It’s that time of year again when shop windows are festooned in all things pink and red. Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is upon us bringing with it a whole pot of mixed emotions, depending where you are on the relationship scale.
On one hand when you’re in love to have a whole day dedicated to love’s celebration makes us hopeful, expectant, gooey and dewy eyed. But if you’re single, or not in the best place in your relationship, you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief when the day is done.
'It’s that old adage, you need to love yourself first before you can love someone else and be open to being loved in return'
Often the opinions we decide about ourselves, come through the opinions of others. Crazily, we hand over our power to other people so they can tell us if we are good, valued or loved. If, and when they do, we feel better about ourselves, and when they don’t, we can feel worthless.
In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day I often hear angst and dread. I hear harsh judgements of self. I hear the reinforcement of low self worth of not being loveable.
So what are the options?
Well I guess we could do a Bridget Jones in our pj’s with copious amounts of wine, blaring out ‘all by myself’ (but that doesn’t really solve anything), or we could start by loving, valuing and accepting ourselves more.
It’s that old adage, you need to love yourself first before you can love someone else and be open to being loved in return. Life’s experience and years of therapy and therapy training have taught me when we’re connected and emotionally available to ourselves, we’re connected and emotionally available for others.
So what does a healthy relationship with ourselves look like?
It looks like self care
What we eat, how we sleep and take exercise reflects how we are. Liken that to a car that’s not looked after or serviced. If it’s got a burnt out old engine and dodgy wheel bearings and tyres you’re not going to get very far in it are you? You’re body’s the same. It’s the only one we’ve got so best look after it as best we can.
It looks like kindness
We unconditionally love others, family and best friends but not ourselves. If loving ourselves is a step too far, start by even just liking ourselves. We’re not perfect and that’s ok, it’s liking ourselves warts and all.
It looks like doing more of what we like and what makes our heart sing
It’s a busy life at times and it’s good to balance this with down time, R&R, chillax, or whatever you choose to call it. For me it’s ‘wring out’ time, where I shake off, wring out, the days or weeks events. Whatever floats your boat, do more of it.. running, yoga, meditation, gardening, painting, walking, just do it.
It looks like acknowledging yourself
If you have faced a fear, done a job you’ve been putting off or think you just want a treat, then do it, treat yourself. Whether it’s a chocolate bar, a nice cup of coffee or a longer nap in the morning, a walk in the park, a bubbly candle lit bath, a favourite DVD, a catch up with a friend, acknowledge yourself with some sort of award.
It looks like taking the time to reflect and knowing yourself more
Often we run on automatic pilot where we simply don’t take the time to notice how we are feeling or what we’re thinking. A couple of clients I’d been working with recently acknowledged they had made significant shifts after really getting into journaling. When we journal our thoughts and feelings become more self aware. When we’re more self aware we can have a better relationship with ourselves and when we do that we can have better relationships with others.
It looks like taking time out for ourselves
Disconnect from computers and phones, take time out to sit and breathe, look at nature, listen to music, feel the spring time sun (hopefully soon!) on our face.
It looks like respecting ourselves
Decide whatever that looks like for you. It could be respecting your body with the food you eat or exercise, or something many have an issue with, saying yes when they really want to say no. If we can respect ourselves more we cultivate healthier boundaries with others.
It looks like being our own best friend
If we treated our best friends the way we treat ourselves we wouldn’t have many friends. We can be so hard on ourselves, our biggest critic, our judge and jury. When you think about it the only relationship we are totally guaranteed to have is the one we have with ourselves, so when the negative committee meets in your head think about what you would say to your best friend and say it to yourself.
‘’To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." Thich Nhat Han
Wendy Pritchett is an experienced Transactional Analysis Practitioner offering counselling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples and groups in Hastings. Combining her counseling expertise with creativity and business coaching she offers a unique perspective of problem solving. Her specialities are varied including Anxiety, Acquired Brain Injuries and Bereavement. Wendy also tutors certificated and vocational Counselling Skills, Mindfulness and Self Esteem college courses. You can contact Wendy at Pathfinder Counselling