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  • Writer's pictureEmma Barr, LPA

Be Your Own Valentine: The Practice of Self-Love

As Valentine's Day quickly approaches, it tends to bring with it a lot of baggage. Whatever your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on the topic of love, V-Day seems to amplify them and bring them to center stage. For those in happy, healthy relationships, it's a day of celebration of the love they have for each other. For everyone else though, it can dredge up a lot of emotional gunk that isn't always fun to deal with.



If I asked you who would have the most negative feelings towards a holiday about celebrating romantic love, the most obvious answer would be those who aren't participating in it; single people. Fair enough, right? Within that group, there are two sub-groups; those who have yet to love and those who have loved and lost.


Seeing couples making extravagant expressions of love may leave you feeling left out, especially if you have yet to experience it yourself. "Why don't I have that?". "Will I ever find someone who will love me?". "What is wrong with me that I'm still single?". It can be easy to get stuck in feelings of jealousy, unworthiness, and loneliness.


Then, there are those who HAVE experienced romantic love and companionship, but the relationship ended. Maybe you've just gone through a brutal break up and it's a painful reminder of what once was. Emotional wounds can easily be re-opened. For those who's loved one has passed away, not only can residual feelings of grief re-emerge, but the thought of moving on can create tremendous feelings of guilt.


Even those who are in a relationship are not immune, often falling prey to comparison. When the grandness of the expression of love corresponds to the deepness of the feelings, how could they not?


But, does Valentines Day have to be only a celebration of romantic love? Absolutely not! Why not take the opportunity to celebrate the other types of love you have? Friendship love. Family love. Most importantly, self-love. The most important relationship in our entire life is the one we have with ourselves; other people will come and go, but we are stuck with ourselves from beginning to end.


So, the question is, what is self-love?


Think about how you would treat a loved one, whether it be a good friend, a partner, or a family member. What do you say to them when they are feeling down? How do you comfort them when they have failed? How do you take care of them when they are sick? Self-love is when you treat yourself with the same gentleness, compassion, and love.


There are multiple components to this practice.


Self-Care

Self-care can be defined as things you do to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Getting enough sleep, physical exercise, and eating healthier are all examples of things we can do to take better care of our bodies. Mental self-care is also known as taking care of your mental health. This means taking steps to manage stress, self-reflecting, and doing things that stimulate your mind. Emotional self-care is very similar, but focuses on engaging with your emotions in a healthy way. Finding ways of expressing your emotions, learning to identify your emotions, and coming up with effective coping mechanisms to manage the difficult feelings are all great ways to do this. These components of self-care are to make sure your body, mind, and heart are all thriving.


Self-Compassion

I often reframe this concept as treating yourself with gentleness and kindness in times of struggle or personal failure. We are often our own harshest critics. We fail to forgive ourselves for things that we forgive others for. Why the double standard? Why don't we deserve the same forgiveness that we afford everyone else? Perhaps it is because we tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do for others. Because of this, it can be hard to accept that we are imperfect, which I will touch on in my next point. So, how do I forgive myself for being imperfect? Sometimes, it can be as simple as saying to yourself "I forgive you". Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert in this subject and her publications may be a valuable resource.


Self-Acceptance

When we can see ourselves for who we really are and embrace that person, we are practicing self-acceptance. Humans are imperfect. You are imperfect. I am imperfect. We don't have to hate ourselves because of this. We don't even have to hate the imperfections. In fact, hating our imperfections makes them a lot harder to look at. For example, let's say you're in your car and you are about to drive down a road that you know has potholes. You could close your eyes, say a prayer, and hit the gas, but that would go predictably badly.

It would be a much smoother drive if you could see the potholes and avoid them rather than lamenting over the fact that the road has potholes at all.


Self-love is a process, a journey that doesn't really have a destination. It is called "practicing self-love" because it is an action, not a state of being. So, enjoy the journey itself. It's a beautiful drive.


Emma Barr, LPA





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