Why You Should Think About Self-Love This Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is a day for celebrating romantic love, (although, in my humble opinion, we should do this every day!). But on Valentine's, I can’t help but think about love in all its forms. And for me, the question of love always comes back to its foundational building block: self-love.
When I started writing my book, The Authenticity Principle, a few years ago, I knew that I had to focus on self-love in what I was teaching, because self-love is at the core of living authentically. But I wasn’t sure to what extent I should talk about it directly. 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.
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 build a more empowered and inclusive world, without discussing self-love. Here’s why.
Self-Love is the Key to Loving Others Better
When I talk about self-love, I’m talking about unconditional acceptance of the self—which is all about knowing and embracing who you truly are, and living it out as much as possible. Whether or not we accept ourselves unconditionally has a huge impact on how we can love others, because ultimately, how we treat ourselves is how we end up treating other people.
But I’d be the first to tell you, unconditional acceptance of the self is really hard work! Learning to accept—and love—yourself unconditionally requires doing the deep self-reflection work that reveals the“tough stuff.” This includes your wounds, pain, shame, and other vulnerabilities that you’ve experienced and internalized along your life’s journey, and enables you to work on healing these areas. This “tough stuff” is exactly what will get in the way of you loving others and inviting them to love you back. When we’re hurting, we’re more likely to put up walls that prevent us from giving and receiving love. And let’s be real—when we hurt, love is exactly what we need.
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.
Self-Love is the Foundation of an Inclusive World
In my work as a global diversity and inclusion speaker and consultant, one of the questions I’m asked most often is: How can we build a society that’s more accepting of differences? The answer lies in self-love.
We hate and fear differences in others because we fear our own differences. And we fear our own differences because 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 negative judgment or bias, whether consciously or unconsciously. Why do we do this? Because deep down, we fear the other person’s authenticity. And we do so because we’re not comfortable with our own authenticity. We want the spotlight to be on sameness because it feels safer, less vulnerable, and in line with the majority. 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, it will have a huge impact on creating a more inclusive world that invites each person’s authenticity out of the shadows.
How can we develop self-love?
Cultivating self-love is all about interrupting the deeply entrenched negative narratives that you hold in your mind—the negative junk you tell yourself about yourself that gets in your way.
The starting point is to identify what your negative narratives or self-limiting beliefs are.
I’ve learned to ask myself a string of questions in order to interrupt the brain pathways that push me towards self-hating instead of self-loving. You can try these too.
Firstly, ask yourself:
What are my self-limiting beliefs? Or put another way: What do I tell myself about myself that’s holding me back?
Once you’ve identified the negative narratives or self-limiting beliefs you’re repeating to yourself, you can inquire further:
Where did I learn these messages?
Who did I repeatedly hear these messages from?
Why were they telling me this?
Why do I tell myself this?
Is what I’m saying to myself actually true?
How are these messages getting in my way, harming me, and setting me back?
And most critically:
After today, what positive messages or beliefs about myself can I replace these negative thoughts with?
Developing self-love and self-acceptance is a journey—for many of us, a life long one. Wherever you are now, it’ll serve you to start there. The key is to start!
I’m joining the #ReclaimLove cultural revolution this Valentine’s Day with the Women's March, Love Army, the Revolutionary Love Project, and many more. Want to join me? Sign up here: www.reclaimlove.us.