Valentine’s Day is upon us and awhile I understand feeling cynical about Valentine’s Day if not in a romantic relationship (or in an unhappy marriage), Valentine’s Day for me is a time to offer love to those I love. Cookies are made and decorated, cards written and sent, and something fun planned for myself. Yes, I include myself in those I treasure on Valentine’s Day for without loving myself, I am compromised in the love I offer others, confusing love with my needs.
Learning to love yourself is not being selfish, but a smart way to care for yourself and those you love (vs needing from, demanding of, bargaining with, etc). Being in the business of helping people become happier, I wish I had a nickel for every time a person got mad at their loved one for not loving them, when the real issue at hand is a confusion between love and their needs. Loving yourself will keep you out of the trap of confusing love with needing someone to satisfy your need for security, appreciation, or a regular dinner companion. You can’t give someone what you don’t have for yourself. Period.
If you are not feeling love for yourself, how can you get that loving feeling?
You once trusted what you loved, wanted, knew and you can do so again. One of the unexpected treasures of raising children was delighting in their clarity and self-confidence in what they loved. Only when entering the double-digit ages did this self-confidence begin to respond to peer pressures and cultural messaging. There is nothing like a 9 or 10 year old whose self-confidence knows no bounds and anything is possible. Your 10 year old is still within you, happy to offer her self-confidence and trust in the world for living your adult life.
Find a picture of yourself no older than 10 years old and smiling. Put this picture somewhere you can easily see your younger self everyday and once a day, send love and a smile to the confident young woman you still are. Do you remember what you loved at 10 years old? Your favorite color and candy? Even if you cannot remember the particulars, I have no doubt you were not wishy washy on what you loved (and hated ;-). Second guessing yourself was not an issue for you then and while you may not trust yourself and your likes and dislike now, you can have your younger self help you remember how you really DO know what you like and want.
Trust yourself and you will know your answers. From birth you’ve been taught that others’ opinions and directives were more important than your own. And while mostly well-intended, there comes a time when the strengths and competencies of others needs to defer to your believing in your own strengths and knowing. Otherwise you will find yourself living a life disconnected from your own inner guidance which knows without a doubt how to realize love and joy in your life.
Love yourself and everything else falls into place. Lucille Ball wasn’t only a pioneer in television and comedy, she knew a thing or two about getting what she wanted. “You really do have to love yourself to realize your dreams and desires in your life” and I couldn’t agree with her more. Until you can love yourself, the love you offer others is conditional and often a trade disguised. “I love you and if you love me you will….take care of me, make me feel secure, do as I want”… you get the picture. Love is a mystical marathon and does not play by the rules of control and logic of your mind. To love another requires you love and honor yourself first to avoid having your needs be cloaked and called love. Many a marriage or family has come apart when self-love has been lacking, for without self-love, you will seek what you need from another and call it love.
This Valentine’s Day, consider how well you love yourself and how this is related to how satisfied and happy you are with the people you love. If you aren’t feeling loved by yourself, check in with your 10 year old who never doubted herself and was unabashed in what she loved. I leave you with this thought and I invite you to celebrate yourself and your life on this day we put aside to honor love ~
“To know what you love instead of continuing to nicely say “ok” to what others tell you, is to keep your soul and spirit alive. How do you know what you love? You put your ear down next to your soul, ask it to speak with you, and you listen very hard, especially when you are feeling lost or afraid”.