Most psychologists will agree that being loved and being able to love is crucial to our happiness. Sigmund Freud once said, “love and work … work and love. That’s all there is.” But for many, the search for love causes a great deal of frustration and unhappiness. And what about self-love and its significance to our quality of life?

Whether you’re single, happily in a relationship, or in an “it’s complicated” couple, it’s our relationship with ourselves that sets the foundation for all of our other interactions and is the secret to having fulfilling and healthy intimate relationships.

Self-love is not the same as being narcissistic or selfish. Rather, self-love means having a positive regard for our own wellbeing and happiness. When we adopt an attitude of self-love, we have higher levels of self-esteem, we’re less critical and harsh with ourselves when we make mistakes, and we’re able to celebrate our positive qualities AND accept our negative ones.

For the month of February and on Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to celebrate your love for yourself. Below are a few suggestions for making February the month for cultivating self-love:

  1. Learn to be compassionate with yourself For many people, it’s more natural to be compassionate towards friends and family than it is toward themselves. Work on eliminating critical and harsh self-talk. Imagining what you would say to a friend in the same situation should help with developing skills for positive self-talk.
  2. Enjoy time alone Whether it be taking a walk in the park, going out for a nice meal, or seeing a great movie, learning to enjoy your own company and doing activities you enjoy when alone is crucial for cultivating self-love.
  3. Make a list of the characteristics you LIKE about yourself Too often we get caught-up with only thinking about what it is we don’t like about ourselves and what we wish we could change. For most, recognizing and appreciating our positive qualities takes effort and practice. Set aside time every day to read your list.
  4. Celebrate your accomplishments No matter how big or small our successes or accomplishments are, it’s important to feel worthy of celebrating them. Celebrating our accomplishments reinforces our acknowledgement and integration of our positive qualities.
  5. Give yourself permission to say “no” You’re not alone if saying “no” is not in your vocabulary. Too many times we find ourselves jumping right in and saying “yes” to a request without fully thinking it through. Give yourself permission to say no or to take the time to think about your decision before saying yes. Responding with phrases such as “I need to look at my schedule and get back to you” gives you room for reflection before acting.
  6. Be mindful of how and with whom you spend your time The activities we choose to do and the people we choose to share our lives with are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. As often as you can, spend time doing the things you enjoy and being around the people who make you happy.
  7. Allow yourself to ask for help when needed We all need help when life gets challenging and when we feel overwhelmed. Most of life’s challenges can’t be tackled alone. Allowing yourself to seek help from a trusted friend or professional reflects self-love. Asking for help is crucial to taking care of ourselves.

Love yourself note photo available from Shutterstock