by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.
While Valentine's Day represents all of the conventional definitions of love, for some the void of love is even more apparent at this time.
The focus of most Valentine's Day photos, posters and cards is a fantasy-like love.
We’re encouraged to buy gifts and express our love for those most important to us in our lives. And while all of that is important, Valentine’s Day, and love as we’re taught in general, is focused on everything and everyone outside of us.
We rarely see images of the most lasting and authentic form of love—love for oneself.
As best-selling author, professor and speaker Brené Brown points out: "Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them -- we can only love others as much as we love ourselves."
If you’ve explored the world of personal development for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve discovered the importance of self-love. Self-love is undoubtedly THE most significant form of love. (You can learn more in this past article)
Self-love is the source through which all other forms of love grow. The seeds to nurture and grow love must therefore first be planted in the self.
But what does it mean to love yourself?
What if you’re going through a challenging time or you’re really struggling with something in your life, like shame, guilt or pain? It’s not that simple to just love yourself in moments like this.
Rather than focus on loving yourself or extending love to others, the way to cultivate self-love—however slowly—is to focus on being kind to yourself and accepting yourself however you are right now.
The best way to begin this practice is to be more present in each moment. The more present you are, the easier it is to be aware of your thoughts as they come and go, and you'll therefore be more able to release negative thoughts before your mind is overtaken by them.
Feel your body and listen to your thoughts by taking as many moments as you can during the day to take deep breaths.
One of my favorite yoga instructors, Erich Schiffmann, taught me to set a timer every hour as a reminder to take a moment to be fully present. In the busyness of modern society, it’s easy to live on autopilot, so it’s essential that we intentionally slow down and practice mindful awareness as often as possible throughout the day.
The simple practice of mindful awareness helps you be more kind and gentle with yourself.
As you practice being kind and accepting of yourself, you'll naturally impart this kindness and acceptance, and therefore love, onto others.
Only in this way—through the gentle cultivation of kindness, acceptance and self-love—can love can be harvested and shared with others.
And if you're fortunate enough to be surrounded by loving, supportive people, recognize this as a reflection of YOU.
As the last month of the Winter season, February is our final call to move inward, to self-cultivate and to plant the seeds from which we can enliven our dreams in the upcoming Spring season—a time of rebirth and renewal.
So this year for Valentine's Day and throughout the month of February, take time to nurture and be kind to yourself. Take time to be with and celebrate yourself. And if you feel like you want more love, again focus on what you need to cultivate within yourself.