“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
I should be more prepared, but inevitably every year it sneaks up on me. It happened this year on January 5th. I was leaving the grocery store and on my way out something caught my eye. A flash of pink…upon closer examination it was a lot of pink, like someone had poured Pepto Bismol all over a display shelf. There they were…boxes and bags of pink, red, and white candies. Valentine’s Day. I was still wishing others “happy new year” and the powers that be decided it was time for the next big holiday. Upon registering what I had seen, my first reaction was son of a…eye roll…already?
My reaction isn’t a new one and I have a sneaking suspicion that it has less to do with rushing to the next holiday and more to do with my history with this day. When I looked back I see that up until adulthood, my experiences were mostly positive. Picking out valentines for my classmates, the party at school, coming home with a box full of cards and if I was lucky, some of the cards had candy attached to them! But, fast forward to adulthood and it is riddled with some success, but also loneliness, and unmet expectations. My expectation for the day has always revolved around someone else or the absence of someone else. Do I have plans? Do I have a special someone? Will they come through? Will we have fun? Will they get me something I like? If I go deeper beyond expectations though, because let’s be honest I could choose to let those go, I was hinging my happiness on something or someone external to myself. This is a shaky place to reside in life. I have learned this the hard way over the past five or so years. My whole life, my dad always was there for me with a card, flowers, and his never ending support when an inattentive boyfriend wasn’t or when I was single. When he passed away, I was unsure how to feel important or loved on my own. I had to learn that. A year and a half ago, I broke off a long term relationship. Whatever I didn’t learn about knowing and loving myself when I lost my dad, I had to face through this experience. Who am I? What do I like to do? What makes me feel good? Life throws us all types of challenges: death, divorce, break-ups. It is inevitable. But, if you know yourself and love yourself, life’s changes and challenges can be moved through more easily.
There is a saying that you can only love someone else as much as you love yourself. Well, it is true.
After interviewing people and listening to thousands of stories, Brene Brownwas able to develop a definition of love. She proposes, “…love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” Brene Brown goes on to say that this definition was tough for her to accept because she didn’t want her level of self-love to “limit” how much she can love her family members. Do you know why? Because loving others and accepting their limitations is much easier than doing that for ourselves.
I always get resistance from my clients about this concept. Love myself? Put myself first? Isn’t that selfish? It is actually the opposite. Here is why. You have more to give if you give to yourself first. On top of that, your relationships experience less pressure, less expectation if you are able to take care of yourself and supply yourself with your basic needs. We get into trouble when we overly rely on others to make us feel loved, accepted, and worthy. It sets up an unhealthy dynamic that might work at first, but ultimately, causes resentment, self-sabotage, and hurt among other things. Louise Haystates that, “self-love is the most important gift we can give ourselves, because when we love who we are, we will not hurt ourselves, and we will not hurt anyone else.”
My challenge to you is to set a goal this Valentine’s Day. Vow to love yourself. Think a loving thought or shut down a negative one. Set a boundary. Say no without supplying an excuse. Sign up for an exercise or creative class. Learn to get quiet or meditate. Approach yourself with compassion, forgiveness and generosity on Valentine’s Day and every other day. It will benefit you and your relationships will become easier, more peaceful, and loving. If you can put these principles into practice for yourself, you will be more willing to approach others in your life this way.
This year I have been able to make peace with Valentine’s Day. When I really examined my thoughts and feelings after my initial reaction of dread, I felt okay about not knowing what Valentine’s Day or any other day will hold for me when it comes to love--from someone else that is. I do know what it holds when it comes to loving myself. The work I have done in this area has been challenging, but it continues to grow and no person, no bad date, no lack of a date can take that away from me. And that is an empowering place to be.
Annalisa is an education research psychologist, licensed professional counselor, and registered yoga teacher. She offers counseling, life and professional coaching, and movement therapy using yoga practices. Her philosophy is holistic and believes it is important to examine each part of life because she truly believes everything is connected when it concerns mental, emotional, and physical suffering and pain. Annalisa feels truly grateful to be doing this work and believes her purpose in this life is to assist others on their journeys to self-discovery and healing. You can reach her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 816.916.9642