WELLNESSFEBRUARY 13, 2014

give the gift of self-love this valentine’s day

Valentine’s day can be a rather polarizing holiday: people seem to be divided into two camps – those that live for romantic candlelight dinners, roses, chocolates, and the like – and those that want nothing to do with it. Regardless of which camp you fall into, it’s a celebration of love. It’s a time to shower those we adore with tokens of our affection and let them know we care.

In general, its can be pretty easy to have appreciation and love for those in our lives. Whether it’s for a partner, children, friends, or family, we are pretty good at seeing what makes them special and can articulate our gratitude and joy for their presence in our lives. What a lot of us are not so good at? Feeling love and appreciation for OURSELVES. We’re our own worst critic, and unfortunately, we tend to tear ourselves down, rather than build ourselves up.

As someone who had terrible body image issues for many years, I was always unhappy with the size of my jeans, what I ate for lunch, skipping the gym, and my reflection in the mirror (among many other things). I was a pro and picking myself apart. Luckily, it was around this time that I started regularly attending yoga classes. I was initially drawn to yoga to compliment my strenuous exercise regime and add some stretching to the mix. Little did I know, the mind-body connection that developed through regular practice would forever change my life.

I’ll always remember one particular class when my teacher encouraged the group to breathe and feel into our body. As I lay sprawled on the ground, taking note of my inhales and exhales, she cued for us to be grateful for what our body was able to do. She said that we always complain about our aches and pains, the size of our thighs, sickness, or aging – but we never realize how amazing our bodies are for all that they do. Just being able to walk into class that day was a gift. To move our bodies, to bend, to breathe – were all things worth celebrating. Her statement was so simple and seemingly obvious, but being that I was lost in a thick fog of unhappiness and low self worth – it never dawned on me to appreciate my body – or even have love for such an imperfect thing that was the cause of so much of my misery.

I can’t say that everything got immediately better. But looking back, I credit that transformative yoga class at being a pivotal moment that helped me shift towards experiencing happiness in my body and ultimately having unconditional love for myself. I started to jot down a sentence or two in my journal to recognize something I was grateful for. (Prior to that, I mostly used my journal to complain about everything wrong with my life and myself.) I also started to make it a point to wake up in the morning and give thanks for something as soon as my eyes opened. A lot of times – it was just to be alive, for the sun to be shining, or to be able to feel my breath. And when I’d look in the mirror, I stifled the urge to immediately criticize, and began to replace the negative thought with a positive one. It was a struggle at first, but eventually it became second nature.

For me, I found self-love through healing the hatred I had for my body. Maybe body image issues aren’t your poison. Instead, you blame yourself for a failed relationship or unhappiness with your career. Maybe you hate that you’re single, messy, shy, or poor. Whatever it is that sets that annoying voice in your head on repeat, make a point to break the habit. Find something small that you are grateful for and rewrite the self-loathing script in your head to one that is kind. By doing so, you’ll set off a catalyst to invite joy, peace, and love to be staples in your life.

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