Each year, Valentine’s Day gets us all thinking about love—romantic love first, followed by the love we show our friends, families, partners, and more. But 2020—the new decade in all its shining glory—asks us to grow, change and evolve. In that spirit, it’s time to talk about loving ourselves.
The concept of self-love isn’t new, but its popularity has increased in recent years. This is likely due to a collective desire to reconnect with ourselves in the face of the stress that comes with busy personal lives and even busier professional lives. The desire to strike the right balance of work and life is ever present, but long days, hundreds of emails, meetings, tight deadlines and heavy workloads can make that balance seem impossible to achieve. If high levels of work-related stress have decreased your level of engagement, you’re not alone: a 2018 Yale study revealed that 1 in 5 highly engaged employees were at risk of burnout. There is a large public discussion on how to recognize the signs, professionally and personally, but how can we work to proactively manage or stop it? Developing a self-love practice is a great first step.
If you’re thinking, “What? Self-love? That’s ridiculous!” hear me out. Self-love is defined as “proper regard for and attention to one’s own happiness” and “an appreciation of one’s own worth or virtue.” No one is a superhero: When you give time, energy and love to everything and everyone else without paying proper attention to your own needs, you try to pour from an empty cup. Your self-love practice is how you refill your own cup, how you make a commitment to put yourself first.
Yes, the elephant in the room is that self-love sometimes gets a bad rap: If love is about putting others first, isn’t it selfish to put ourselves first? Shouldn’t our jobs and other responsibilities take priority? In an article on the subject for Psychology Today, psychotherapist and author Allison Abrams argues that self-love is anything but selfish. “Let’s be clear,” she says, “When it comes to self-love as a tool for psychological health, it is anything but conceited, arrogant, or any other negative attribute that is often ascribed to it.” That said, Abrams understands that personal and societal barriers do exist, quoting BU Coaching founder Declan Edwards:
“Up until recently, it wasn’t particularly smiled up for someone to cultivate self-love. Whereas showing love and compassion to someone else tended to be praised…doing the same thing towards ourselves didn’t receive the same social reward.”
So starting with Valentine’s Day, how can you overcome this mindset and start showing yourself some love? Here are a few simple steps:
Start a List. Count down the reasons why you love yourself, big or small. What makes you awesome? What makes you unique? What are your best qualities? Make an effort to look back at it regularly and add new reasons as you live, grow and evolve.
Turn to Your People. Are you struggling to find the words to give yourself a verbal hug? Ask your friends, family and other loved ones what they love about you, and highlight the things that resonate most with you. Love from others can easily be transformed into self-love if you’re open to it.
Be Easier on Yourself. One of the barriers to self-love is high expectations. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best, and offer yourself a special treat from time to time as a reward or consolation. If you work in a place like Ketchum that offers workplace flexibility, spare yourself the commute some days and work from home, taking the extra time to breathe, meditate or do something you love.
Keep Perspective. Work can be so overwhelming it feels like your entire world. Seize moments during the day to step away and gain perspective. Take a walk, have a quick coffee with a co-worker. Taking a brief step into the wider world can remind you of all the things worth loving about yourself.
Make the Commitment. Whatever steps you decide to take, make a commitment this year to prioritize your own happiness. Because self-love isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Make time every day to share love and show yourself some love, too—and stick to it, even when things get crazy.
Looking for more ways to love on yourself? Check out MindBodyGreen’s 10 Tangible & Thought-Provoking Ways to Practice Self-Love. And have a Happy Valentine’s Day – you deserve it!