Learning to Love Yourself (and Others)!

Let’s talk about loving yourself. It’s that time of year when partners and paramours really try to show their affection to their special someone. Alternatively, for the unattached, this time of year can be a reminder of our own isolation (and after 2020, that’s something we don’t need more of).

Whatever your Valentine’s Day might look like this year, you already have the perfect date: yourself. Even if you’ve already got a beau, belle, or similar beloved you intend to dote on, dedicating some affection internally can pay off for them as much as for you. 

This means more than buying yourself something nice, giving yourself compliments, or going for a spa day. In fact, limiting your idea of self-love to such a surface level interpretation is going to be counterproductive in the long term.

If you’re going to date yourself, you gotta remember that it’s not going to be like a first date. You already know your best stories, after all. It’s more like going on a date night after a lifetime of marriage. The kind of date that reminds you why you fell in love in the first place. The important thing is to find ways to connect with yourself, to show that you care about your own well-being and you can appreciate the things about yourself that no one else will notice.

Self-love is as much about self-acceptance as it is self-care. When you accept yourself for who you are, it makes it easier to focus on others around you. Look at it this way: if we place most of our attention on our mistakes, then we are also failing to appreciate what’s truly important in life: the subtle flashes of beauty that come into existence before blinking away forever, the quiet moments of serenity that exist in between the big ones, or the joy that come from sharing these things with those closest to us.

Too much focus on your flaws can become a compounding issue, too. If you dwell on your negative traits and behaviors (like many of us are prone to do) they can become self-reinforcing. Guilt isn’t a great motivator for change, and instead can lead to fatalistic conclusions about how inevitable our perceived inadequacies can be. And since we have a bias towards negative information, we tend to seek out harsh or critical information over positive information, and if no one provides it, we’ll often provide it ourselves.

This is especially relevant right now on the heels of 2020. Most of us have probably been more than a little critical of ourselves lately, even if we’re not aware of it. We often blame ourselves for things that are outside our control, making it easy to feel like we’ve fallen short of our goals. Which means now more than ever – it’s important to handle yourself, your ambitions, and especially your failures, with a little grace.

So how do we address this? Are there things we can do on our self-love dates that can help make us the best version of ourselves? 

Yes! As it turns out, mindfulness is a great way to counter this impulse of self-obsession, so long as we do it correctly. Mindfulness, as a practice, has been a fundamental part of Hinduism and Buddhism for centuries. The practice of quieting the mind and keeping the body still was about stepping outside of one’s regular, self-oriented experiences, and was essential to religious practices that helped emphasize how the individual could improve the greater community. As mindfulness in the Western world has become more popular, it has often been used to amplify our sense of self, instead of helping to diminish it. So, while mindfulness can be extremely effective at reducing this cultural self-obsession, it needs to be approached intentionally to achieve that goal.

Floating is a great way to practice mindfulness and exercise being present. In fact, without any external stimulation, it can be difficult to do anything but live in the moment while your sense of self melts into the water and air around you. Dr. John C. Lilly,  the creator of the float tank, used his invention to help develop his own radical personal improvement techniques.

So this Valentine’s Day, do yourself – and your loved ones – a favor. Treat yourself, not just to a pleasant and relaxing experience, but form that meaningful connection with who you are deep down. Go for a float, become one with the Nothingness you’re surrounded in, and come out ready to give everything you’ve got to those who need it. With the way this past year has been, it’s more important than ever to look out for each other, and that starts by looking out for yourself.