February is a month to celebrate one of our most treasured relationships: our romantic one. Most psychologists will agree that being loved and being able to love is crucial to our happiness. A famous quote by Sigmund Freud states: “Love and work…work and love. That’s all there is.”
But for many, the finding love causes a great deal of frustration and unhappiness. And what about self-love and its significance to our happiness? Whether you’re single, happily in a relationship, or in a complicated one, it’s a loving relationship with ourselves that sets the foundation for all of our other relationships and is the secret to having fulfilling ones, too.
What is self-love?
Self-love is not the same as being narcissistic or selfish. Rather, it means having a positive regard for your own well-being and happiness. When we adopt an attitude of self-love we have higher levels of self-esteem, we’re less critical and harsh with ourselves when we make mistakes, and we’re able to celebrate our positive qualities and accept our negative ones. In addition, a major benefit to learning to loving ourselves is that we are more likely to have fulfilling and healthy intimate relationships.
During the month of February, and on Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to celebrate loving yourself. Below are a few suggestions for making February the month for cultivating self-love:
- Learn to be compassionate with yourself. For many, it’s more natural to be compassionate towards friends and family than it is towards ourselves. Work on eliminating critical and harsh self-talk. Imagining what you would say to a friend in the same situation should help with developing skills for positive self-talk.
- Enjoy time alone. Whether it be taking a walk in the park, going out for a nice meal, or seeing a great movie, learning to enjoy your own company and doing activities you enjoy when you're alone is crucial for cultivating self-love.
- Make a list of the characteristics you like about yourself. Too often, we get caught up with only thinking about what it is we don’t like about ourselves and what we wish we could change. For most of us, recognizing and appreciating our positive qualities takes effort and practice. Set aside time to read this list daily.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. No matter how big or small our successes or accomplishments are, it’s important to feel worthy of celebrating them. Celebrating our accomplishments reinforces our acknowledgement and integration of our positive qualities.
- Allow yourself to ask for help when needed. We all need help when life gets challenging and when we feel overwhelmed. Most of life’s challenges can’t be tackled alone. Allowing yourself to seek help from a trusted friend or professional reflects self-love. Asking for help is an important way to take care of ourselves.
Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples, and families. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital and Lankenau Medical Center.