It’s the month of love and around the world people are oohing and aahing over Valentine’s Day cards and meals out with their loved ones.

It’s a time for Rom Coms galore, chocolates and even a glass of bubbly or two. Because you know – we are celebrating love in all its glory.

Cupid doing his thing and living his best life. 

The funny thing is, whether in a relationship or not, we kind of miss the point. We are so used to expressing love outwardly and for other people that we completely neglect the love that we should be exercising for ourselves inwardly. Self-love. Self-care. Self-respect.

These three things are all interconnected. And they are all about the Self.

Because if you have respect for yourself and care for yourself, ultimately you are showing love for yourself. 

And that’s where I think Cupid sometimes misses the mark. Because, let’s be honest, taking a leaf out of the magnificent Ru Paul’s book – “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”. 

Can I get an “Amen” up in here?

But, self-love? I’m a complete hypocrite.

If I seem like I have everything all wrapped up in one big bow with my (excuse the language) shite together – that would be a big fat lie. 

I don’t. Far from it.

You see, when it comes to expressing self-love, I am the absolute worst at it. So, basically I’m a hypocrite – writing all about self-love, care and respect when I don’t do any of that for myself. 

Then again, it’s always so much easier to advise others on how to live their best life without doing so yourself…. It makes you think, doesn’t it?

The truth is, I’m pretty hard on myself. I put immense pressure on myself to do better, to do more, to be more, to give more. Constantly. It always feels like I’m filling other people’s cups up while my own runs dry. 

If we are being honest here. 

This is truer now – over the last couple of weeks – than ever before. 

Sure, life happens and sometimes we do need to put others’ needs before our own. But the big question is – how often does this really happen? 

For me personally and as much as I love my partner, my family and my friends (and am immensely grateful for all of them), I would probably guess that putting others’ needs before my own happens more often than not. 

It’s no wonder that I’m kind of feeling like a big cloud is hanging over my head and it’s starting to drizzle. With no raincoat or umbrella, not even Cupid’s arrow can help me now.

So, putting my “big girl panties on”, it’s time to take some action. And refill my own cup. After all – there’s a universal rule (especially in aviation) – you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, before attempting to help those around you. Sure, this may sound selfish. Putting yourself before others. But it’s also very, very necessary.

“Make yourself a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. At the end of the day, YOU are your longest commitment” – The Easy Wisdom

Ain’t that the truth! YOU are your longest and greatest commitment, so why not make yourself a priority? Why not do things for yourself?

The answer is simple (and it should be easy) – there is absolutely no reason not to. If everyone else is getting in the way of doing that or all your commitments have become too much for you to cope with, then you need to start making some room.

How do we exercise self-love, self-care and self-respect?

The Beatles once crooned “All you need is love” and while I can (almost) wholeheartedly agree, it’s the all you need is self-love part that is missing. 

I need to fall in love with myself again.

In order to do that – and for me – I always need to understand what it is (at its core) that I am trying to do. Falling in love with other people, like my hubby, was easy. I know how to do that. But finding and falling in love with myself is a whole different ball game. 

So, to begin the self-love journey, I need to understand what “self-love” truly means.  

According to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, self-love is defined as follows – 

“Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.”

And that seems straight forward enough… supporting our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. But I’m still not 100% sure how to go about doing that.

So, here’s what I’m going try …

7 Steps to falling in love with yourself

I need to do more of what makes me happy like reading, writing (for myself) and getting back into painting and sculpting. Take a pottery class. Go to gym more often – it helps burn off some of my anxiety. I need to take more long baths and enjoy a glass of wine if I feel like it – damn the judgement! I need to do more of the things that make me happy. Even if – perhaps especially if – I do them alone (my husband does not like sculpting and has no desire for a Patrick Swayze and Demo Moore Ghost moment).
I also need to understand that sometimes not doing something is exactly what I should be doing – nothing. We are only human after all. And despite recently going 46 hours without sleep (I don’t recommend this), we all need to and should turn off. When you are a busy person and feel like you are all over the place, doing nothing feels counterintuitive. But trust me when I say that it’s also necessary. I find it almost impossible and will forever have my grandmother’s words in my head – “You only lie on the bed when you are sick. Otherwise, you must be outside and playing or doing something. Make something out of your day.” But that is why I feel like the Duracell Bunny most of the time. And while it is sage advice – if taken holistically – it doesn’t help when I feel overwhelmed, forget who I am and what I want out of life. It’s time to put a stop to that. At once. It’s time to simply take deep breaths, light a candle and chill the f**k out! 
I need to be more mindful and practice daily mindfulness in the form of being completely present in a single moment. Instead of worrying about what the future holds or being anxious about what I should have done or could have done, I need to focus my attention on the here and now. I need to pay attention to and focus on how I’m feeling, what my body is telling me and become more aware of what I want, think and feel. 
Working on my bad habits is also something I need to address – it’s all too easy to place reliance on “something” in order to get through a stressful day. Or to make ourselves feel better. I have done that more than I care to admit. Especially recently. Whether that’s a (small) tub of Paul’s Homemade Ice-cream (yes, it’s amazing!) or anti-anxiety medication or even that glass of wine. We all (myself included) need to understand that these bad(ish) habits don’t serve us and instead, we need to (I need to) replace them with ones that do. That can be tough to work out. And often the best course of action is to seek guidance from a professional about how to go about doing this – like working with Frieda Levycky as an example. I need to truly practice self-care in the form of healthy eating habits, physical activity and (if I can muster the patience), meditation. Taking care of myself as a whole, rather than simply focus on one bad habit. A holistic approach to self-love
Being kind to myself and setting some healthy boundaries are key for me. I have recently experienced some very harsh, cruel and horrible criticism from someone I loved and trusted, at a time when I lost a family member and have been feeling at my lowest point. The things that were said are unforgivable and they truly and very deeply broke my heart. It’s part of the reason I was unable to sleep for 46 hours. The thing is, what was said was cruel and hurtful (beyond what I believed a close family member would say) but they also weren’t true. That person was going through their own grief and guilt and lashed out at the person that they believed could take it. Possibly because I have before. 

The thing is, I have never said “no” before. I’ve never felt that it was ok to tell someone that their words had hurt me or that their actions were not acceptable. I haven’t put up boundaries before. So doing it now (seemingly “all of a sudden”) has been a bitter pill for others to swallow. But it’s been necessary. You see, it’s often so much easier to believe the negative things, the cruel things, the degrading things about ourselves, than to believe all the good stuff about who we are inside. The things I have done, the people I have helped, the work I have done and what I have accomplished, the love I do give to others. I have forgotten about all the successes. All because one person told me I wasn’t worthy. Being kind to myself also means sticking up for myself. Saying no. And not taking the hurt. So, yes, I need to start setting some healthy boundaries.

I need to practice positive self-talk. And no, this doesn’t mean I will be walking around my house talking aloud to myself (which I already do btw), I mean more of outwardly saying “I love myself” without feeling embarrassed or believing myself to be self-centered or narcissistic. I need to stop the self-criticism and start believing more in who I am and what I have done. I also need to give myself room to forgive myself. Consistently punishing myself for saying something out of turn or for making a small mistake is just not healthy. I have to learn that I am just human, I am flawed, I have imperfections. I need to learn to love my humanness.
I need to weed out the toxic people in my life this may be a little bit of repetition but it is important for my own self-worth. While setting my healthy boundaries, I also need to start protecting myself against toxic people. If I can (and this is sometimes easier said than done), I need to dismiss or avoid them as often as I can. I need to start cutting them out of my life. Again, easier in principle. But the toxicity only brings me down, it sucks the energy from me and leaves me completely flat. Unable to love myself. I need to start recognizing that anyone who shoves me into the dark so they can have my light, anyone that continually criticizes me or stops me from being me, needs to hit the road.  I need to stop giving people second and third chances. I need to walk away. Instead, I need to surround myself with people who build me up and support me, not those who thrill in my misfortune.
Now, I’m not saying those 7 steps are the be all and end all of falling in love with myself again. Even starting with just one of those steps above would be a huge start. I can see how all of that change in one go is likely to feel quite overwhelming. It’s going to take some time. And work. It’s going to take me having an active role in my own happiness. 

But they are steps in the right direction.

Falling in love with someone else is amazing, staying in love takes work but loving yourself is the most important thing any of us can do – we are our longest commitments. It’s time to put in the work.

Now not to be facetious or weird about it, but tonight I’m going to run a bubble bath, pour myself a glass of bubbly, put on my favorite song and have a date with myself.

But that’s me and my journey. How are you going to start loving yourself? What one thing can you do right now that is solely for your own happiness? Go on, do it. And then, every day, do it that little bit more. 

About the Author, Alicia Koch, Founder of The Legal Belletrist.

Alicia, an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE, and now a legal writer and researcher, has established The Legal Belletrist to assist companies (in different sectors) to write well-researched articles that speak to each company’s core business, enabling growth and commercialism.

Click here to visit The Legal Belletrist website.

Email: legalwhizz@gmail.com