Written by Whitney Hedgepeth, BS.
Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is a holiday focused on celebrating and publicizing love. In recent years, Valentine’s Day has progressed to a more commercialized, “Hallmark” holiday; many will splurge or go overboard to surprise a loved one with chocolates, flowers, and other gifts. Valentine’s Day may be a fun and exciting time for some, but it can cause anxiety and distress for others.
If you’re not in a relationship or plan to celebrate the holiday with someone special, you may dread Valentine’s Day. The overwhelming presence of love may leave some feeling suffocated, especially if you’re not feeling the love. Depression and anxiety may compound this phenomenon. If you don’t already have a valentine this year, or even if you do, choose to celebrate you; opt to be your own valentine.
As the old adage goes, no one else will love you if you don’t love yourself. Having mastery of self-esteem comes naturally for some but for most it requires work. This Valentine’s Day, we challenge you to really focus on your relationship with yourself. We’ve compiled the following tips to help you focus on ways to enhance your self-concept and focus on self-acceptance:
- Criticize Constructively– “Learn to perceive thoughts, images, memories and other cognitions as what they are—nothing more than bits of language, words and pictures—as opposed to what they can appear to be” (Harris, 2006). More simply put: try not to let your imagination run wild, or to waste too much time second-guessing yourself. This can apply to body image dissatisfaction as well; don’t focus on the areas you don’t like, or need improvement. Instead, embrace what is beautiful about you.
- Be Generous–Treat yourself and others well. If you set a goal and achieve it, no matter how small or large, reward yourself. If you can curb an overly critical inner voice, you will certainly reap the rewards of kindness, gratitude and generosity.
- Be Present– Start practicing mindfulness and/or meditation. Focusing on improving awareness, being in the here-and-now, can reduce stress (In fact, in can also reduce concern about body size and weight.). Hard as it is, trying not to dwell on the past or worry about the future can help us all to achieve more peace (and sometimes more happiness) with the present. Read here to learn more about how to integrate mindfulness into your days, and here for some smartphone apps to that might be able to help.
- Set Boundaries– Remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no.” Saying no to others can help you to keep commitments to yourself, and to focus on what you value the most (especially if you then say “yes!” to opportunities in line with those values). Over time, this may help you to feel more confident in and respectful of yourself and your worth.
- Trust Yourself– For some people, positive talk is the shortest path to empowerment. It’s easy to talk down to yourself, but when you do, try to recognize and acknowledge it (perhaps saying, “Oops, there goes my mind doing that critical thing it does again!”) and refocus on the present.
Self-love is for sure a lofty goal, but there is no better time than the present to start small, write it down (and maybe even draw a heart around it!) and watch it grow. [For more ideas on ways to foster and improve self-esteem, check out resources available through the National Association for Self-Esteem and the American Academy of Pediatrics.]