How to practice self-love this Valentine’s DayBrowse all therapists
The season of love is upon us! More accurately, that one day of the year laser focused on romantic love—Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day can bring a lot of emotional difficulties for people. For those who are single and don’t want to be, those in unhappy relationships, or those in happy relationships who still feel like they can’t meet the social expectations of February 14th, this can be a challenging day.
Love and relationships are big themes impacting our overall mental wellbeing. This is explored in the specialization of relationship therapy, from coworkers to family to couples. But, our external relationship health often comes back to the most important relationship of all: the one we have with ourselves.
Feeling lonely vs. being alone
It’s important to understand that our capacity to feel happy on a day like Valentine’s Day does not depend on having another person there. Being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.
When we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, being alone can be relaxing, reenergizing and fulfilling. Positive alone time is made possible by feeling secure within ourselves.
Loneliness, on the other hand, happens when our interpersonal and social relationships are fractured. Social relationships are shown to have a positive impact on our overall mental health, so when they’re not in a healthy place we can feel isolated and even fearful.
How do we develop healthy relationship behaviours? We must look inward, not outward, and learn how to practice self-love first.
Where to start with self-love
When we look inward, we must also look back. The way we engage in relationships with others is often tied to the ways we were first introduced to love.
Registered Social Worker, Gwyneth Hodgins says, “We learn what love feels like when we first experience love. So if we first experience love as critical, rigid, controlling, we’re more at risk of finding ourselves in romantic relationships that also feel controlling, critical, and rigid.”
Self-love begins with how our sense of self was formed: our sense of security, acceptance and support. Gwyneth continues, “A big part of healing work is looking at why I feel the way I feel. Why do I feel so triggered by this? Why is this something that’s so hard for me? Understanding why can bring so much self-compassion.”
Self-love without being selfish
Prioritizing yourself over others might seem self-centred and selfish. It can feel easier to put others before us, and to show others compassion before we offer that to ourselves. But, this can have real negative impacts on our mental wellbeing.
Registered Social Worker, Ashley Carr says, “When you’re not compassionate to yourself, it’s hard to imagine anyone else accepting you as you are as well. There’s a match between the inner and outer there.” She continues, “I always ask my clients what’s the risk in being self-compassionate? Because it really is perceived as risky, or there’s a big loss possible here.”
Canadian Certified Counsellor, Joyce Musekiwa, who specializes in working with people who struggle with childhood adversities including supporting Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents says, “Connecting to our true selves is saying that it’s okay for you to be you. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s about balancing our acceptance of ourselves with the areas that we would like to change, all within a container of self-understanding and self-love.”
Data shows that being compassionate to ourselves can lower risks of depression, make us more resilient and build an inner sense of confidence and strength. Self-compassion makes us more available and capable of healthy love.
Self-compassion in therapy
You might be wondering how therapy can help you. Registered Social Worker, Laura Farberman says, “I think that the main purpose of therapy is to learn how to be kinder to yourself, to be more self-compassionate.”
Therapy can be a great aid in learning and growth. Finding the right counsellor or therapist for building self-compassion will bring to you someone who can help you uncover relationship patterns and why they’re happening, and provide tools for showing yourself kindness.
But, there are always things we can do on our own to practice self-love. Try a couple of these this Valentine’s Day:
- Try practicing mindfulness techniques, including meditation.
- Don’t keep it bottled in. Journaling for mental health can help with stress relief.
- Take yourself on a date, or simply plan to do one thing you love.
As Ru Paul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”