Historically, I know that Valentine’s Day has been thought of as a day for celebrating romantic love, but it’s a day when I like to think about love in all its forms (although, in my opinion, we should do this every day!). And for me, the question of love always comes back to one foundational building block: self-love.
When I was writing my book, The Authenticity Principle, I knew that I wanted to include self-love as part of what I was teaching, because self-love is at the core of living authentically. But because I was worried that some people wouldn’t accept this “mushy” topic alongside the neuroscience, leadership, and self-development topics that I discuss in the book, I wasn’t sure to what extent I should talk about it directly.
But the further I got into the process of writing, the more I realized that I simply can’t teach people how to live better — or how to build a more empowered and inclusive world — without discussing self-love. Here are three reasons why I think you should focus on self-love on Valentine’s Day and every day.
1. Self-Love is the Key to Loving Others Better
When I talk about self-love, I’m talking about unconditional acceptance of the self. I’m talking about knowing and embracing who you truly are as much as possible, and that means, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And this can be really hard work!
Learning to accept and love yourself unconditionally requires doing deep self-reflection work to reveal the “tough stuff”, including the wounds, pain, shame, and other vulnerabilities that you’ve experienced and internalized along your life’s journey. This “tough stuff” is exactly what gets in the way of you loving others and inviting them to love you back, because when you’re hurting, you’re more likely to put up walls that prevent you from giving and receiving love. (And let’s be real — when we hurt, love is exactly what we need.)
Acknowledging and facing the “tough stuff” isn’t easy, but doing this work will enable you to work on healing these areas. So whether it’s your lover, children, family, or friends, you must start with loving yourself in order to identify and heal the hurt that’s preventing you from giving love and receiving it from others.
2. Self-Love is the Foundation of an Inclusive World
In my work as a global diversity, equity, and inclusion speaker and consultant, one of the questions I’m always asked is: How can we build a society that’s more accepting of differences?
The answer lies in self-love.
So many of us have been taught to hate and fear differences in others, which is often motivated by discomfort with our own differences. This fear often stems from the fact that we don’t love and accept ourselves for who we are. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that many of us have received repeated negative messages about who we are throughout our lives.
When we experience discomfort with someone who is not like us, what’s essentially happening is that we’re engaging in bias, whether consciously or unconsciously. We do so because we’re afraid of differences and of being hurt, and we have been taught that sameness is safer and makes us less vulnerable. But favoring sameness ultimately pushes fear, intolerance, and hate.
Cultivating self-love will lead you not only to embrace who you are (especially what makes you different), but it will also enable you to feel more comfortable with others’ differences. In short, loving yourself can have a huge impact on creating a more inclusive world as you’ll be more willing to recognize and celebrate authenticity in yourself and others.
(Also, self-love is a radical act (shout out to Audre Lorde!), but for especially people of color, for women (cisgender and trans), and for women of color. Loving ourselves is a way of disrupting the harmful messages of White male supremacy that tell us we are unworthy.)
3. Self-Love is the Secret to Living Your Best
Cultivating self-love is the starting point to having the life you want — a life where you feel empowered, confident, happy, loved, inspired, and so much more. And although it takes work — self-love is a practice where you choose to love yourself even when you’re feeling tired, weak, broken, insecure, like an impostor, and more — the end result is worth it.
Self-love is about the belief that you are worth the emotional and physical investment it takes to nurture and heal yourself. And when you make that investment in yourself, amazing things are possible!
Developing self-love and self-acceptance is a journey, and for many of us, it’s a lifelong one. Wherever you are now, the key is to start!
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