With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is in the air (and on the brain and in the heart). But it’s not just a good time to show that special someone how much he or she means, it’s also an important time to invest in self-love. Whether it’s actually learning to accept one’s self or remembering to put one’s self first in the care department, self-love maximizes one’s capacity to love those around him or her and has a dramatic effect on all of an individual’s relationships.
What ‘Does It Mean to Love Yourself?
The common idea of self-love is actually closely related to self-esteem and the idea that an individual who has positive beliefs toward him or herself and values self as a person is more capable of successful, healthy relationships. While self-esteem is a part of loving one’s self, there is more to it than that. In fact, recent research has found that a different form of self-love, known as self-compassion, is actually more indicative of one’s state of being and capacity toward both romantic and non-romantic relationships.
This form of self-love is largely associated with viewing one’s self with appreciation and acceptance – regardless of any perceived flaws. Self-compassion is also based on recognizing one’s self and not focusing too heavily on negative feelings or emotions. Individuals with strong self-compassion are able to recognize that many others have been in a similar station as they are and tend to develop feelings of happiness, optimism, and life satisfaction even while they may be in a difficult season.
How Does Self-Love Affect Relationships?
The intrinsic quality of self-love is that of being able to recognize one’s connections to other people, so it undoubtedly has positive benefits for any relationship. Not only are individuals with a higher capacity for self-love typically in more successful relationships, a recent study found that these individuals are also:
• More caring
• More supportive
• Less aggressive
• Less controlling
Not only that, but individuals who possess higher levels of self-compassion are better able to resolve conflict, experience more authenticity in their relationships, and enjoy greater levels of relational well-being. So the evidence supports the widely held belief that an individual must learn to love him or herself to love others, but it goes beyond just having high self-esteem.
How Do You Learn to Love Yourself?
Individuals who want to improve their relational capacity should invest in learning this trait of self-compassion, which goes beyond just feeling good about one’s self. And while it’s no easy task, it can be done. For starters, an individual can learn to recognize and appreciate the person he or she is. Seeing one’s self – flaws and all – and accepting that person without judgment is liberating. Beyond this, an individual should attempt to focus on his or her positive qualities and really learn to use the skills and talents he or she has. Doing each of these with some regularity serves as the initial step toward self-compassion and paves the way for further development.
Learning to love one’s self unconditionally is no simple feat and requires specific, intentional work. But with the right mindset and help along the way, anyone can learn to practice self-love and benefit both individually and relationally from doing so – for Valentine’s Day and the rest of the year, too.