Love is a many splendid thing.
(It’s also a battlefield, according to Pat Benatar, but that’s neither here nor there).
And during Valentine’s season, love is front and center.
As great as it is to take a day to focus on the people we cherish most, there’s one person you likely haven’t given much thought to during the days of Valentines past: yourself.
Why you need to love yourself
We spend a lot of time talking about how we can show love to other people. We do this for good reason: strong relationships benefit us in many ways, including improving quality of life and even lengthening life span.
Good external relationships are undoubtedly crucial, but one of the most important (and certainly longest lasting) relationships you’ll have in life is the one you have with yourself. And it turns out, there’s benefits to loving yourself, too. For example:
- People with greater self-compassion tend to experience less anxiety and depression.
- Forgiving yourself is linked to less procrastination.
- Treating yourself with kindness is linked to meeting goals.
- Self-compassion leads to greater productivity.
- There is evidence of a positive relationship between self-esteem and physical health.
Beyond these scientific reasons, common sense tells us that feelings of love and positivity, even (or especially) ones directed at ourselves, will make us happier.
Why it’s hard to love yourself
We have more data on ourselves than we have on anyone else. We know our thoughts, desires, feelings, and habits—all the good…and all the bad.
Every flaw you have is right at the forefront of your mind, ready to be recalled with at the slightest trigger. And unfortunately, there are plenty of triggers out there.
Social media doesn’t do a lot to help us love ourselves. After all, when we see the good, shiny parts of someone else’s life that they choose to show us, it’s all too easy for the bad parts of our life to stand out in sharp contrast.
In psychology, the “Negativity Bias” explains that the human brain is more likely to latch on to the negative than the positive. Negative experiences and thoughts implant themselves in our brains powerfully and quickly, making them easy to recall later—not to mention difficult to escape.
We’ve all made mistakes in the past. Some of them stick with us and become true sources of shame. On some level, we know that mistakes are a part of human existence; on another, we continue to beat ourselves up over past follies and think we should have known better.
These are just a couple things that make it hard to love yourself. But luckily, there are things you can do to cultivate self love as well.
8 ways to love yourself
This Valentine’s season, spend a little time on your relationship with yourself. Try one of these things to show yourself some of the love you deserve.
Get to know yourself.
You can’t love yourself if you don’t know yourself. And if you think you already know yourself, you might want to double check. Because here’s the thing: you’re a growing, changing, evolving person. The things you loved a few years ago might not be the things you love today, and that’s okay!
When was the last time you stepped back to evaluate how you feel about your life? Get to know yourself a little better by asking yourself questions like:
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? (And why aren’t you living there?)
- What do you love about your home? What do you wish you could change?
- Which activities do you do every day that leave you feeling fulfilled? Which ones drain you?
- Do you like your job? What do you wish you were doing instead?
- Which accomplishment in life are you most proud of?
- What does a perfect day look like to you?
- What’s your favorite color? (Don’t laugh—shifting from blue to green basically felt like an existential crisis.)
As you’re honest and open with yourself, you’ll feel more in touch with who you are. You’ll see yourself as a person with hopes, dreams, and heartaches: a person who is worthy of your love.
Spend time doing something you love.
Too much of our time is spent doing things we “have” to do: working, cleaning, commuting, etc. How much time do you spend doing things you really love? This Valentine’s season, take yourself on a date to do something you truly enjoy. Go see a movie, go shopping, read a book, take a nap—the time is yours, so do what makes you feel good.
Whatever you decide to do, schedule a specific time to do it, and don’t let yourself feel conflicted or guilty about it. This is a way to show yourself some love, so let yourself indulge and enjoy.
Care for your body.
What better way to show love for yourself than to give your body a little TLC? Find out what would benefit your body the most and give it to yourself.
For some people, this might look like a massage or trip to the float spa. For others, this could mean a hearty salad and strenuous hike. Whatever your body needs, let it have it. Recognizing and meeting your physical needs is a powerful way to show love to yourself.
Like I mentioned before, past mistakes can be a huge trigger for negative feelings about yourself. Show yourself a little love by extending forgiveness to your past self.
While it might be hard to do a clean forgiveness sweep of everything you’ve ever done wrong, you can choose one particular mistake that seems to haunt you frequently. Examine it; think about who you were when you made that mistake, and how you’ve changed for the better. Consider what you learned. Think about how you would treat someone else who made that mistake.
Ultimately, you want to be able to stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and say “I forgive you.” Further, consider a negative thought you repeat. Stop repeating it. Find the amazing opposite possibility you could think and then say “I forgive myself for judging myself as X, for the new truth is Y.” Then sit back and enjoy the peace and relief that forgiveness can bring.
Set a healthy boundary.
Saying “yes” when we should say “no” seems to be a common problem among humans. It gets us into a lot of messes we’d rather not be in. Healthy boundaries can help us break free from commitments that are made in moments of poor judgment.
Whether it’s a relationship you need to distance yourself from, a work task you’ve taken on but shouldn’t have, or a responsibility you accepted that is taking up too much of your time, give yourself the opportunity this Valentine’s season to draw a boundary that puts your own needs first.
Who doesn’t love getting a little treat from someone who loves them? This is a great way to spontaneously show yourself some love this season. Order the fancy drink you love. Eat the dessert. Have dinner delivered. Buy that new pair of sunglasses you’ve had your eye on. Whatever you can do to give yourself a bit of a treat, do it! (Note: don’t go overboard on this! After all, it’s not a treat if you get it all the time.)
Set a goal.
Self-improvement is a gift that you can only get from yourself. (If someone else tries to give it to you, you might have a Peloton bike situation on your hands.) We all want to be better, so take the time to think about and set a goal for yourself. In doing so, you’re showing yourself that you (a) believe in your ability to change for the better, (b) value your relationship with yourself enough that you want it to improve in the future, and (c) have put time and thought into how you can improve your quality of life. It’s a thoughtful, hugely-beneficial gift that keeps on giving.
Bonus: Got coaching? Personal coaching can be a great way to show yourself some love this Valentine’s season. With Design.org’s free daily coaching emails, you get personalized coaching messages sent right to your inbox on your schedule, so you get the help you need, when you want it.
Write a love letter
People write love letters to their sweethearts all the time; why not write one to yourself? Having a letter you’ve written yourself can be great to use as a reference when you’re having a down day. Write out what you like about yourself and what you’re proud of. Shower yourself with compliments. Write about your physical appearance, your sense of humor, your mad board game skills—dig deep and think about what you love about yourself, write it down, and look at it as needed. Remembering what you love about yourself will boost your happiness, every time.
(And if you want to spray a little perfume or cologne on it to add that special touch, go ahead. I won’t judge.)
Learning to love yourself is a lifelong endeavor for most people, and you’ll likely have as many ups and downs in your relationship with yourself as you do with other people. But cultivating a positive, loving relationship with yourself is more than worth it.
Because hey, maybe love is a battlefield, but it’s a many splendid thing, too.
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