Valentine’s day after a divorce or breakup can bring painful memories of happier times. Even if you were never a “Valentine’s Day person” it’s normal to feel a sense of loneliness on this most coupley of days, which emphasises the fact that you are alone and missing out on what everyone else seems to have.
Today, I’m not going to talk about how to get through February 14th because it’s something I’ve already covered in another post. Instead, I’m going to invite you to go deep on self-love.
It can be grating to read about self-love in a Valentine’s day post, when all you want is for somebody else to care for you. But I’m writing about it anyway because, even though it might not be the kind of love you want to receive today, it’s the most important of all, and learning to embrace it will bring you more happiness than any card, gift or romantic meal.
Self-Care and Self-Love
Self-care is an act of self-love; they are entwined. When we take time to look after our well-being by caring for our bodies, treating ourselves and nurturing our needs, we are loving ourselves. You know what makes you feel good in your life, whether it’s joining a gym or carving out undisturbed time to read your favourite book. When you acknowledge and invest in those things you are making yourself a priority.
But self-love also encompasses something more profound, which we must embrace if we want to move on fully and heal effectively from heartbreak. When think of self-love, I see it more as a deep connection to ourselves; an acceptance and love for who we are. It is something we all have even when we don’t believe we have it. It’s that deeper knowing inside of you that your life was not intended to be unhappy or half-lived just because one person is no longer in it – however significant their presence was.
Because self-love comes from the core of who we are, it can’t be taken away, however much life and its disasters have thrown us off balance. Unlike outward confidence, self-love is not conditional. We are programmed to love ourselves; we just sometimes lose the connection to it because of what’s happening in our lives. That connection is just waiting to be uncovered and embraced, and below, I will show you ways to do this. You might be angry, sad, overthinking, stuck or desperate for love. But healing comes when you begin to look within and recognise that you are enough.
But I’m lonely…
Of course you are. Wanting someone to love is painful and choosing self-love does not instantly erase grief. But if you think you would rather have the love of somebody else over true self-love, think twice. Embracing love from another person, before you truly understand what it means to love yourself, might feel good on the surface (and may even sustain you for a reasonably long time) but underneath it will always be filling a void.
Choosing self-love first doesn’t mean that you want to stay single or that you don’t need to be connected to and loved by someone else. But it does mean that when the right person comes along, your relationship will formed be on a completely different foundation. When you become tuned in to yourself and your needs, you will embrace someone else’s love because you want to and because it feels amazing, not because you need it in order to be fulfilled.
How do I love myself?
The good news is that the deeper part of you already does! It’s more a matter of connecting to the innate sense of self which we all have at our core. Most of the time life situations, our beliefs and old fears keep us disconnected from knowing that we already have what we need to be happy. If we are not used to this concept, it can feel alien, uncomfortable and untrue. We will resist it or feel sceptical of it – that’s normal! After all, we’ve been programmed throughout life to believe that romantic love is the ideal love; the one which will solve our problems and make us happy and fulfilled.
I always think is best to start where you are. If you don’t feel you can “love yourself” right now, start with simply accepting yourself. Think about the things that you like about yourself, then acknowledge and appreciate them. You will notice your self-criticism rearing it’s head at this point, reminding you of all the “bad” stuff about you and your situation. Recognise and accept those things too. Self-love is about loving all of you, even the bits you don’t like.
Another way to deepen self-acceptance is to identify and acknowledge your needs. When a relationship ends, we often look back and see the times we compromised our needs, held ourselves back to keep the peace, or acted in ways that didn’t best serve us because we believed it was for the good of the relationship. Now is the opportunity to look at those things you wanted and needed, and recognise that you weren’t wrong for wanting them. Explore where you can meet those needs yourself; you don’t need permission to be who you are.
Want to go deeper?
You can encourage a deeper connection to self-love in many therapeutic ways too. Mindfulness meditation, forgiveness exercises, practising gratitude, journaling, counselling or group therapy are a few; choose what works for you. Remember, loving yourself is not about finding something that is “missing” but removing the layers of self-doubt and painful beliefs which are preventing you from moving on. It takes some work and a willingness to see yourself differently, but the results are so worthwhile; true self-love will change how you feel about your divorce.
I would love for you to write yourself a love letter. You know all of those things you would like to hear from another person? Write them to yourself. If it feels good, go out and buy a Valentine’s card, write your letter in it and post it through your own door. Be thoughtful in both the stationery and the words you use – if you wouldn’t send it to someone else, then don’t send it to yourself.
- Find some quiet time in a place you won’t be disturbed
- Close your eyes (if it helps) and feel into a sense of kindness and appreciation for yourself
- Just start writing! What do you want to say to yourself? What do yo need to hear?
I know from client work and my own experience that writing to yourself in this way can be powerful and healing. You might find the exercise makes you feel connected and happy, or you might find it uncomfortable or even a little painful. Don’t worry – we are not used to communicating with ourselves in this way, so just notice what comes up and allow it. Don’t overthink it and don’t judge yourself.
I really want you to enjoy receiving a love letter on a day when you would not have expected to get one. Let it be a reminder that there is always a person in your life who is the foundation for your happiness. It’s not your ex-partner or your next partner. It’s you.
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