It’s Valentine’s Day soon and the florists will be awash with red roses and restaurants full of loved up couples.
But how deep is your love?
Other than being the title of a Bee Gees song sung by the brothers Gibb wearing eye-wateringly tight white pants, chest hair rugs and large gold medallions back in 1977 the question is more about who do you give your love to?
Your closest friends?
(Well, if you love your job, why not!)
And what about you?
How much do you love yourself?
Self-love is something many people struggle with, but it’s nothing to do with narcissism.
The narcissist sees themselves as being superior to others, they take no responsibility for their mistakes and seek constant recognition and validation for their brilliance. They show no consideration for others and are devoid of empathy.
Trust me, you’ll know when you’re in the presence of a narcissist and so will everyone else in the room.
Self-love is about self-acceptance despite our flaws and imperfections. Self-love grants us permission to embrace all our jiggly bits and to show ourselves compassion when we stuff things up. It’s essential to our own health and wellbeing and to be able to fully love another.
Loving yourself means you can embrace all your emotions. You can be happy, sad, frustrated or excited.
It means we can:
Berate ourselves for saying the wrong thing – have you ever had that “foot in mouth moment?” Yes, me too.
Shout at our kids when they go a step too far with their naughtiness.
Be irritated by our partner’s continuing inability to load the dishwasher correctly despite the number of times you’ve shown them how to do it.
We can experience all this and still love them as much. Just try to be kinder to yourself when you say or do the wrong thing. That inner critic can get awfully loud sometimes.
Why self-love can be hard
- Trauma in your earlier life can leave painful emotional scars, especially if you blame yourself for what happened. It’s not only hard to love yourself, it’s hard to let anyone else get close to you.
- The perception of imperfection. Social media, advertising, gossip magazines all tell the same story of the need to be skinny enough, beautiful enough, smart enough and rich enough to enjoy all the good things in life. When parents pay for their pubescent children to have breast enlargements or nose reshaping the message they hear is “you weren’t perfect enough.” Reality TV shows and celebrities who are famous for being famous undergo cosmetic surgery so frequently it becomes normalised. You are clearly incomplete if you haven’t been under the knife, had your lips plumped, your bottom remodelled and calves enhanced. Sigh.
- We fear being judged. While we like to think we don’t care what others think of us. We do. When we are afraid of not meeting the expectations of others or see ourselves as imposters it’s hard work trying to be someone you don’t believe deserves to be included or feted.
- If you’ve grown up not knowing love, because you were unwanted, mistreated or neglected how can you know what love is like?
- Loneliness and depression can lead to a loss of purpose and meaning. Feeling isolated or unloved leads to loss of self-worth.
Being able to look at yourself in the mirror and be comfortable with the skin you are in is self-acceptance. When we accept ourselves, we can care for ourselves and others.
What self-love looks like
You feel free to be yourself
You prioritise your health and wellbeing
You feel proud of your achievements
You stand up for your values and beliefs
You can let go of anger and forgive
You hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for when you make a bad decision
You can accept help
You enjoy having “you time” without guilt
You aim to set realistic goals and expectations
You’re able to set boundaries and ask others to abide by them
You nurture strong positive relationships with those you care about and who care about you
You can show yourself compassion for being wrong or making a mistake
What is one action you can take to enhance your self-love this Valentine’s Day?
Will you send yourself a valentine’s card? Why not?
Will you spoil yourself with a bunch of flowers, a special dinner or spend time with your partner, family or good friend?
Will you do something nice for someone else – buy them a small gift or shout them a coffee?
Mental wellbeing is about fully embracing everything that allows you to truly thrive, creating greater happiness and real connection.
It matters, because you matter, and it matters for the people who want to love you back.
Is there enough love in your love bucket for you?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.