Valentine's Day just passed and love is in the air.
Not for everyone, unfortunately.
As a therapist, I'm often needed when love is no longer in the air. A heart has been broken, and love has turned cruel. Or the pain of loneliness has become unbearable. Only occasionally do people seek therapy when love is blooming like the daffodils.
But take heart. Like the words in so many songs, love is indeed the answer; it always has been, and always will be. It's the question that needs examining, that question being, "who do you love"?
Love Yourself First
People often give their love to another before they've ever truly explored what it means to love themselves, and this can be a setup for problems in the relationship. Why? Because until you truly deem yourself worthy of love, you may sabotage the love of another, finding it difficult to trust.
It's like building a mansion on quicksand. It may be beautiful at first, but after a short time, it will likely disappear. To experience a sustained, loving relationship with another, you must have a sustained, loving relationship with yourself to receive love with an open and undefended heart.
I am not talking about narcissism, which is an ego-inflated sense of self-importance. I'm referring to a healthy and loving understanding of self and truly knowing that your value is at least that of others. All of us have equal value.
Believe it or not, many people struggle with this. For some, it's due to leftover childhood shame or negative messages that program us into thinking something is wrong with us or that we're not worthy of love. Again, if we didn't get it as children, it's hard to trust when it tries to come into our adult life.
Love is a Verb
Love is about action. Love is about caring behaviors. Many people believe love is a feeling, and it certainly can be. Still, that feeling is ultimately the result of how we demonstrate our love in both giving and receiving.
To expect the feeling of love without actively nurturing it through everyday actions is like expecting fruit from a non-existent tree. If we want to grow the fruit of love, we must first take the action steps of planting and nurturing the tree. Then we can expect the fruit or the feeling of love to blossom.
Tips to Grow the Love Tree
- Find ways to express your love, and don't be confused by advertising messages.
- Spending money to show your love is unnecessary.
- Showing love through your language, thoughtful, caring behaviors, and realistic expectations.
- Replacing demands with requests and appreciations allow the flow of love.
- Refrain from language that criticizes, condemns, disparages, and shames. It will create misery, not love. Instead, reframe into expressions of desire, encouragement, and gratitude.
- Try seeing mistakes as opportunities for redemption and forgiveness rather than punishment.
- Try seeing yourself as a human being who, like everyone else, is searching and worthy.
- Practice random acts of kindness toward yourself, as well as toward strangers.
This is the way we should all be treated, and no one, not even you — should be an exception. Because, like being in love, it sets you up for inner peace, success, and joy in life. Who doesn't want that?
When you have love and peace toward yourself, you're much more likely to attract and maintain genuine love with another person.
So this Valentine's Day, may I suggest that you give yourself the gift of love. Begin by looking in the mirror and seeing the person who most deserves it. And love that person with your whole heart and your actions. Love is, after all, the answer.