Years ago my husband wrote and sold a romantic comedy script called I Hate Valentines Day.
Every time the title came up, people would laugh, almost with a sigh of relief, as if to say “Yes I hate Valentine’s Day too.” There is so much pressure on this one single day whether you are in a relationship or not to have this unbridled, fairytale LOVE depicted in a Hollywood movie.
I have been with my husband for over 20 years, and I love him dearly. Don’t me wrong, I’m happy to celebrate that but even I feel this daunting need to either live up to the expectations of this day or be a rebel and “just not care”
And I know for my single friends, that is often more heightened. It shows up as deep sadness bordering on feelings of “failure”. Or a need to celebrate with a friend to prove that you are worthy, and love is not relegated to a romantic relationship. Or of course the stance of steely independence, “I’m fine, I don’t need anyone.”
I understand and can relate to those feelings including the romantics who blissfully embrace the day. And over years of Valentine’s Days, I have admittedly stepped boldly into each of those perspectives.
But as Oprah’s says, the one thing I know for sure, LOVE is not meant to be neatly packed into a box of chocolates, bouquet of roses, candlelit dinners and celebrated on one day. (just for the record….I love chocolate, flowers and romantic dinners and definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from getting those things for me…or anyone else.)
LOVE is a superpower! It heals. It forgives. It is the one thing that every living being on earth shares. It connects us together as one!!!
The benefits are huge. Research has shown that love increases life expectancy, reduces heart disease anxiety and depression, improves the immune system, sleep, and gut health, lowers pain and boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
Also, according to a Harvard study the most important predictors of late-life happiness above healthy eating, exercise and mental activity are stable relationships.
So yes, we want to embrace LOVE on Valentine’s Day. But we can't stop there. It's critical that we find and sustain LOVE every single day of the year.
You might be thinking, well that’s great for everyone in a relationship but I’m not with someone. The fact is the same health benefits exist when we engage in self-love!
Plus, as the old adage goes, “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself first.” It’s not that fun to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t like themselves. They tend to be very needy and try to fill their perceived “holes” with a partner. Also, miscommunication frequently happens as the result of seeing everything through the lens of pending doom.
Besides at the end of the day, we can’t control others or what happens, but we can control what we do and that includes LOVING ourselves.
Okay, okay you get it’s important. So how do we generate this “self-love thing”?
First, self-love is defined as “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth” (Khoshaba, 2012)
Secondly, It correlates to our feeling of worthiness and belief that we deserve love and may need to build it up over time. The good news is with practice and consistency it can happen.
According to studies, the building blocks for self-love are in self-compassion. As the premier scientist on self-compassion, Kristen Neff divides this into 3 major categories:
For example, if you make a mistake at work rather than engaging in critical self-talk, like “How can you be so stupid or why do you always mess things up”, you offer kind and supportive words to yourself like “It’s ok, everyone makes mistakes. How can I learn and grow from this experience.
Our negative self-talk is actually perceived as a threat and therefore triggers a full-on stress response in our bodies. Trust me, there are enough stressful things in the world, we don’t need to be adding to it with our own self talk!
Instead, kind, and loving words induce oxytocin, the “feel good hormone” that promotes a sense of safety, trust, and well-being. That is significantly better for our health and our happiness.
Common Humanity is the understanding that when we feel badly about ourselves, we aren’t alone; everyone has that feeling sometimes. There is a camaraderie or togetherness in knowing that we all share the common bond of being imperfect.
Isolation is a state of withdrawal and belief that we are the only ones who are not perfect. It creates a feeling of being separate. Research has shown these disconnected feelings are directly related to high rates of anxiety and depression.
If you find yourself in that despair, it’s really important to get help, talk to a friend, therapist, coach or join a group. When you start to share and have the courage to be vulnerable, you will realize that you aren’t alone at all. Lots of people have the same feelings- we are human after all.
Mindfulness is a state of presence where we are not living in regret of the past or fear of the future. This can promote a feeling of calm and curiosity. And from that viewpoint we are better able to come up with more powerful and resourceful solutions.
Overidentification happens when a person starts to take on the identity of a negative persona. For instance, I “am” inadequate rather than I have “done” something inadequate and can learn and grow from the experience” This can lead to the feelings of shame and hopelessness.
Meditation, singing, dancing, exercise, journaling and being mindful of your language can be very helpful to help you connect back to the present moment, to your body and to the realization that you are a uniquely special, capable and worthy human being.
So until the next February 14th, let’s remember that every day is a new day to spread love…. Not only to others but also to ourselves! Let’s flip criticism into compassion, engage instead of isolating and be mindful of who we really are rather than over identifying with our faults.
I always find powerful questions and affirmations are a powerful and easy way to practice self-love. Here are a few of my favorites:
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