How do I love me?
Let me count the ways.
With February in the air, many of us have Valentine’s Day on our minds and hearts. And while many of us simply consider Valentine’s Day as another day, for others, it can be an emotional trigger, a reminder of past and present painful relationships and break-ups, or bring about a burst of loneliness. On a deeper level, Valentine’s Day reminds us about the nature of love, a boundless, beautiful energy of wanting our beloveds to be happy and well and free.
Yet the giving and receiving of love can be complicated. Our relationships can have highs, lows, and everything in between. Those we love may not love us back. We may struggle to love those who love us. Love may feel conditional, heavy, and loaded at times, whether that love is between romantic partners, friends, family, or parent and child.
However, the one type of love that we can most consistently cultivate, in each and every moment, is self-love. Our relationship with ourselves will always be our longest relationship ever. It is the one relationship that is steady, predictable. We can always have our own back, no matter what.
So why do we not seek and nurture loving ourselves, with the same intensity we do loving others? After all, all relationships need to be watered in order to grow, nourished in order to thrive. Here are a few simple, ready to practice tips that can help us fall in love with the beautiful soul in the mirror:
Take yourself on a date: This Friday night, take yourself to that new restaurant you have been wanting to try, or order in Chinese food, light the candles, and binge watch your latest series. When was the last time you spent time with you? This is your chance to meet your own needs. Spending time alone is important for your sense of self. It is your time to love all of the things you love, without compromise. It is your time to reconnect with your thoughts and emotions. Make your time special and treasured, just as you would preparing for a date with someone else.
Say it out loud: Every day, find something you love about yourself and express it. You can say it to the mirror, or write it in a journal, or tell a friend who you know supports your self-admiration. One day, you might admire your beautiful eyes, and one day, it might be your tenacity at work. We spend plenty of time on self-improvement projects; this is your chance to appreciate yourself, unconditionally, just as you are. No need to change.
Practice self compassion: Life is hard sometimes, and the last thing we need is to come down harder on ourselves. Our self critical voices can be loud, and we often feel like we can look better, try harder, somehow do it all. Every now and again, try talking to yourself in the ways you would speak to a child you love. Put your hand on your heart and remind yourself you are human. We all need a measure of gentle grace, especially when we are struggling.
Loving yourself might feel awkward and uncomfortable. Small steps go a long way, and this is a practice that we can start again, in every moment. The love in our relationships may come and go, and challenge us on every level. The love we have for ourselves can be the steadying force that carries us through it all.
Written By: Monisha Vasa, MD /// The Mental Health Collective’s Co-Founder + Clinical Advisor