As Valentine’s Day nears, there is often a dichotomy of feelings: many are filled with joy, love, and warmth as they remember their romantic relationship, gal pals, family, and friends. Others may dread this “Hallmark holiday” because of the aforementioned relationships, or lack thereof.
This holiday can seem superficial, with its focus on teddy bears, chocolates, and candle-lit dinners, but perhaps there is something deeper to learn from this celebration of love. Writing this feels a little bit like Cindy Lou Who in The Grinch trying to find the true meaning of Christmas. Valentine’s Day grinches, stay tuned, there is a point here!
What better opportunity is there to inspire a deeper, self-loving relationship? Instead of looking outward at the candy aisle, the pre-fixed menus, and falling into the comparison trap on Instagram (that’s an article for another day) let’s consider this as an opportunity to look inward and foster true self-love. Remember, you are already complete, relationships are just complimentary.
The longest relationship that anyone has is with themselves, so why isn’t there a holiday to celebrate self-love? Here are a few keys to self-love, from Heather Rafanello, MSW, LCSW, a Hoboken-based therapist and founder of Growing Mindset Therapy, LLC.
1. Start with acceptance
Self-love can be difficult, especially in this social media-focused world that enables constant comparison. Acceptance is the first step towards self-love. Start with neutrality, the acknowledgment of what is. Perhaps things aren’t “ideal” or “perfect” but acknowledge that as okay. Appreciate the legs for walking, the eyes for seeing, and the heart for loving. Acknowledge that life will ebb and flow; that nothing lasts forever, and try to allow things to be as they are, be open, and accept.
2. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is an extension of acceptance; it is an appreciation for what is. This is not to be confused with toxic positivity. It’s critical that gratitude is authentic and feels true. Gratitude is an appreciation that shifts the focus towards moments of contentment, what is good and enough.
3. Slow down and be present
Being in the here and now is always important, especially in developing a relationship. Just as it’s important to listen to others, it’s equally important to create space to listen to one’s own inner thoughts and feelings. Listen for your dreams, desires, and wishes. Pro-tip: a great way to do this can be through journaling!
4. Invest in real self-care
It is no secret that it’s essential to invest time, money, and energy in something to flourish, and the same is true for the self. The internet is saturated with self-care tips, but the best kind of self-care is a commitment to oneself. Sure, do a face mask and take a bubble bath too, but be sure that the emotional bank account is balanced, and those basic needs are being met. Drink water and eat breakfast, get enough sleep, limit screen time, go to therapy, and say no (or yes) to things that do or don’t serve you.
5. Purposely choose to have a relationship with yourself
This might seem silly, but it’s about the intention. This requires an active decision to choose to have a relationship with yourself. Spend time alone, create space for self-discovery. The simple decision to have this type of relationship can be liberating in and of itself.
Self-love is not selfish; it’s actually the opposite. One might even argue that the best Valentine’s gift anyone can give to their loved ones because self-love helps other relationships flourish as well. Flight attendants might be onto something when they say that everyone needs to put their own oxygen mask on before helping others. Self-love allows people to be their best selves, and as a result show up for their jobs, relationships, and families at their fullest potential.