Valentine’s is traditionally the day you show love to your significant other. And that’s awesome! I am writing to challenge you to think of one more person on Valentine’s: YOU.
A warning: reading this may make you feel uncomfortable. We’re so used to showing others love on Valentine’s (that’s what it’s for right?!), why would we consider showing it to ourselves?
There’s stigma around self-love or its requisite, self-compassion. Many people generally associate it with self-centeredness or self-indulgence. But what if I told you self-love is a sign of strength? Of feelings of worthiness? Of feeling enough? Would you be believe me?
The well-known biblical writing, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” provides a great example of how loving yourself is key to loving others. Put another way by Buddha, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”
Self-compassion, however, doesn’t come easily for many of us according to Dr. Kristen Neff, an Associate Professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin. In a 2011 New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope, Dr. Neff states, “I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
This culture of being hard on ourselves rears its ugly head especially in motherhood. I know I’ve given myself a hard time for not getting my little one to nap at “the right time” or for something as simple as no getting ALL the dishes washed after dinner.
As reported by the above-mentioned New York Times article, research on self-compassion show that people who score high on tests of self-compassion have lower levels of anxiety and depression, and increased optimism.
So, I challenge all us mamas out there this Valentine’s to take some time to be self-compassionate and show ourselves love. Here are some ideas:
1.) Do something just for you: buy yourself flowers, get mani/pedi, do whatever it is that makes you feel loved.
2.) Write yourself a supportive note (this exercise comes from Dr. Neff with my own spin): Write all of the things that you really love about yourself. Celebrate wins and accomplishments. Share them with your partner if you like.
3.) Take 5 minutes today to just be with yourself. Alone. No kids, no significant other. Just you. Whether it’s over your morning cup of coffee (or tea in my case). Just take some time for yourself. (From the book, Breathe Mama Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms by Shonda Moralis)
4.) Choose to be around people (other than your kids) who reflect love back to you, people who you know love you unconditionally. If you don’t have any people like this, make it your mission this year to connect with someone who loves you entirely for you. Give that person a call or hang out with them, yes even on Valentine’s (Hello Galentines!).
5.) Practice loving kindness meditation (LKM). You can do this anywhere, anytime. My favorite intro to LKM is by Dr. Christiane Wolf.
Building self-compassion and love takes some time, so make it into a habit by picking one thing from this list and do it today. Yes, love your family, your significant other, your neighbors AND show yourself some love too. You as much as anyone else deserves it!
Sophia Salazar, Life Coach
Sofia Sarah Salazar is a self-care advocate, life coach, mother, partner, and former motorcyclist, world traveler, photographer, New Mexican transplant, women’s college graduate, and so many other things. She believes that pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is a unique opportunity to harness and share your creative power as a woman. She is the creator of MamaCare Summit, an online self-care resource for expectant and new moms.