Depending on whom you ask, self-love is alternately over and underrated.
In some circles, self-love can be viewed as bordering on narcissism, where a concern for self and self-needs edges out the ability to strike that necessarily delicate balance between one’s own good and the greater good. In other circles, self-love is all too often confused with self-critical behaviors that read like an endless litany of guilt-laden motherly instructions “for your own good”.
As with anything else, extremes seldom yield anything truly useful, healing, or inspiring over the long term.
In a related note of interest, scientifically it is now known that the act of loving releases a powerful surge of feel-good endorphins throughout the lovers’ systems. Even better, for new pairs of lovers, that twin surge of endorphins can be expected to last up to 18 months before it begins to fade biochemically.
But the surge can be extended – up to forever – by making the effort to keep the romance alive. The most common advice given to achieve this extension is for couples to remember what they spent time doing together in those heady first months, and to start doing those things again.
In the same way, self-love can be cultivated through a simple application of similar principles to those that bond couples together for months, years, or a lifetime. All it takes is a few doses of pure wisdom, some willingness, and a spirit of adventure.
So in the spirit of a more self-focused love-related adventure, why would it potentially be beneficial to proactively cultivate a loving relationship towards one’s own self?
Whether the goal is to enjoy life more, cultivate more satisfying and nurturing relationships with others, experience greater self-efficacy in making desired life changes, explore new challenges with increased self-confidence, actually try some of those items from a so-called “bucket list”, and many other reasons besides, there is nothing that is not advantageous to self or others about increasing one’s own regard, care, and love for oneself.
In other words, self-love is simply a win-win for all concerned.
It also just so happens that February is the perfect month to embark upon a self-love adventure. Why is this?
Well, February, of course, is the permanent month of residence for Valentine’s Day, a holiday that is neck-and-neck with Christmas as perhaps the most over-marketed, over-hyped, and overtly stressful annually recurring holiday.
On Valentine’s Day, those who have the romance of an “other” in their lives are given a gold star and carte blanche to empty their piggy banks in true Western consumer capitalism style to display their love to the envious world. Those whom are not so lucky are encouraged to alternately display their defiance of the holiday by celebrating the anti-Valentine’s day, or to simply keep their heads down and hide out in their houses for a proscribed 24-hour period.
If neither alternative sounds particularly appealing, luckily there is another route to enjoying, celebrating, and even enhancing the experience of taking part in Valentine’s Day this year – and also making the feel-good endorphins-inspired buzz last all year long, partner or no partner!
If you are dreading the prospect of spending Valentine’s Day without a lover-other in your life, if you are one of those lucky people who doesn’t need a holiday like Valentine’s Day to remember to treat your lover nicely or even spring for a fun token of your regard, or if you are simply exhausted by the same ole, same ole and are seeking a fresh approach to a tired holiday routine, then try these 15 fun ways to say “I Love You” to yourself this February.
(p.s. If you have a lover, you might even want to try them together-but-separately and then share your experiences as a guaranteed way to spice up both your relationship with yourself and with each other! )
Regardless of your reasons for trying these 15 sweet and simple ideas, I guarantee you – you will be glad you gave them a whirl.
© Put on your favorite love song (Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is a sure-fire winner) and get out a handheld mirror. Gaze deeply into your own eyes while the song plays. Keep tissues handy.
© Keep a self-gratitude journal. Every day, write down five things you are grateful to yourself for. You can also write down five things you are simply grateful for. But make sure you write your self-thank you’s first!
© Write down five of your “favorite things”. Schedule a day this month to take yourself on a date “au solo”. On that day, try to do all five things. Repeat at least one time each month.
© Listen to your gut when it is telling you to say “no”. Then SAY IT. Remember, sometimes saying “no” to someone else is also the only way to say “yes” to you.
© Unplug. Yes, this means you. Yes, this means the cell phone, the laptop, the iPad, the iPod, the television, the CD player. When was the last time you just sat and listened to the wonder of your own breathing as the air flows in and out and in and out and in….wow. Life IS a miracle….YOUR life is a miracle.
© Feel your anger. Your sadness. Your irritation. Your unforgiveness. Feel it all. You have every right to feel every single thing you feel. What you do with it is step two, and there you may choose to take different paths to deal with different feelings, including scheduling some therapy sessions, meditating or practicing deep breathing, writing a letter, saying what you need to say in person, screaming into a pillow or choosing to keep quiet. But step one – and a non-negotiable step to get through the process safely and healthily – is to give yourself permission to feel EVERYTHING. They are your feelings. If you don’t feel them, who will?
© Apologize to yourself. You have said some pretty awful things to yourself, have probably even done some pretty awful things to yourself, over the years. Maybe they are things you wouldn’t dream of saying or doing to your lover, your family, your child. But you did them to yourself, and you owe yourself an apology – a very sincere and heart-felt “I am SO sorry.”
© Apologize to others. Carrying around unforgiveness, resentment, rage, or even simple misunderstanding can make you feel like Atlas carrying the world delicately balanced on your increasingly exhausted shoulders. You are not carrying the whole world, but trying to carry around your own personal world can have the same effect as it crashes down, taking you and everyone you love with it. Don’t wait – whatever happens, it has got to feel better than staggering under the painful weight of holding it all up inside.
© Take 5, 10, 15 minutes each day – however long you can spare without stressing about it – to do deep breathing, to meditate, and to just listen to yourself. What are you longing for? Whom do you miss? What do you hope for more of – or less of? Write it down. These are your soul’s messages to you – and the beginning of a potentially beautiful friendship.
© Hear your shame out. Human beings feel shame – and this is an experience that can shut us down or free us depending on what we do with it. What are you ashamed of? What can you do about it? Is your shame coming from your own words or actions or from the words and actions of another? How old is your shame – are you a little girl, a teen, a young woman, mature in years? What do you need in order to feel safe and supported to let your shame out, take appropriate action where indicated, and then let it go and move on? Whatever you need, start by hearing your shame out, and then just take it one step at a time from there.
© Remind yourself that this world CAN and WILL go on without you. This means you – the mother, the wife, the executive, the nonprofit leader, the community organizer, the caretaker, the (fill in the blanks). Use this healthy dose of perspective to deal yourself IN to your own life on a daily basis.
© Notice what makes you spontaneously smile, and do more of that as often as possible.
© Make a list of the people who inspire you the most. Recognize that something that is already in you resonates with something that is already in them. Pat yourself on the back for choosing to keep such good company!
© Make a list of people who have a knack for making you feel worse about yourself, your life, your job, your relationships with others, etc. Spend as little time with them as humanly possible (and no time at all, ideally).
© Do the same thing with music, movies, television programs, talk radio shows, books, and other “consumables” that have a depressive, negative, or hope-sucking effect on you. Move them to your “Do Not Do” list – permanently.
So there they are. 15 beautiful, simple ways to say “I Love You” to yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day!
About the Author: Kimberly B. Krueger, MSW, LCSW is the Founder and Program Director for Southlake Counseling and Southlake Center for Self Discovery. She has dedicated her career to helping people of all ages “say yes to life” and overcome their life challenges with compassion, professional guidance, and caring support. Southlake Counseling offers the most comprehensive counseling services in the Southlake area with a focus on eating disorders, mood disorders, nutrition and fitness, wellness, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, addictions, equine therapy, and a full range of one-on-one and group therapeutic services. Learn more at www.southlakecounseling.com.