Feeling Blue in a Sea of Pink Hearts and Using Self-Love as a Life Raft
By: Rachel Patla, MA NCC Adult Residential Behaviorist
Valentine’s Day is approaching. Pink and red hearts decorate stores, homes, and offices. I Love You cards are smacked in your face when walking into any store. Candy and chocolates are busting over the shelves. Restaurants are running specials centered around two love birds. But what happens when there aren’t two love birds? What happens when there isn’t even one?
Being alone on Valentine’s Day is tough, especially with so much importance placed on having that special someone to share the day with. Feelings of sadness and loneliness can be overwhelming that you can be hard on yourself. Thoughts like, “Why am I alone?”; “Am I not good enough?” And the dreaded, “What is wrong with me?” These thoughts make you feel the opposite of love. They can make you feel like you’re the only one in the world who is single. They make you hate yourself. Why should anyone feel hate on the day of love?
What can you do to stop these uncomfortable thoughts before they turn into irrational beliefs? Well, you can treat yourself with respect. You can say kind words to yourself. You can love yourself. Sounds easy, right? It’s harder than it sounds, but it is absolutely possible. It’s possible for you to stroll down the aisles at Target barely noticing the heart cards. Maybe even hitting the candy shelves the day after Valentine’s for some half priced chocolates. So how do you start loving yourself first? It begins by knowing your self-worth.
Once, one of my professors had us number a piece of blank paper from 1-10. He said, “Who are you?” and we had to write ten examples. Student… daughter… sister… aunt… friend. These were the easiest ones for me to start out with, but that’s only five. I had to start digging deeper. Amateur photographer… world traveler… yoga enthusiast… cake baker, do those count? I wasn’t sure. Then he said, “If you take away all your titles, mother/father, wife/husband, boss/teacher, who are you when there is nothing left?” I often ponder this question. There were two points to his exercise. The first of which was obviously to determine who we are deep down. The second and more important point was to begin to appreciate and love ourselves. He wanted us to discover our self-worth, which leads to self-love.
Knowing yourself leads to a lot of things. You have insight into your emotions. You know what you love and what you hate. You know when you’re feeling stressed or angry and how to cope with those feelings. You also know when you are not treating yourself with the respect that you give to others. So often we put the needs of others in front of ourselves. We forget to do what makes us feel happy, relaxed, or grateful. We look to others to make us feel loved. Everything we need is already inside of us; we just have to find the key to unlock the door.
You can Google “self-love” and find endless amounts of lists and ‘Top 10 Ways to Achieve Self-Love’ articles. I read many such articles while writing this post and, honestly, I didn’t like most of the content. Sure, you can pamper yourself with massages or a new outfit, surround yourself with family and friends, let go of people or thoughts that hinder positivity, work on self-acceptance, practice a favorite hobby, or countless other suggestions. Now, I’m not saying these ideas aren’t great, but for some they just don’t work. There is not a one size fits all option all the time.
For me simple is key, and the best way to start something new is to set small goals. To begin self-love you must take the following steps.
- Really know yourself (you can’t love a stranger).
- Notice the frequency and let go of those harmful thoughts like, “Why am I single, what’s wrong with me?” They are just thoughts and are not set in stone.
- Speak to yourself with love, as much love as you can. Self affirmations are a great way to do this because they rewire your brain to think more positively. Self affirmations are like exercising, you need to practice daily in order to see results.
Valentine’s Day is just a day, and a day should not make anyone feel so down on themselves. These suggestions are here to help you begin your journey to self-love. You certainly don’t have to be single to practice self-love either. This practice benefits everyone in all stages of life. Happiness and love starts within yourself. Once you fill your mind and heart with love you will exude it like a beam of light.
“Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself- if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.” – Thich Nhat Hanh