Self-love has been a much buzzed about topic for quite some time. Aristotle, who lived from 384-322 BC, discussed the value of self-love so long as it wasn't in order to achieve personal gain, so it isn't a new concept by any means.
However, as there has grown an increasing resistance to the commercialism of Valentine's Day as a "Hallmark holiday" and a desire to recognize more partnerships than just the standard romantic relationship between two people, February now brings with it a focus on love in all its various forms - unconditional, romantic, platonic, friendship, love for one's pets, and - yes - love for oneself.
It's all very easy to say but it can be hard to do. If you have experienced any trauma or self-esteem challenges in your life, you will no doubt be tired of hearing that you must love yourself before you can be in loving and functional relationships. When we are often our own worst critics, it can be difficult to balance that with self-love.
It's important to remember that kind and constructive criticism is a valuable part of any loving relationship - including the relationship with oneself. However, when we speak to ourselves in degrading, cruel or harsh ways, that is when our self-love may be being challenged - and, in my experience, that's when our unhealthier behaviours, including emotional eating, can really take root.
Here are some simple ways to try to allow yourself the space to embrace self-love:
- Positive affirmations
These really do work, which is why they have been recommended by therapists and coaches for so long. Choose 2-3 affirmations at first and make sure they relate to areas of your life where you often feel you beat yourself up. These are areas you should focus on. For example, perhaps you know you are sporty, and that is where you have always experienced success. Perhaps that's not an area that you need to focus on, but your self-belief about your own intelligence is something that has always felt unstable. Base an affirmation on this: I am a smart and intelligent woman, who is always willing and curious to learn more.
- Goal setting
As mentioned above, criticism can be a helpful tool to help us grow, if it is offered in a constructive and kind manner. The next time you notice your inner voice lashing out at yourself, stop it in its tracks. Instead of: You're so weak, I can't believe you ate all those cookies, look at how pathetic you are - no wonder you can't lose those 10 pounds. (Trust me, many have even crueller internal voices than this!) Try: You are struggling with denying sweet treats this week. Let's set a goal for next week to try and enjoy some healthier desserts.
- Strong friendships
Everyone needs to have someone outside of themselves to remind them of their strengths - and their weaknesses. This can be a family member or a best friend but try and identify someone with whom you feel safe enough to keep things real in a way that protects your feelings. This Valentine's Day, perhaps ask them to fill out a three-question questionnaire for you (or, if you are comfortable, do this in a conversation!). You decide what the questions are, but some ideas may be to ask about what they feel your greatest strengths are, what they enjoy most about spending time with you, what is a quirk you have that they enjoy...you get the picture. They will help you see yourself from their eyes - there's a reason they are your closest friend or family member, and it's nice to be reminded of this from time to time! It may surprise you - sometimes the things about ourselves we feel are the most annoying or difficult are the things that others value most about us.
How do you intend to practice self-love this Valentine's Day?
I leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou - one of my favourites :).