It’s February 2019 and as Valentine’s Day approaches lots of people are looking for love. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you don’t like being single and you really want to be in a long-term, committed relationship.
That’s understandable. Life can be hard and having someone on your side can make everything easier. Having a person who truly cares about you and is there for you can be a wonderful thing. But having a partner is not the cure to everything that ails you.
A partner, a lover, a mate, a spouse; this is highly desirable to many of us, but it’s not a substitute for self-love. Everybody needs self-love. We can live without a partner but it’s much, much harder to live without self-love.
Self-love enables us to take care of ourselves. Without self-love, we won’t bother eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep or taking our vitamins.
Without self-love, we’ll ingest all sorts of toxic substances like drugs and alcohol, not caring how they affect our health. Without self-love, we’ll put ourselves into dangerous situations, not caring about the outcome.
Everyone deserves self-love, but not everyone has it. To understand why this is, you have to go back to childhood as that’s where we learn, or fail to learn, self-love.
Self-love comes from internalizing the love we receive as a child. If we’re given enough love, care and protection while growing up and if we’re spared abuse and neglect, we develop a good amount of self-love. Children take personally what happens to them so if they’re raised with love, they learn self-love.
Conversely, if a child is brought up in an atmosphere of violence or neglect; if they’re not sufficiently nurtured or protected, they grow up lacking self-love. Depending on how hurtful or neglectful the environment was, and also on how resilient the child was, the little person can grow up lacking some degree of self-love.
When you grow up with a lot of love, you feel good about yourself and therefore you take care of yourself. You put yourself in constructive situations and you avoid painful ones; you engage in positive activities because you feel confident about your abilities and entitled to all sorts of good things. All of this reinforces your self-love.
If you grew up with a lack of love from your parents or guardians, you tend to neglect your self-care. You sometimes put yourself in harm’s way or associate with people who treat you just as badly as your care-takers did. All of this reinforces your lack of self-love.
Self-love creates a positive spiral of better choices, better relationships, a better life and more self-love. A lack of self-love creates a negative spiral of poor choices, hurtful relationships, an unhappy life and less self-love.
So how do you find self-love if you’ve grown up without it? How do you learn to love yourself, especially if you’ve been making choices that cause you to feel bad about yourself?
You need to start treating yourself the way your parents or guardians should have treated you when you were little. You need to accept yourself, validate yourself, be more understanding with yourself and forgive yourself. You need to have compassion for yourself and put your life choices into perspective. That’s what I call doing the “inner work” of self-love.
You might think you’re not good enough, but maybe you’re just wounded from a bad beginning and a life of choices based on a lack of self-love. If you start to forgive, understand and love yourself more, imagine how much better things could be. You could reverse the direction of that spiral you’re in.
Even if you’re only lacking a bit of self-love, it’s always better to have more. You’ll find that you’re calmer, more confident and happier when you love yourself that much more. You’ll be more willing to try new things and engage in new relationships because you’ll have the expectation of greater success.
You’ll take better care of yourself when you love yourself more and you won’t be so desperate to be in a relationship. You’ll be able to hold out for the right person, rather than settling for the person who’s available right now.
Another way to build self-love is to do good things in the world. I’m not talking about being a people-pleaser who’s nice to everybody in the hopes of winning their approval. I’m talking about acts of kindness, generosity and altruism. That’s what I call doing the “outer work” of self-love.
Really being there for others and giving a helping hand when it’s needed will boost your self-love and bring you joy as well.
Making a positive contribution to your community will boost self love. You can engage in activities like clean-ups of the beach-front or the local park; doing a clothing drive or a bake sale for new immigrants; setting up a recycling center, or planting a community garden. Participating in positive, constructive activities is great for building self-love.
Loving others is also great for increasing self-love. I’m not talking about romantic love, but rather, opening your heart to everyone and caring about their welfare. In this crazy world we can be so jealous, competitive and paranoid toward one-another. Being more loving and open-hearted is good for the world and also helps build self-love.
Self-love makes everything better. Your relationships are better because you won’t tolerate disrespect and because you feel entitled to being well-treated. At work, self-love makes you strive to do your best and makes you feel entitled to good pay and promotions. It also makes you much less tolerant of mistreatment by your boss or your colleagues.
Self-love makes you a more loving person. Just as loving others helps build your self-love, having more self-love makes all the love within you overflow out onto others. It’s a positive circle: love others more and you’ll love yourself more; love yourself more and you’ll love others more.
Whether you’re single this coming Valentine’s Day or in a successful relationship; whether you’re thinking about breaking up with your partner or contemplating on-line dating, having more self-love will make everything better. Even if you spend Valentine’s Day alone, you can still be your own Valentine if you have self-love.