How to learn to love yourself.

“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”

-       Jodi Picoult

It’s Valentine’s month. It’s the month of hearts, flowers, candy and cards. We get to shower the ones we love with gifts and grand displays of affection. We want them to know how much we love them. 

So, what did you buy yourself? 

Wait, you don’t buy yourself anything for Valentine’s Day? Why not? I think I can answer that. It’s because you don’t think of yourself as someone you love. You think about yourself as flawed, and imperfect and in constant need for improvement.

Why are we our biggest critics? Why do we autocorrect when someone gives us a compliment?

Have you ever been in this situation?

Friend: “Oh, hey [insert your name here], you look do pretty today.” 

You: OMG, this old dress? I seriously dug it out of the back of my closet. Ugh, I am such a wreck.” (Smoother your dress, tuck your hair behind your ear, duck your head and walk away).

It happens all too often. Social paradigms tell us we cannot get dressed in the morning and look in the mirror and say, “Damn, I look great!” and then accept the compliments that follow throughout the day.

Why can’t we think we look great? Why aren’t we allowed to accept that another person finds us attractive and say thank you?

So, we autocorrect everything!

I call it autocorrecting because it’s your subconscious that makes you do it. Naturally, your brain wants to accept the compliment, but because you’ve have been wired to uphold societal constructs and fit into the correct mold, you automatically autocorrect.

You probably don’t even think twice about it or perhaps even realize you’re doing it.

And every time you do, you do a disservice to your empowered self that exists. You chip away a piece of that empowerment and you mold yourself tighter into that “perfect” box that doesn’t exist.

What if you accepted yourself for everything you are? Wouldn’t it be amazing to not care what others think about you and love yourself  for who you are?

How do you fall in love?

How do we fall in love? There are three stages to falling in love.

1.     Lust
2.     Attraction
3.     Attachment

In each phase, the brain produces chemical signals that alert the body and mind that love is in the air. Those chemicals are strongest in the “attraction” phase. That attraction phase is when you cannot eat or sleep or dream about anyone but the person you’re in love with.

According to BBC Science, the neuro-transmitters produced by the brain are, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin. The chemicals are a drug to our system. We cannot get enough of them. 

Unfortunately, these chemicals do not play a part in finding self-love. We aren’t addicted to ourselves.

Women, in particular, are so focused on being the caregiver to the people around us that we forget how important it is to take care of ourselves – with nourishment, relaxation and love.

How do you obtain self-love?

A high level of self-awareness is created when you begin to love yourself. And unlike diving into a relationship where lust turns to attraction so fast, it takes us so much time to even begin the steps towards self-acceptance.

Love for our self doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort and focus. So where do you begin?

One of my favorite exercises to execute with women is to ask them for the first word that comes to mind when I name a body part. And I don’t just name hips, butt, stomach and legs. We dissect ears, eyes, fingers, elbows, ankles and all those parts that you don’t generally think about.

It’s an awesome exercise to perform and see the results. It gives a great idea of where you stand in self-perception – many times unconsciously and a lot of the time drill into where and when that perception was formed.

If you want to run through this activity with me, I would be happy to go through it with you. We can discover some amazing things together.

Outside of self-awareness, there are other ways to work toward self-love. 

1.     Date yourself. Rediscover what it is that you love to do. A lot of times we’re so caught up in life, we don’t even remember what activities we like to do any more. What lights your fire? What used to make you happy. You date your significant other to find out more about them, how about dating yourself? Take a yoga class. Make some pottery. Volunteer with animals. Rediscover the activities that make you whole again.

2.     Encourage yourself. On the smallest of levels, congratulate yourself on something you have completed. What made you proud today? Keeping a journal of these activities is fun to look back on as you begin to acknowledge even bigger successes. It becomes more of a second nature to pat yourself on the back when you’ve done something good, and also, to accept the compliment given to you by someone else. It’s empowering.

3.     Leave yourself love letters; or Post-It notes all over the house. I work with women to define a mantra for themselves. We dig into thoughts and feelings and decide what’s holding us back and create a mantra to lean on in rough times. It can be as simple as “I am strong”. Even if you don’t believe it when you write it down, every time you see the Post-It note and you say the words out loud 3 times. It may feel silly, but over time, it becomes more comfortable and you get one step closer to believing the words you have written. 

Believing in yourself is the first step towards loving yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by making yourself a priority and giving yourself just a little love and breathing room every day can go a long way towards developing that empowered you.