By Kristen Carter
Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday if you’re in a relationship with someone you care for (and who cares for you). But whether you’re in such a partnership or not, there is one person you should love above all others: yourself.
“What??” you might ask. “What about my soulmate? What about my children? My parents?” To which I would answer:
The longest relationship you will have in your life is the one you have with yourself.
The more fully you love yourself, the more fully you can love others.
Wouldn’t you love to be a role model to your children of believing they deserve to love themselves fully just the way they are?
Sadly, many – if not most – of us grew up thinking it was selfish or arrogant to love ourselves. And virtually all of us have voices in our head urging us to do more and be better in one way or another – in other words, voices that say we’re not good enough, so we’re probably unlovable, too.
Not loving ourselves can have serious consequences, however.
If we think we’re not good enough:
We put ourselves last
We feel guilty when we do something for ourselves
We don’t like what we see when we look in the mirror
We criticize ourselves for mistakes, heaping on the negative self-talk
We do things we don’t want to do for others, either because they told us we had to or because we want to win their approval
We tell ourselves we’re not worthy of anything, so we don’t treat ourselves to anything special
We can’t accept compliments
We don’t take time for ourselves to do anything fun on our own terms
We’re unable to receive when people give us presents or the gift of their time – or, if we do, we immediately start to think of ways to repay them
Does any of that sound familiar? I know they certainly did for me before I wised up and began allowing myself to accept and love myself just the way I am. It doesn’t mean I feel perfect or that I’ve stopped trying to grow as a person, but I do allow myself the grace of unconditional acceptance. At least most of the time. It’s an ongoing practice.
So how do you begin to accept and love yourself? Here are several ideas. Start small. Pick one or two that seem doable, get comfortable with them, and adopt the next one. You will begin to feel more comfortable in your own skin and look at the world and other people differently the more you do.
Know that it’s important to love yourself. The first baby step is awareness.
Believe that you are worthy of being loved.
Accept all parts of yourself (physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, relational) as they are, even though they aren’t all perfect. AND don’t beat yourself up for that. Learn from your mistakes and give yourself credit for working on these things.
Be able to enjoy your own company.
Look after your health to the best of your ability.
Speak to yourself gently, positively, lovingly, empoweringly.
Practice asking for and receiving help from others.
Observe your thoughts and actions and label them positively.
Easily release yourself for something you’re sorry for. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook.
Do one guilt-free act of kindness toward yourself every day.
This Valentine’s Day, love yourself like the quality of your life depends on it.
Kristen Carter is a certified coach with a background in communications. She was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer in 2008 and metastatic breast cancer in 2018. Writing for SBC — sharing tools that help her and others cope and thrive — is a creative outlet for her and one that gives her a sense of meaning and purpose. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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