Ah, Love; L’Amour; Liebe; Ljubezen. (10 points to anyone who can name the language of each one, without Googling it.) Regardless of the language, we all understand what it means. Often a simple gesture, like placing your hands one on top of another at the center of your chest, is enough to convey this feeling. Many countries, including this one, dedicate one day, February 14th, wholly and completely to love. Pretty wild, isn’t it, that we devote a whole day to an emotion! Thankfully we don’t have holidays for all our emotions, like a National Anxiety Day (if it did exist, I imagine it would be held the day before Tax Day and involve obligatory pacing and nail-biting) In America, we put the major emphasis on couples, making it an extreme people-pleasing holiday: making sure you get the perfect gift or set up the perfect date for your loved one, while simultaneously expecting an equal if not supreme reciprocation from said loved one. Usually expectations are high, feelings can be hurt, or you may get overwhelmed needing to one-up yourself (or your partner) each year. Come to think of it, maybe Valentine’s Day should be renamed National Anxiety Day. It can be a joyous and romantic day for you and your sweetie; or it could be a complete disaster. Either way, if you are in a strong, truly loving relationship, it won’t matter either way.
But what about those of us who are not in a relationship? One of two things tends to happen to us single folk; either we are completely ignored (which is generally my preference);or we receive undue amounts of pity from those in blissful coupledom. A third trend that has recently caught my attention is bars and clubs marketing to single ladies promising free drinks and an epic night full of dancing and freedom! I find this interesting because at said bar, there will most likely be a hoard of single men there ready to pounce; instead of it being an event celebrating your single-ness, it becomes a matchmaking event! The message seems to be that if you’re not currently sharing your love with someone else, it somehow isn’t of value. If this holiday is truly about celebrating love, what about the love that we cannot live without, the love that we will cary with us through each day of being, the love we must have in the first place before it can be shared with others, the most important love: the love we have for ourselves.
In today’s society, we tend to look at the idea of loving one’s self as a bad thing; we say it’s selfish, egotistical and narcissistic. But in reality, if we don’t completely love ourselves, we will constantly look to others for reassurance and adoration, giving them the burden of constantly making us feel worthy and unique; to me, THAT is selfish. I have had a long struggle with self-love throughout my life and I certainly spent a lot of time relying on others to make me feel like I was important, to them and to the world. I sought help from a Psychologist and through the practice of Yoga. I will not say I’m “cured” and that I don’t still have days where I need a little pat on the back to keep me going, I feel like that’s a normal thing; but, I will say that I have cultivated a practice of self-care that has helped me realize how truly special I am and that everything I need to find happiness is already inside me; like a seed, I’ve got to give it everything it needs in order to bloom into the most beautiful flower the world has ever seen.
Ok, this all sounds great. And kind of cheesy, I’ll admit, but how do we love ourselves when the outside world is telling us not to? We are bombarded with pictures and television shows depicting what we should look like, act like, sound like…it’s exhausting trying to keep up (with the Kardashians….get it? HA!). I’d like to share with you some of the ways in which I try to cultivate self-love, and encourage you to use them as a blueprint to finding your own routine that works for you.
1. I talk to myself. I try to keep it in my head when in public, but yes, sometimes it is out loud, when necessary. I have a few little phrases I repeat to myself, depending on the situation, that help calm me down and reassure me that I can trust myself. One of my favorites I stole from the book The Help. Aibileen Clark (played in the film by the remarkable Viola Davis) tells the little girl she nannies “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.” every day, and has her repeat it back to her. I think this is so simple and so profound and really encompasses everything we want to feel we are as humans on our very basic level. When I feel self-doubt creeping in, I say this, or another little ditty like it, a few times, and it gives me the boost I need. And, if I say it in a southern accent, it makes me smile.
2. Treat yo’ self. Again, I’m stealing from popular culture, but that’s a good thing! We should be able to gain from it rather than feel like it’s sapping our emotions and our abilities to connect with the world. This reference comes from Donna and Tom (played by Retta and Aziz Ansari, respectively) who dedicate a whole day to treating themselves with whatever they want. In the show, they come up with things that might sound a little silly (Fragrances! Fine Leather Goods! Massages! Mimosas!), but the concept is genius. I have taken it a step further and have chosen to treat myself as often as possible, but not necessarily in material ways. Sometimes, yes, a massage or a delicious dessert is a perfect treat, but sometimes it’s just allowing myself a whole day of sitting on the couch watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon. The main thing is that it’s a choice, there is no I should do this or that, it’s What do I want, What will fulfill me the most at this moment? At first you might feel like what will make you the most happy is eating an entire birthday cake…but perhaps you could take a moment and really listen to your body and your heart to find out what it truly wants. With my choice to sit and watch TV for a while, it’s the need to relax and shut off for a while, not feel like I have to be constantly moving or productive; just a chance to be and rest.
3. I follow the golden rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. When I am feeling especially down, it can get easy to go into hibernation and become a Ms. Cranky Pants, snapping at everyone I see and wanting them to feel as miserable as I do. However, I’ve found that the best way to get out of a slump is to be what I desire: show people love and you’ll get love back. Sometimes just the act of complimenting someone and making them feel good, even for a fleeting moment, is enough to lift my spirits. When I feel like the world is against me, I try to focus in on myself, what can I do, right now, to make this one moment better? Instead of worrying and wondering, “Am I a kind person? I wish someone would tell me how kind I am!”, I already know because I just exhibited kindness moments ago. There’s no need to be reassured, I can assure myself.
However you decide to be kind to yourself, the key is to practice. Cultivating skills for taking care of yourself takes time, and a lot of experimentation may be necessary. But I promise you, the rewards will be great. The most recent tactic I have been exploring is meditation, as I discussed in my January post. To date, I have meditated 11 days out of the 31 I was going for. It’s far fewer than I was hoping for, but the process thus far has been a huge learning experience and it’s only just the beginning! I am going to keep trying because that’s all I can do. All I can do is my best, and that my friends, is good enough.
Here’s to you! Let’s make this Valentine’s Day the start of a long tradition of celebrating your unique beauty, contact me today for your free consultation 🙂