. In fact, for some of us, it is tremendously difficult, if not damn near impossible.

For most of my life, if I’m being raw and honest, I did NOT love myself. I didn’t hate myself…but I certainly didn’t love myself. I still struggle with it from time to time, and it’s an ONGOING process…but I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it , like, 99% of the time. In the past though, not so much. I always felt like I wasn’t enough. Like I could do better, be smarter, prettier, thinner, more interesting, funnier, wittier, have more, dress better…I held my tongue when I should have spoken up, I tried too hard to please everyone else…I thought a lot of things that had nothing to do with me were my fault, when people didn’t like me I KNEW it was because I was a complete and utter LOSERFACE with nothing to offer the world, and I KNEW all of this beneath a smile and a laugh:

  • In middle school when I was harassed and bullied every single day for being too fat, to ugly, not dressed right, not cool enough, not genuine enough, not friendly enough, too friendly, too poor…when rumors were being passed around about me like wildfire.
  • In high school…post a “self-makeover” while I was cheering with my cheerleading squad, while I was making honor roll and dean’s list, while I was at the prom with my charming, popular boyfriend.
  • In college, while I was getting the party started at the sorority mixer. I was the center of attention, the girl who was never single, the girl who could pull off 6 inch heels but still be “one of the guys”, the girl that always seemed to be having a good time and loving life…but cried herself to sleep at night.
  • BECAUSE YOU SEE…it’s not about what you do, what you look like, how you dress, what you can or can’t afford, who you hang out with, what you accomplish, or any of the cards that life deals you. It’s about looking at yourself…and LOVING what you see, good and bad, despite anything else. And if you can’t do that…If your inner voice is telling you that you suck…it’s a nightmarish daily hell of living with a constant nagging that tells you when you are at your most vulnerable that you are unworthy of love.

It took me until my mid-twenties to finally figure out that it wasn’t everyone else, or my luck of the draw, or my circumstances that made me feel that way…IT WAS ME. It took me until my late twenties to finally do the work to wage war on the inner voices that told me that I wasn’t worthy …and it took me until my 30th birthday to finally step out of my old skin, accept my authentic self (including all my not so shining qualities), give myself a nice pat on the ass and say, “Hey Girl…you’re a rockin’ unicorn of glittery awesomeness”.

So how did I learn to overcome the giant B in my head and learn to love myself?

  1. The first step is admitting that you don’t really love yourself as you should. Take a look at this list….any of these apply to you? If so, chances are that you don’t love yourself like you should.
    • Do you nitpick at yourself? Do you get angry with yourself when things don’t work out how you planned? Do you push yourself to perfection, to the point that nothing you do is good enough? Do you have negative self talk? Do you dwell on past mistakes?
    • Do you stress out and feel anxious about whether you have done enough for someone else?  Do you compare yourself to others? Do you blame yourself? Do you put off your own needs, even basic ones like eating or bathing?
    • Do you make decisions about your future based on the preferences, advice or insistence of others, even when it goes against your gut? Do you care too much about what others think of you, to the point that it hinders your action? Do you make decisions that are destructive or reckless? Do you find it hard to make decisions at all, feeling constantly indecisive or full of doubt? Do you find yourself seeking others’ approval for nearly everything?
  2. Actually FEEL your emotions. When you don’t love yourself as you should, you tend to run and hide from your emotions (good or bad), wall them up, play the “strong” card, ignore, and push things under the rug. The problem with this is that those emotions will ALWAYS come to the surface eventually.
    • Get in touch with your “negative” emotions and learn to take responsibility for them. I say “negative” in quotes because we tend to think of these emotions (anger, sadness, shame, guilt, vulnerability, anxiety, fear, etc…) as negative, but it’s not “bad” to feel these things, and in fact ALLOWING yourself to acknowledge and experience these feelings can begin a process of self-growth when channeled into something positive. If you tend to act out during moments of negative self-talk and emotion, that is a result of avoiding truly feeling and accepting the emotion. Learn to accept the emotion and the responsibility of owning it, then process through it yourself or find a friend, family member, therapist or professional listener to process through it with you. You can talk to a professional listener any time of the day, for free, at 7 Cups of Tea.
    • Acknowledge your heart, your bliss, and your gut more often and it will not betray you. People who don’t love themselves as they should impose many Self-Limiting Beliefs on themselves that keep them from living the life that they want to live. This is a result of believing, deep down, that you are unworthy.
  3. Begin the process of learning about YOU. Make the decision to actively seek your inner self. Find out what makes you tick. This might include delving into your past, and that might mean coming face to face with some difficult memories, raw emotions and hard truths. This is not an easy or a short process, but learning about why you do the things you do, what your triggers are, why certain things might be causing you pain, or what might be happening in your relationships with others, is the first active step you can take toward being open to loving yourself completely.
    • Explore your false belief systems. Why is what you are doing, thinking, or experiencing causing your emotional pain? WHY are you feeling anger, shame, depression, sadness, anxiety, fear, or guilt? Once you figure out the action or inaction that is causing the painful emotion..then you can begin to dig deeper to identify where that emotion is coming from…is it from your past? Is it a self-inflicted belief with no true basis or is it a result of a previous experience?
    • Explore your attributes. What, if anything, do you actually really like about yourself? Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn here…it won’t make you arrogant or conceited…this is part of the process of owning your awesome and loving it. If you can’t think of or admit to anything…focus on this question: What do you wish others would see/believe/think when they look at you? What do you identify as that you wish others would acknowledge?
    • Be HONEST with yourself. Glorify your radness and own up to your flaws. Don’t fight it and DON’T POINT FINGERS. If you find yourself blaming someone else for your negative emotions or actions…this is a clue that you need to DIG DEEPER. Remember…this is about YOU, healing and doing the work inside YOURSELF.
  4. Recognize your self-inflicted conditions for loving yourself. When you truly love yourself…you must love yourself unconditionally. Many people have a mental note in their subconscious that says “I will love myself more when I _______.” That, my friend, is conditional love. We need to let go of those conditions. Easier said than done, I know…BUT, until we learn to let go of the conditions that we have placed on ourselves in order to be and feel worthy of love, we will not love ourselves.
  5. Know that you don’t have to be in a relationship to be supported, and you don’t have to be alone in order to value and love yourself.
    • Support yourself by keeping company with those who value and appreciate you for exactly who you are. Sometimes that is family…and sometimes it’s NOT family (blood is not always thicker than water). Sometimes that’s a romantic relationship with another person who really gets you to your core. Sometimes it’s really great friends. Sometimes its your cat. Be with those that make you feel MORE you.
    • It’s OK to say NO to toxic relationships that reinforce your negative self-talk. It’s also OK to love someone else AND yourself at the same time.
    • Be OK with being alone. Being single is not necessarily a bad thing when you love yourself. It means that you value yourself enough to know that you prefer your own company to someone who won’t accept you and love you 100% as is.
  6. Take positive action. Do things daily that make you feel warm and fuzzy. Engage in healthy, positive, uplifting self-talk….on purpose. Yes, even when you don’t feel like it. It might feel ridiculous at first, but it will pay off in the long run. Do things that you love. Make time for yourself (but don’t allow yourself to become so self-absorbed that you neglect others).
  7. LOVE OTHERS and YOURSELF the way that YOU want to be loved. This is like, the Golden Rule of self-love. First, be an example for others of the way that you want to be loved. Even BETTER than loving others the way that you want to be loved, is by loving YOURSELF the way that you want others to love you. And so we come full circle:

BE YOUR OWN VALENTINE!

Treat yourself with the kindness, care, honesty, respect, acceptance, love and compassion that you desire from others, and you will be capable of accepting, embracing, loving and becoming your most authentic YOU. And THAT will not only make YOU happier…but it will attract the people who are worthy of your awesomeness!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Me to You and your fabulous self!!!!!

Photo Credit: Favim.com via Meg Hernandez (FairyCandles) via her Tumblr

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