February is associated with the all-too-commercial Valentine's Day meant to celebrate the union of two people. Perhaps we should remember that love has to come from the inside out. In order to really love another, there has to be self-love first. I find that to be true in intimate relationships and also in professional ones. We strive to do a job that we love, like and be liked by the people we work with, appreciated and valued for our endeavours and contributions. These are all born out of love - albeit a different kind to the intimate one between two people.
Self-love is a powerful skill to acquire and develop.
It's not born out of external factors
Consider the work place. People can give the best of themselves, work hard and get a sense of satisfaction from their job and really thrive. A good appraisal, a bonus or a promotion can contribute to feelings of being valued and appreciated. These are all positive feelings that stem from external factors. Other workplaces foster feelings of not being good enough, of being a failure or an imposter. These could be due to a toxic atmosphere amongst colleagues or a boss ruling through fear. In this scenario, the external world is anything but caring and loving.
In both cases what makes the difference is our perception. If we approach either case with self-love, knowing our own worth and having enough self-respect, we don't have to rely on external factors such as promotions to feel good about ourselves or get crushed by the words and deeds of those who sap our energy and reflect their own short-comings onto us.
So how do we create a feeling of self-love from within?
Self-love begins when we observe our actions and words with compassion as if we were our own best friend. Gently, encouragingly, we look inwards without giving too much power to the ego. We wouldn't tell our best friend that they are stupid and it's all their fault! We would invite them to recognise their mistakes - if any - right the wrong, forgive themselves and move on. We would help them to develop themselves; be the best version of themselves. If we are a truly good friend, we would hold up a mirror so they can see their true self, not a hyper/ hypo-inflated image. In this way, acting as our own best friend and being present for ourself is the most powerful gift. After all, don't we deserve to be supported, treated with respect, valued and loved?
Nourishing internal love
Some people have their own weather system and come what may, the sun is always shining from within them. They will always have a positive approach to life's problems. They see challenges as opportunities for growth and they like to contribute to people around them, not constantly playing a game of one-upmanship. This does not mean they cannot be competitive in the work place. It simply means they create the optimum conditions for themselves to win and when they lose, they are magnanimous in defeat. They set healthy boundaries in order to protect themselves from toxic relationships. These people will continuously nourish their self-love by creating a positive mindset, constantly seek to develop their skills and strengths, set clear limits and protect or remove themselves from danger. Perhaps most importantly, they don't take anything personally!
But not everyone is gifted in this way. The rest of us have to work on this as diligently as we do at being the best colleague, partner, parent.
If others feel the need to exert power over us, put us down in order to big themselves up or just use us as punching bags, we need to act out of self-love however that may show up. Many of us suffer from feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough because of what someone did or say - usually starting at some distant point in our childhood. Somehow, we plough through life and manage to survive. However, in order to really thrive we need to be powered by self-love - every day of the year.