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What if You Were Your Own Valentine?

Self-love is the love we most need.

With Valentine’s Day coming, love is on the brain and heart. When we think about love, we generally think in terms of who loves us and whom we love, both of which refer to others. But what if Valentine’s Day were really about falling in love with ourselves, cherishing ourself and being on our own side.

When we think about loving ourselves, we often run up against the judgment of selfishness. To love ourselves is considered self-indulgent and more than we deserve. To love ourselves is viewed as something that will take love away from others, as if love were a zero sum entity that could shrink or run out if we used up some of it up on ourself.

Furthermore, we assume that loving ourselves is in exchange for being loved by others. We don’t want to be responsible for giving ourselves love. Love is something that others are supposed to give to us. And for many people, there is resentment around self-love—the fact that we have to take responsibility for loving ourselves and have to do what others should do for us. Self-love is an effort that we are tired of having to expend. In any case, loving ourselves and being loved by others are seen as either/or scenarios.

But really, why are we so resistant to loving ourselves? Why do we see it as such a punishment and imposition? In part it is because we don’t know what it means to love ourselves or how to "do" it. We view self-love as another chore we have to accomplish, like taking out the trash. We imagine loving ourselves as something that takes time out of our day, like an exercise regime that will leave us less time to spend time with our kids or spouse. In truth, these are false beliefs.

Self-love is not an act of effort but rather a way of being with ourselves, being with our own experience. It means relating to ourselves with kindness and without judgment, being willing to ask, “How am I in this moment?” and then really sticking around for the answer, with an attitude of curiosity and compassion. Self-love is about fiercely staying on our own side, knowing and affirming that our experience matters and is important, simply because it's our experience. At its core, self-love is the willingness to listen to and care about the whisper of our own heart ... to keep ourselves company as we would keep company with the dearest friend.

Love is not a finite entity, quite the contrary. When we spend time lovingly paying attention to ourselves, attending to our own nourishment, we generate more love and enrich ourselves to become greater vehicles of kindness. Self-love inspires love for others.

This Valentine’s week (and every week), add yourself to to your own love list. Attend to the nourishment of your own heart. Place your hand on your heart and ask, “What do I long for, want and need at this moment in my life?” “How can I take care of my heart, my body my spirit?” Give yourself the gift of your own caring, attentive and judgment-free presence. Ask, listen, and keep company with yourself; make this a way of living, not just for the second week of February but for your entire love life.

Photo by Denise Carrasco

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