Love is in the air! It is February, after all. If you’re like me, you’re frantically trying to figure out how to plan a meaningful Valentine’s Day for your loved ones (and also an entire class of fourth graders, but that’s a whole other story) while secretly hoping someone buys you the perfect Valentine’s gift, without having to leave the Tiffany’s webpage open on their computer. But in the midst of all that planning, have you taken any time to plan something for yourself? To paraphrase Ms. Jackson, “What have you done for YOU lately?
February is for lovers, so why not love on yourself a little bit?
I’m not talking about the typical ways we tell women to engage in self-care, like massages, pedicures, shopping, or yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting the importance of taking a break and doing something for yourself. What I’m suggesting is for you to think about someone you love, a parent, partner, or child. Think about the patience, grace, and forgiveness that you afford your loved ones. Now apply all of that to yourself.
Self-love is defined by Webster’s as “…an appreciation of one’s own worth and virtue.” Truly understanding your value doesn’t just happen. Loving yourself requires action and work. I mean, aren’t all relationships work when you think about it? A quick internet search pops up dozens of ways to practice self-love. As I read through them, I realized that I am actually doing several of them, and I bet most of you do too.
Self-love isn’t just doing what feels good in the moment. Self-love means implementing practices that help you to love yourself just as you are, while allowing room to grow and improve.
That internal dialogue that runs through your head each day is a good indicator of how you perceive yourself. Is that voice encouraging? Considerate? Does it hype you up before a big presentation at work? Or does it sow doubt, criticize, and talk down to you? Practicing positive self-talk helps develop a more positive perception of yourself. It’s just like when you compliment that special someone in your life, only this time you’re complimenting yourself.
One of the best things I’ve done for myself is to set boundaries. Not having boundaries and letting others monopolize my time and energy put me in some pretty terrible situations. It also made me accountable for decisions that weren’t mine.
One of my first jobs post-graduation was very challenging, and my boss was notorious for giving extra work at the last minute. I worked six days a week for over a year, before I realized that I was running on fumes. As I got older, I realized that my lack of boundaries wasn’t bringing me closer to people, and had taken me pretty far away from the standards I had for myself.
Now, setting those boundaries in a clear and polite way without offending people is also an important skill that took me a bit longer to learn. It wasn’t good enough to just not return emails or ignore voicemail messages.
By far, the most important thing I’ve done for myself is to learn to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and forgive myself when I fail. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling depressed when I don’t achieve some lofty goal. We are only one month into 2020, and I’m pretty sure most of my New Year’s resolutions are out the window at this point. Allowing myself grace for my shortcomings has helped me regroup and come up with new and more realistic plans for myself.
Self-care just so happens to be a small part of self-love. Self-care is very important when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or stressed. It can help you to reset during times of stress. So by all means, eat the ice cream, buy the shoes, and book that girls’ trip. Just remember that self-care is just one tool in the self-love toolkit.
When I think about the challenging times in my life, it occurs to me that I wasn’t in a very good head space. I’d like to think that I am better equipped today to cope with challenges, because of the self-love strategies I’ve learned.