This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself channeling your inner Foreigner, wanting to know what love is, I want you to take a moment, pause for dramatic effect and consider this: you must have a radical amount of self-love to find true love.
So, before you go all Debbie Gibson, and get lost in emotion this Valentine’s Day, I want you to consider: have you been looking for love in all the wrong places?
Did you know that you don’t have to like yourself to love yourself? Self-love doesn’t mean you have to like who you are, how you’re acting, or what you’re doing in every single moment. Self-love is the act of being present and attentive with yourself no matter what and being radically honest with how you’re feeling in every breath.
Loving Yourself Versus Liking Yourself
Consider a healthy relationship between a loving mother and her child. If a child is scared and crying, the mother will hold and comfort her. While the mother doesn’t like when her child cries and would prefer that she be happy and smiling, she still loves her child and provides undivided attention and presence.
The aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, are ashamed of, or wish to ignore are like that child crying out for comfort.
Developing this kind of parental loving relationship with our “inner child” takes time and will have ups and downs like everything else.
The Big Five
While self-love is a lifelong practice, Liz DiAlto suggests that we can build a healthy foundation by practicing five principles.
She refers to these as the Big Five:
Build A Healthy Foundation
As a Health Coach, I encourage my clients to take small steps towards positive change. So today, I’d like to challenge you to pick one of the following suggestions to implement this week that will strengthen your Big Five.
• Be good to yourself. It’s not just a fantastic song by Journey – it’s a way of life. Practice being kind to yourself no matter what happens.
• Write yourself a letter of forgiveness. Try writing it as if you are a mother forgiving her child for doing the best they could.
• Change your self-talk. Replace “I’m not doing enough, I don’t have enough, I’m not good enough” with “It is safe for me to be me. It is safe for me to be here. I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.”
• Practice setting healthy personal boundaries. Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. (Note: If it’s not a yes! then it’s a no.)
• Reflect on your self-respect. Answer the following questions in a journal: “Where am I putting myself last?” and “What am I tolerating that I don’t want to be?”
• Prioritize you. Give yourself more time than you usually do for just you. Allocate your time in ways that you can prioritize acts of self-love.
• Implement the power of “the pause.” Notice things you don’t love about yourself with curiosity. Pause in those moments and ask, “What’s going on here?”
• Experiment with meditation. Turn your skill of observing others inward and follow your inner world by sitting still with your eyes closed.
• Practice deep breathing. Try the 6-3 breathing technique. (Breathe in for six counts, hold for three counts, exhale for six counts, and pause for three counts; repeat).
• Explore who you are. Go beyond what other people have told you you’re supposed to be by answering the following questions in a journal: “Who am I?” and “What’s my truth?”
• Recognize that who you are at any moment can change. Give yourself more permission than usual to be someone different today than you were yesterday.
• Clarify your core values. Get to know yourself better by considering what your top five values are.
(For example, being of service to loved ones, expressing yourself creatively, connecting with your community, being healthy, and having financial stability.)
• Allow others to have their own experience. Experiment with releasing the need to control the behaviors of those you interact with.
• Put yourself out there. Trust that you are safe to express yourself in a bolder way than usual, even if others don’t approve 100%.
• Listen to your physical body. Trust that your body is always sending important signals. Try naming how you feel right now aloud.
Remember, you don’t have to like yourself to love yourself. Build a baseline of self-love by experimenting with as many of these ideas as you’d like. As you build your practice, treat yourself as you’d treat a child (or a client!) – with respect, honesty, and undivided attention. The art of self-love is a lifelong practice, so give yourself grace and take it one day at a time.