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A Therapist's Advice for Valentine's Day... Prioritize Yourself!

Relationships, Personal Growth, Boundaries
6 min read

With the hype of Valentine’s day approaching, it is easy to get swept away in the allure and charm of love and your relationship (or lack thereof)…but what about your most important life partner? That’s right, I’m talking about the relationship you have with the person looking back at you in the mirror every morning…  you. 

YOU are the only person who is constantly with you, knows all your experiences, and truly understands your thoughts and feelings. When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate you? Between family time during the holidays and making plans for Valentine’s Day, it is easy to put yourself on the back burner. However, this is the perfect time of year to turn the spotlight back to yourself.

It may feel “selfish” to focus on yourself, but I would argue, acts of self-love allow us to give more freely to others. When you take the time to care for yourself, not only can you ensure your needs are met, but you can also show up more fully in your relationships. There is a reason airline safety videos tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else put on theirs’.  In the same way, when you push yourself to be there for your partner, without first being there for yourself you may feel resentful, overwhelmed, or confused about what you need. Making space to attend to yourself while in a relationship, allows you to act with integrity and be present with your partner. If you’re not currently in a relationship, this same logic applies to friendships and family. 

It is important to make time to connect with yourself at all stages of life, but it is especially important to be intentional about loving yourself when you are in partnership. Why? Because when we are in a relationship, our focus naturally shifts to that person. It is easy to begin looking to that person to meet all of our needs and visions of love. 

Yet, love starts from within.

Let’s start with what is self-love… (hint, it is not all spa days and yoga classes…although it certainly can be those too). Self- love is really about investing in and appreciating yourself. It can be treating yourself to something you enjoy, but it is so much deeper than that. Self-love is showing up for yourself and treating yourself the way you want others to treat you.

If you are not sure where to get started…here are some ideas: 

Start with the basics – Are you taking care of yourself? Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating in a way that is nourishing your body? Are you getting enough sleep? Although these are not the glamorized activities we think of when we think of self-love or self-care, they are just as important. Making (or buying) yourself a nutritious meal is absolutely an act of self-love!

Meet your needs – Take a few minutes to check in with yourself. Tune into your body, what does it need right now? Often when we ignore what our body is telling us, it gets louder (e.g. that mild headache that turned into a migraine). Think of one small action you can take to honor this need. For example, if you are feeling tired give yourself permission to take a brief nap or to have a day to rest. Try not to judge whatever comes up. 

Track your accomplishments – Seriously…do this!! I don’t know you, but I bet you have done some amazing things! We tend to forget about these things when faced with our daily challenges. Making this list not only allows you to celebrate yourself, but it also gives you something to look back on when you are having a bad day. Keep a note in your phone so you can add to it. 

Honor your boundaries – Start with awareness. How have you been feeling? If you notice feelings of resentment, bitterness, or anger this is a good indicator that you might need to set a boundary. Reflect on what feels off. Journaling is a great way to get clarity on your boundaries. Once you’ve decided on your boundary, think about how you will implement it and any potential barriers.

Date yourself – Just because you are in a relationship, doesn’t mean you have to wait for your partner to go on a date. Spend time enjoying that person you see in the mirror. Take yourself out to a movie or a museum. Buy yourself flowers. Set up a spa night at home with a face mask, bath, and a good book. 

Some other ideas – Think back to what kinds of activities you used to enjoy as a kid. Is there a way you can do that now? Treat yourself to that sweater you’ve had your eye on. Go for a walk. 

Whatever you decide to try, remember to be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can. Cultivating more love towards yourself, will translate towards having more love to share in your relationships. The amazing thing about being human is our ability to adapt and change. (Just look at how much has changed since the pandemic began.) Change happens when we consistently practice a new behavior, not doing it perfectly once. If you are feeling stuck or are having difficulty setting boundaries it might be helpful to speak with a therapist.



About the author: Rachel Potter is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York State. She owns a private practice which specializes in helping individuals coping with chronic stress, including chronic illness and burnout, to get “unstuck.”

Follow Rachel on Instagram @rachel_strivebcw

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