How to Love Better by Loving Yourself First

By Rob Alvarez

This is the time of the year for most of us to celebrate love. Love permeates our lives to the point where the word becomes overused. We love our family, our pets, our favorite restaurant. We love sushi. We even say we love our mailman for bringing parcels to our door. The one direction our love seems to be least directed is towards ourselves, even though we can’t truly and fully love others if we do not love ourselves first. We pay it no attention, or worse, purposely avoid it thinking of it as a selfish act. After some inward reflection, I’ve decided to work on a few ways to treat myself better, so I can be happier and do a better job of loving my wife, kids, family, and friends. Maybe you can too.

Fight Negative Self-Talk
The first is to reduce and counteract negative self-talk. I know I can’t totally stop beating myself up when I don’t perform to my own, sometimes unrealistic, standards, or feel I’ve made the wrong decision. Instead, I am working on letting it happen, then letting it go. And when that voice, some call the “annoying roommate” returns with, “you are so stupid” and “I can’t believe you did that, said that, didn’t do whatever.” I acknowledge it. Then I consciously silence that inner-voice and refocus to the present. This can be difficult, but after some practice, just like anything else, becomes easier.

Another technique that seems to work for me is building a habit using positive self-talk to counteract the negative self-talk. I convert that “annoying roommate” to a supportive one, using simple words such as “you are good,” “you got this,” or “you are the best.” Whether these words are true or not, they take the place of the negative in our minds and help bring our emotions to a more positive and energizing state. This is similar to self-affirmation practice many have taken to. Whatever you call it, I think it works.

Treat Yourself
I think most would agree that doing something nice for yourself as a treat at the end of a long day or long week is essential to being happy. Just having something fun or exciting to look forward to, I feel, does wonders for my overall level of happiness. It doesn’t even have to be something big. Just being able to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, or a nice run along the trails, time with family and friends, or indulging at a favorite restaurant is a great treat. Even treating yourself to some time to be alone with your thoughts are unwind can be very effective. Our busy schedules are filled with meetings and errands that we don’t have a minute of free time to ourselves.

This is especially important if you are an introvert, because time spent in large social groups is quite energy draining. Introverts need that quiet time alone time to recharge the batteries and clear the mind.

The key is to strike the right balance in frequency and variety of the mini-celebrations , so that each time still feels rewarding. Most times the anticipation of the treat is sweetest part. So try to schedule rewards for yourself far in advance. I’m sure you will deserve it!

Do Something Creative
Creativity is core to us humans and one of many things that separate us from other species on Earth. We have a fundamental need to create. Thus, I’ve recently returned to writing for the simple joy of it. Pushing back the fear of judgement, allowing myself to write this article, and publishing it for the world to read is my treat to myself. We all have our favorite way to express our creativity. Be it drawing, painting, building gadgets, crafts, woodworking does not matter. Don’t get caught up with the results or what others may think. Just go for it. Allowing yourself that creative outlet without judgement is a great way to show yourself some love.

Take Care of the Body
Sometimes we find ourselves too busy taking care of others, our careers, or our things to take care of our own bodies. And we find many excuses to put off exercise and to not eat healthy. I don’t have the time to work out. I don’t have time to cook a proper meal. This is something I’ve been working on for years and still struggle with constantly, especially during the winter. What seems to work for me is committing to a race to run. Signing up for a challenging race and setting a goal to work towards provide that extra motivation to be active and eat a little healthier. Also, finding others to train with helps with accountability. You can’t easily skip a workout scheduled with friends. Whether your thing is running, biking, play basketball, hiking, or swimming, sign up for events and find friends to go along with you. They are great ways to connect with people and keep you committed to taking care of yourself.

Take Care of the Soul
Meditation and mindfulness practice is probably the most important thing I’m doing to treat myself better, because it also helps with all of the above. This is new to me and I’m not very good at it yet, but I can already feel it helping me fight the negative self-talk, be more open and creative, and overall be more healthy and happy. One of the interesting things I learned about meditation that it is not about suppressing emotions, but instead building a healthy relationship with our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is an exercise in bring focus to the present without judgement. This practice is a journey, and one I believe worth taking.

I hope this Valentine’s Day, you will decide to work on giving yourself a little more love. Your friends and family will be better loved for it.

Rob Alvarez

Rob Alvarez

Rob is editor-in-chief of WeRunWithYou. He is also an operations manager at the Chemours Company, and coaches the Newark Charter middle school track and field team. His current interests include exploring leadership, organizational development, and personal well-being.

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