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The beginning of February signals that Valentines Day is near.  For those in loving, intimate relationships who put a lot of meaning into this holiday, they may be all atwitter about how they will spend time with a partner or how expressions of love will be symbolized in gifts or other loving acts.  For people who are single, there might be a weight associated with the impending day of hearts and flowers, as they imagine what “others” are doing.  And let’s not forget about those who couldn’t care less about this “fabricated” holiday and are actually a bit annoyed by the materialism and expectations around all of it.

Wherever you fit on the continuum above, let’s toss it all aside for a minute to consider a fresh paradigm.

Self-love. 

No, not the narcissistic kind but a state of appreciation of yourself, who you are, your strengths and what you bring to the table for friends, family and intimate connections.  Those who have a strong sense of who they are and are clear on their value, tend to radiate this outward.

When you practice loving yourself it is beneficial in that you are better able to:

Be mindful.  This helps with clarity around what you really want. Practice self-forgiveness.  You are better able to give yourself a break which is a counter to self-criticism. Set boundaries.  You are less likely to let people take advantage of you but rather be assertive with your wants and needs. Feel joy.  When you believe you have value, your set point is one of peace rather feeling less than.

Write a love letter to yourself.

I know, this can be a challenge.  It might feel a little counter-intuitive to write to yourself in this way…and even possibly uncomfortably self-indulgent.   This will be especially true if you have deeply held doubts and insecurities (which many of us do).  But the power in affirming and lifting yourself up is undeniable and the more you internalize your value, the love will reverberate through your very being and outward to others.

In the spirit of “doing as I say,” I wrote a love letter to myself:

Dear Lisa,

I wanted to let you know how important you are to me.  You are loved and lovable.  Dismiss the reminders of heartache that occasionally still whisper in your ear, that you are not good enough.  Your strength, independence, intelligence and drive have propelled you through your life with a fierce determination to thrive…and you have.  I love your wit, occasionally dipping into juvenile humor.  Your loyalty and ability to deeply connect with people is appreciated by many in your life and is also a great service to your work in helping others rise up from their own pain, individually and in their relationships.

Continue to put loving effort into what’s important to you as you walk down your path as a mom, wife, friend, family member, therapist, athlete, nature and travel lover.  Remember that to be of most value to those you care about, you must value and care about yourself as well.

Love, Lisa

As I wrote that, aware that my intention was to share it, I noticed myself feeling a flash of vulnerability.  Will people think I’m…here’s the word again…”narcissistic?”  Well, I suppose some will.  Others may start to sweat with discomfort imagining what they would write to themselves.  Regardless, part of the work of self-love is to diminish your fear of what others think, to stop letting your fears about what they think dictate how you feel about yourself.  There will always be someone in life who for whatever reason, just doesn’t like.

Healthy self-love and narcissism are two very different things, each born out of different drives and intentions.

If more people truly loved themselves, my therapy practice would certainly shrink.  There would be less questions of inherent value, less self doubt, fewer negative stories that people carried about themselves.  And all of this would enhance their relationships in that love and security would replace fear and vulnerability within the couple.

Back to what inspired this piece. 

I have a friend with a company creating heart necklaces.  She gave me one of their necklaces for my birthday last year, a gold choker with the sweetest small heart.  Last night when out to dinner with a group, she pulled out some of their new pieces and I fell in love with one.  It was suggested that one of my friends should send my husband the link to buy it for me for Valentines Day (not a bid idea) but I decided to treat myself as MY act of “self-love.”  (Check out her stunning collection at CollectiveHearts.com.)

This whole exchange got me thinking more about the intention of Valentines Day, that expressions of love for others can also be expressions of love for self.  I hope those who are currently single, value Valentines Day and are feeling dread around it this month, consider ways they can practice self-love.

If writing yourself a love letter is not comfortable, don’t let that stop you from finding other ways to honor and value yourself.  Don’t allow past experiences, mistakes you’ve made or perceptions of what others think dictate your inherent worth.

You ARE lovable.

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