by Caitlin Goddard - Counseling Intern at Denver Affordable Counseling
As the days grow longer, and the excitement of the holiday season tapers, stores suddenly turn pink and red in preparation for Valentine’s Day. Many think of February as a time to give and receive tokens of love and admiration. The reality for many, though, is that chocolate filled shelves, and romantic cards serve as a painful reminder that we are not receiving the kind of love that we deserve, and maybe we don’t feel equipped to provide the kind of love we’d like to give others. Maybe, instead of looking for someone else to be the focus of our love this season, we should take a moment to turn that focus inward.
What would that look like?
It’s been said time and time again, we can’t love another if we don’t love ourselves - but what does that really mean? Is it really necessary to love ourselves in order to be able to give love? To really think about this, I ask, how do you love the important people in your life? I think many would respond by saying that they love them through language - through telling them how much they care for them and admire them. Many might also say that they love others through acts of kindness, doing a simple favor that may seem meaningless but actually holds a lot of worth. Some might say that they love others simply by accepting them for whoever they are or by supporting them in whatever they’d like to achieve. At times it seems so easy to shower others with love, yet it can be so difficult to show ourselves the same level of acceptance. So, how can we begin to open up our hearts to ourselves?
It will likely be quite hard in the beginning, and might feel unnatural. It’s almost like forming a new relationship with yourself. Maybe the first step is just to notice how you talk to yourself - what do you tell yourself throughout the day? I think some would find that we’re not always very kind to ourselves. In noticing how we talk to ourselves we can then begin to practice self-compassion. We can start to replace negative thoughts, and thoughts of self-doubt with thoughts of affirmation, and thoughts that remind us that we are imperfect and that’s okay instead of tearing ourselves down. This transition can be the start of forming new, healthier relationships with ourselves which can then turn into being able to give even more love to those around us. Maybe instead of focusing on how we talk to ourselves, the starting point for self-compassion can be to give ourselves a break every once in a while. What’s something that you used to do, that makes you feel good about yourself, that you haven’t done in a while? Start there, by taking a moment or two for yourself without allowing guilt to creep in. These are just a few small ideas of fostering a healthy relationship with yourself, and it may look different from person to person, so I’d like to end this by asking, how do you want to start showing yourself more love?