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self-care

How to Improve Your Most Important Relationship

I've always loved Valentine's Day. Call me a romantic or say I'm cheesy, but I love the idea that love is so special to us humans that we created a day to honor it. Even when I was single, I used to spend Valentine's Day either with family/friends or I'd plan an evening to pamper myself. My Valentine's Day celebrations by myself are some of my favorite memories. I'd spend the whole evening painting my nails, lighting candles, buying myself flowers, ordering sushi in, and watching either Romantic comedies or Zombie flicks all night in my pjs with my cat. 

 

 

One of those Valentine's Day evenings, my roommate walked into our apartment while I was fully reveling in my romantic night in with my cat, and she teased me for it a little. At that time I couldn't put into words why my Valentine's Day ritual meant so much to me, but as my life has gotten busier, I've learned how rare and precious those moments can be.

Back then my life was simpler. I was single and loving it, working a steady 9-5 job, and renting a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. I had plenty of time for two workouts a day, home-cooked meals, and a bath every single night if I wanted it, because no one was really depending on me to do anything more than that. 

Flash forward to now and my life is filled with SO much love from my little family, but it's also got a lot more moving parts to it. We have a mortgage now, my husband works long hours for his job in the military and he travels for long periods of time several times a year, I own and operate my own business which often requires longer-than-normal days, and we have a dog and cat that are fully accustomed to having all of my attention (not to mention the fact that our Great Dane goes to daycare twice a week, so drop-offs and pick-ups are usually up to me.)

 

 

Photo credit:  We, The Light Photography

 

I know that life is only going to get busier and more complicated as we grow our family and take on bigger financial burdens, so as I've reflected back on my mid-twenties and the uncomplicated life I lead then, I find myself daydreaming about those Valentine's Day celebrations spent cherishing myself and my solitude. 

I think if Valentine's Day is missing anything for the masses, it's the reminder that not only should we shower our partners, friends, and family with affection and celebrate all of the love in our lives, but we should also take time to shower ourselves with that same love. As life speeds up and we get busier, it's so easy to put ourselves and our needs last. For years, I've watched the women in my life give everything of themselves for their careers, children, and partners, and then feel guilty when they really just NEED some time to relax and soak in the joy of solitude. 

I recently asked my Instagram followers to weigh in on what "love" means to them, and unsurprisingly the responses all had to do with loving others. So I thought it would be interesting to share a couple of their wonderful thoughts and break down how they can be applied to loving oneself. 

 

HEALTHY COMMUNICATION + TRUST

I don't know about you, but my mental script can be a bit lacking (read: cruel) at times. In a world where SO much is expected of women, many of us have a tendency to hold ourselves to unreasonable standards. We expect things of ourselves that, if we saw anyone else pushing themselves in such a way, we would think they were way too hard on themselves, and we would likely advise them to take a beat, relax, and hit refresh. 

Healthy communication and trust are, of course, tantamount to the success of any relationship, but I know I don't practice them enough in my relationship with myself. The past few years I've been trying to change the way I react to my body and appearance, my productivity, my finances, and my mental health. These are all areas that I tend to focus the most of my self-criticism. I've made a concerted effort to right the ship if I find myself slipping into an overly critical train of thought or fixating on something I consider to be lacking. 

After a few years of practicing positive affirmations and reminding myself that I'm capable, worthy, and that I can get through anything life throws my way, I'm finally starting to see a change in my behavior and outlook. I've also started to trust myself through this process because with the shift in my attitude I've noticed more success in handling the tough situations and setbacks. 

For example, last year was... A LOT. A few months before our wedding in September of 2018, my husband and I learned that he would be leaving for 7 months to Bagram, Afghanistan starting in April 2019. This would be the longest we'd been away from each other since we met (including the 13 months we spent long-distance because at least then we could visit each other once a month). Add to the time away from each other the fact that he would be in a combat zone (I'm a self-proclaimed newbie when it comes to the stresses of military life.) And in January of 2019, a few months before he was to leave, I lost my job and promptly decided to take the leap and start the business I'd been wanting to start for a few years. We had a lot going on, to say the least. 

I certainly had my moments of overwhelm, breakdown, tears, and frustration, but I also blossomed while he was deployed. I became more independent, I sunk myself into my business, I pushed my own boundaries and tried things that would normally scare the *bleep* out of me, and I felt myself letting go of my own fears and trusting myself to own the process and the journey. The moments I crumbled were few and far between, and were almost immediately followed by a self pep-talk filled with affirmations like "you're strong enough to do this", "one step at a time", "inch by inch", "you've worked so hard for this", and "you deserve all of these good things--just enjoy it and don't worry about the what-ifs". 

Don't get me wrong, this has been a long time coming, and I still have my shortcomings when it comes to being kind to myself and loving myself, but take it from someone who has spent FAR too much time speaking negatively to herself--you deserve SO much better than that. You deserve to be loved, appreciated, and respected. You deserve to trust yourself enough to take chances on your dreams and desires. 

 

SEE + ACCEPT SOMEONE UNCONDITIONALLY AND AS THEY ARE

The hardest part about healthy communication with yourself is the fact that many of us don't see ourselves clearly and accept our own flaws. I've always wanted to be the best person I can possibly be, but when I do something human (like make a mistake or fail or act in a way that's not "perfect") I'm the first to beat myself up over it, and often very harshly.

That said, think of all of the imperfections you accept in others. Do you find yourself much more willing to forgive others than you are yourself? If someone I love makes a mistake, but recognizes it and apologizes for it, I'm quick to forgive and forget. I believe the best in others, and I believe that others are doing their absolute best with what they're given. You'd be amazed, though, to hear the things I still feel guilt over YEARS after they happened. I have a very hard time forgiving myself and accepting my flaws. 

What I've learned in my own self-love journey is that it's okay to set healthy boundaries, to make mistakes as long as you recognize and grow from them, and to learn as you go. Just like every other person in the world, you don't have all the answers, you're going to make mistakes, and you're perfectly imperfect just as you are, right in this moment. Be kind to yourself and love yourself, flaws included. You deserve it. 

 

Photo Credit:  We, The Light Photography

 

The journey to self-love can be rocky and messy at times, just like the rest of life, but like the rest of life, a self-love journey is worth the effort, the trial, the ups and downs. Whether you celebrate Valentine's Day with someone else or on your own, I hope you'll take time to shower yourself with love today and all days. Practice your affirmations, treat your body to a workout and healthful meal, indulge in a hot bath and a glass of wine, eat that ice cream, blast your favorite music and dance around your living room in your underwear, journal about your life, and forgive yourself for past mistakes. You're worthy, you're capable, you're beautiful, and you're perfectly imperfect.

Happy Valentine's Day!


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