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Valentine’s Is More than Romance

February is the month of love, but Valentine's Day can be about far more than Romance and flowers. You can turn it into a celebration of every type of love- family and friends as well. To fully appreciate and contribute to any of these relationships, you need to create and nurture a love for self.

Love of Others, Love of Self

It’s everywhere you look these days- Hearts, flowers, candy. Valentines Day- you either love it or hate it. And for those without a partner to share it with, it can be a difficult day filled with loneliness and heartache.

February is the month of love, and for me, being newly single and still healing from the emotional trauma that dissolved the marriage I’d sunk my entire heart into, I’ve had to re-evaluate what “love” really means. And you know what I’ve learned? Love is about more than the partner you’ve promised a commitment to. It’s way more than romance and flowers. (Though I do love both!)

Love is about every relationship in your life- not just romantic, but family and friends as well. And it’s my belief that to fully appreciate and contribute to any of these relationships, you need to create and nurture a love for self.

Love for Others

Love is a funny thing. It’s infinite, yet finite. Limited, but limitless. You can expand your circle of love to many, but it can’t be hoarded or held onto. If it’s not used or given away, it dies.

Love grows and strengthens with use. The more you give to and share with others, the more you’ll have. It multiplies to fit the need of those around you. Whatever you’re willing to give away, you’ll always have enough.

Valentine’s Isn’t Only Romantic

Valentine’s Day has never just been about a partner for me. Ever since I was very little, I’d wake up on February 14th to a thoughtful card and a handful of sugary treats from my mom. The day has been filled with hugs, notes, and treats from grandparents, siblings, and extended family. I realize I’ve been blessed far more than most, for which I am intensely grateful.

How To Spread Love to Everyone in your Life

Whether or not you’ve had an upbringing like mine, you can still choose to spread love to those in your own inner circle. Need some ideas of how to do this?

  1. Send Out Valentines: My siblings and I grew up making homemade Valentines for our family and friends. Complete with construction paper, stickers and those white paper doilies. You know the kind… Now I’m not a particular crafty-type of person, but as a kid I always enjoyed spending a little time making something special for the people I cared about. Long before “romance” was a thing for me, I learned how good it felt to share my love with those important people in my life. (But if you’d rather not craft your valentines, there’s really nothing wrong with buying them a nice card!)
  2. Write a Nice Letter: Perhaps instead of (or in addition to) making or purchasing valentines, you can pick a couple especially influential close family members/friends and write them a note telling them how grateful you are for them and what they add to your life.
  3. Give Service: Stepping outside your own life and doing something nice for someone else can be a huge boon to your spirits. Seeing how your efforts lighten the lives of someone you care about (or even your community) is a fantastic way to share love.

Love for Self

But love for others isn’t the only love you need in your life. If you give and give without ever refilling your tank, eventually you’ll run out- you’ll have nothing left to share.

Instead, you need to work on giving yourself some love as well.

Increasing your love of self will increase the love that comes to you from others.

What is Self-Love?

Self love seems to have a bad rap these days. People often confuse it with narcissism or self-absorption. Quite the contrary though, self-compassion is about honoring your intrinsic value. It’s not about putting others down, but about seeing the best in yourself, despite your faults and weaknesses. You don’t love yourself at the expense of others, but in addition to others.

Nurturing healthy self-love will spill out into every aspect of your life. You’ll find yourself filled with self-confidence and optimism. You’ll be more willing try new things (and often find success in them), have more positive interactions with others, overcome setbacks quicker, and learn from the failures that would leave others frustrated and upset.

Think for a moment about how you rate within these qualities? Is there room for improvement?

The more time you spend caring for your emotional well-being (within reason, of course), the happier and more positive about life you’ll become.

How To Make Valentine’s Day a Day For You

So what can you do this February 14th to give yourself a little love? How can you use the holiday to grow into a stronger, more self-aware individual?

  1. Journal your relationship history. Make a list of your past partners. What fond memories do you have? What lessons did you learn along the way? How have you grown as a result from that person being in your life? You can pick just a couple to journal about, or you can go all the way back to Jr. High School- it’s up to you. But try to focus on the positive, rather than allowing you to wallow in the fact that it didn’t work out. Remember that mistakes are only worthless if we refuse to learn from them. How can you embrace your past and work toward a brighter future?
  2. What kind of person are you looking for?
    • Make a list of the positive attributes you’d like to see in your next partner. What are your deal-breakers? How about your “nice-to-haves?” Think of people you admire. What qualities do they possess? Why do you consider them a “good person?”
    • List the qualities you know you’d like to avoid in the future. Perhaps these are things you’ve learned you can’t live with, or things that harm your emotional or mental well-being.
  3. How can you improve? Take inventory. How many of the qualities above (positive or negative) do you possess? It’s my belief that it’s unrealistic for us to expect things of our partners that we do not provide ourselves. If it’s a gender-specific circumstance, what’s your gender-equivalent? Make a plan to improve yourself in the areas you’re looking for in a partner. Prepare now to be the best partner you can be.
  4. List your blessings. It’s easy to dwell on the things you don’t have in life, but this only drags us down. Spend some time during this wonderful celebration of all-types of love to be grateful for the blessings in your life. Today, let the focus be on the people that have added to it, the lessons they’ve taught you and ways they’ve helped you grow. Focusing on gratitude keeps us optimistic, happy and hopeful.

Parting Thoughts

I hope you can see the strong correlation between giving love to others and to self. By working to improve both, you end up increasing your overall life positivity, happiness and joy of life.

For me, February is about far more than candy hearts and being in a relationship. It’s a chance for me to celebrate all the love that surrounds me, including the love I have for myself. Even though I’ve recently gone through a painful divorce leaving me single for Valentine’s day for the first time in years, there’s still so much good. Focusing on that keeps me aware of more than the painful reminders of what I’ve lost- I begin to see all the positive and wonderful things that are all around me as well. Nurturing a healthy relationship with my own emotional well-being encourages me to be grateful for everything I’ve been blessed with and hopeful for what comes next.

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful romance-filled day, or a day of incredible loneliness. Whiter or not you have a partner to celebrate with, you get to choose if you’ll spend it with happiness and optimism or frustration and sadness. Neither choice is predicated on who you’re with.

How do you decide to live?

Are You Holding Yourself Back?

Stop allowing your self-limiting beliefs to become your safety net. They’re not actually protecting you- they’re only holding you back.

I have this goal- I’ve had it for several years actually.

Well let me start off with a story.

In my story there’s this girl- let’s call her Jane. Jane loves to learn, but lately she’s been feeling a bit out of touch with the world. She hasn’t been challenging herself to think critically and deeply like she used to. She’s become rather apathetic and stagnant in her own progression and learning. She feels stuck.

To remedy this, Jane has made a goal that she’d like to resurrect a past love of hers. No, I’m not talking about the supernatural- but there is a deep passion of hers that has been pushed away, forgotten. She misses it.

Jane used to love to read. Years past, every spare moment she had was spent with a book in hand. But she hasn’t made time for it in a really long time. Life has gotten in the way. She always had more “pressing” matters to attend to. Technology took the place of her books, and the spare hours she used to relish inside the pages of a book were slowly replaced with distractions like Facebook and Netflix.

In working to “return to her roots”, Jane has set an ambitious goal to read 50 books within a year. One every week- with a little breathing room. She is anxious to feel the joy and excitement that was once commonplace from finishing a good book, and is excited to get started.

But as the days pass, she starts to fall behind. Life is busy. There are always things that need to get done. She’s not dedicating time from her busy schedule like she thought she would. Thoughts begin to fill her mind- ugly thoughts. Thoughts like “I can’t do this. Who am I to think I can actually read an entire book a week? I don’t have the dedication or willpower to do this. I’m not good enough for a goal like this. I’m just a lazy person, and there’s no way I can give my my dependence on my after-work Netflix binge time.”

What do you think happens next? Jane gives up. She throws in the towel, convinced that she’ll never even get close to achieving her goal, and returns to her struggling, apathetic self. She decides that change is too hard, and she’s just not “good enough” to be up to the task.

Can you identify with any part of this story? Maybe it seems a bit extreme, please think about the underlying concepts here.

Jane made an excellent goal. It was specific, measurable, and was deeply rooted in her life passions and priorities. It allowed herself room to grow within the dynamic person she is. It was ambitious, yet reachable.

So where did she go wrong?

When things got difficult, and I promise they always will, Jane gave up. Rather than pushing through the doubts within her mind and trying to find a way to make it work, she listened to that evil voice on her shoulder- the one that gets joy from seeing her fail. When she heard those nasty thoughts in her mind, rather than pushing them away and forging ahead, she gave up and gave in.

Have you ever been guilty of this?

Let me let you in on a secret. (One which you may have already guessed.) Jane is me. For the past three years, I’ve made this same goal, and each time I give into those thoughts that stop me dead in my tracks, giving up on the thing I so desperately want to achieve.

This example is not the only one in my life. I listen to those thoughts far more often than I should (which really should be never), and I’ve been paying the price for it every day since. Imagine the things I could have achieved in the past decade alone, had I listened to the person I want to be, rather than the limits I place on myself?

So what can we do? How can we move past those debilitating thoughts to something empowering and productive?

The first thing I think, would be to define them. Recognize the thoughts for what they really are.

They’re just thoughts!

Ever thought about something that turned out not to be true?

Have you ever heard the term Self-Limiting Belief? That’s what those thoughts are. They’re beliefs you hold about yourself that you think to be true, but they hold no purpose on your future other than to limit yourself and tear you down.

I bet you can relate to having thoughts like these from time to time. Perhaps, if you’re like me, they come regularly. You have big goals for your life, but this super-critical inner monologue tears down all the hope and confidence you’ve built.

You have the potential to accomplish so much good. As a human being, you were literally built for greatness. It is my personal (and spiritual) belief that we were each put on earth to accomplish a special mission. But so many of us fail to achieve it.

So what is keeping us from reaching our potential?

Listening to and focusing on these self-limiting thoughts and beliefs hold us back from becoming the person we were meant to be.

How to Recognize Self-Limiting Beliefs

You may not realize it, but you accept self-limiting beliefs far more often than you think.

These beliefs hold you back from achieving your best self. These beliefs come quietly and are often disguised as humility, but they aren’t aligned with who you are working to become. We’ve spent so much time listening to them that they’re ingrained into our personal beliefs of who we actually are. In order to free ourselves from those restrictions, we need to recognize that it takes time to learn how to recognize and overcome them.

Here are some warning signs that the thoughts in your head might really be self-sabotage:

Self-Limiting Beliefs Are Negative

Self-limiting beliefs are always negative. When you start listing all the reasons you won’t succeed instead of focusing on the potential within you, you’re setting limits on who you may become. You’re not exploring your potential- working toward the greatness within you. Instead, you allow yourself to believe in words like: “Who are you to apply for this? Nobody is interested in what you say. You’re not skilled enough for this. Everyone will think you’re just a big joke if you say that.”

Self-Limiting Beliefs Keep you from Growing

Believing the negative is your brain’s way of avoiding doing new things. Subconsciously you begin telling yourself that if you’re going to fail no matter what you try, there’s no use in even taking a step forward. And staying still, where it’s comfortable, is your mind’s way of sticking to the comfort zone where it’s safe. But you can’t grow if you don’t move forward, right?

Self-Limiting Beliefs Are Selfish

Often, self-limiting beliefs leave you stuck within yourself.

When we think things like “There are far more qualified people out there who can serve” and “I don’t have anything new to share”, we are keeping our light within us instead of allowing it to shine out in the world. We keep our thoughts and experiences to ourselves instead of allowing them to help others.

Maybe you don’t know it all. Maybe there are people out there that have similar experiences and talents. But they aren’t you. And you have a unique perspective that someone needs.

By not sharing, you’re being selfish. You may think it’s humility, but you’re robbing the world of the value you have to offer! When you fiercely guard what’s “yours”, not only does this keep you from growing, it keeps you from developing connections with those around you that you see as potentially “hostile” or “dangerous”.

Self-Limiting Beliefs Victimizes Yourself

Do you know those people that think the whole world is out to get them? That everything is wrong in their lives and everyone hates them and the universe is just seemingly plotting against them? I was one of those people for a long time, so I get it. I do.

The problem though, is that sticking to that mindset only bears fruit of the same. Negativity begets negativity. You’re not just going to wake up one day and be positive. That’s not how the brain works.

You have to choose to think positively. You have to push aside the negative thought and focus on the good. Pick one positive thought in your mind. List one thing you’re grateful for. Trust me, it helps!

When you give in to to the internal limits of your mind, you’re allowing yourself to settle into the “victim mindset.”

What does it look like? Pretty much whenever you’re blaming someone else for the choices you make.

Thoughts like: “My parents didn’t have enough money to send me to college, so I couldn’t get an education. I don’t have it as good as everyone else out there.” or “Everyone in my family is overweight- I never had a chance. I’ll be overweight forever and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Do you see the problem here? When you let everyone else take the blame for things you could actually control if you put your mind to it, you’re giving away all your power. You’re saying that you’re incapable of making changes. You’re convincing yourself that you “can’t” do something.

See those limits rearing their ugly little heads?

We all have agency. We all have our own individual choices in life. We can choose to take a step forward or a step back. But rarely are we allowed to stay in one place.

So what do you choose?

Overcoming Self-Limiting Beliefs to Grow

Recognizing self-limiting beliefs does take time. When you find yourself focused on a self-limiting belief, there are some things you can do to improve your mindset and self-confidence. If you regularly utilize proper tools to help you refocus the limiting thoughts, eventually you’ll notice a shift in your mindset that will lead to a more positive and empowering you.

Become Aware

Pause and listen to your thoughts throughout the day. Write them down. Analyze them.

Are they positive or negative?

Positive thoughts empower us to be and do more. They help us to grow, and they tell us we are on the right path towards our goals.

Negative thoughts hold us back. They tell us we can’t do things. That we’re not good enough, that what we want won’t happen.

Which thoughts do you think hold more truth? Which thoughts would you rather fill your mind?

Give Yourself Grace

When you discover a self-limiting beliefs, approach it with kindness and love. Don’t make the problem worse by berating yourself for low-self esteem or lack of confidence. Everyone has these beliefs in varying degrees and intensities.

Follow it up with gentle questions. Approach it as if you were talking to a good friend or loved one. Be kind to yourself. Address the fear, but try to help yourself understand that moving forward is the ultimate goal.

This will sound different for every person, but I like to phrase it something like: “I know this is hard. I know it’s uncomfortable. But remember: this is getting us to where we really want to go! Won’t it be worth it when we get there?”

Use Journaling

I can’t tell you enough how much I love journaling. I’ve always had a journal, but it wasn’t until my most recent life struggle that I really came to terms with how therapeutic and enlightening it can be. I can’t sing enough praises for how essential keeping a journal can be for your mental wellness.

In terms of working through your self-limiting beliefs, journaling can be helpful in getting to the root of your thoughts.

Use self-discovery questions like: “Is this belief an echo of what someone has told me or made me feel at some point?” and “Do I have perspective here? What is the worst that can happen?” These help you get to the root of what’s in your mind, rather than just taking each statement at face-value.

Reframe the Belief

Don’t allow self-limiting beliefs to keep you stuck. Challenge them with positive truths and affirmations that help you move forward.

Let’s say you have this thought that you’re restricted to a certain salary or wage in your career. Turn it around in your mind: “I am only limited by my choices. I do good work and I deserve to be well compensated for it.”

Remember that you are in control of your own choices and actions. At what rate do you want to grow?

Take Responsibility

Own your weaknesses. They’re part of who you are. Being unskilled at something or unaware of certain information doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you uniformed- nothing else. If it’s something important to you, make it a priority to improve. If it’s not aligned to your current goals, let it go and focus on what does matter. It’s that simple! Stop making excuses for yourself of why you “can’t” do this or “can’t” do that.

When I was teaching high school, the word “can’t” was a dirty word in my classroom. I didn’t accept it of my students, because I knew it limited their thoughts of what they could do.

Instead, I asked them what they “could” do. Where could they start?

Maybe it’ll be difficult. Maybe it’ll be uncomfortable. But growth stems from discomfort. Stepping out of our comfort zone is what helps us improve. We can’t improve if we don’t push through the unknown.

So stop allowing your self-limiting beliefs to become your safety net. They’re not actually protecting you- they’re only holding you back.

Let’s move forward, shall we?

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Self: Worth, Esteem, Confidence

Do you see yourself as your loved ones do? Do you have a sense of your innate worth and value? Do you recognize your unique talents and abilities?

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What kind of person looks back at you? Is she loved? Does she have value? Does she see it within herself, or does she wait for others to tell her? Does she believe it when they do?

These are all questions, that if you were to answer honestly, would give you a pretty good picture of how you see yourself. This is called your Self-Image, and it’s the combination of three very important elements of your mental health: Your self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

But why is all this so important?

A healthy and positive perception of ourselves is absolutely critical to a successful life, because it plays not only into a positive mindset, but also mental and physical health. Not to mention how a strong self-image can bolster our resolve for future life difficulties.

So how are you doing on this front? Today we’re going to talk a little about the differences between the three components of self-image, as well as a few things you can do to strengthen yourself in each area. And be sure to take the quiz at the end of this post to see where you stand!

Self-worth

This is perhaps the most simple of the three elements of self-image. It’s essentially just how you see yourself at the core. What you see when you look in the mirror, regardless of any events or life circumstances.

Self-worth centers around the value believe you hold in the world. If you have a strong sense of self-worth, you know you have a purpose, even if you aren’t sure yet of the details. You’re one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable. You’re worthy of people’s time and efforts. You mean something to someone. 

As you can see, these are all elements that other people cannot influence. They’re beliefs you hold for yourself, about yourself.

The good (and bad, I suppose) part to consider here, is that for better or for worse, it’s also the most powerful of the three elements. It also influences them greatly. When you’re strong in this area, you feel as if you’re on top of the world. Unstoppable. Able to accomplish anything. But the opposite is true for the other side: if you feel that you don’t hold worth, you’re much more likely to get yourself in to trouble. To hurt those around you and make choices you normally wouldn’t. When you don’t have a strong sense of self-worth, you might also try to (subconsciously or not) sabotage potential opportunities for success.

Your self-worth is largely built up during your childhood. Growing up, if you had loving parents, supportive teachers and loyal friends, you’re probably blessed with a fair amount of self-worth. People with strong ties to religion are also bolstered in this area. But if your childhood was less than ideal, or you don’t practice a specific religion, you might find yourself struggling to feel your innate worth.

The good news is that no matter what your childhood looked like, self-worth is definitely something that you can build up yourself!

Self-esteem

Though self-worth is very internal (how you view your innnate spirit), your self-esteem can be very dependent on things that occur outside of yourself – like rejection, for example. Yes, you can, of course, control your reaction to every event, but even a small rejection can feel painful and harm the way you look at yourself. Build up enough of these little hurts, and it can drastically change the way we think, and feel, about yourself.

One of the best ways to strengthen your self-esteem is to surround yourself with supportive people who care about you and are concerned with your welfare. People who appreciate your unique talents and skills, and where you have an opportunity to serve and contribute. Everyone likes to be liked and appreciated, and by surrounding yourself with positive people, you’re increasing your circle of support. 

You can also play to your strengths. When you focus on the things you’re good at, you build up your self-esteem by recognizing you have valuable skills that can help contribute to your world. Try not to focus on the things you lack – be grateful for what you have and build on that.

Self-confidence

Self-confidence, on the other hand, deals more with how you feel you appear to others. When your self-confidence is high, you don’t worry about people looking at you badly. You say what you mean and you take action without hesitation. You don’t constantly worry about if so and so thinks you’re dressed wrong or if you’ve said the wrong thing. You’re focus driven and results oriented. You go after what you want, knowing the only thing stopping you, is you.

Believe it or not, there are many people who have a ton of self-confidence, and little or no self-worth or self-esteem. These three terms are not interchangeable in the slightest, but developing and strengthening each will help you live vibrantly and blissfully. So how’s that for a positive life?

How do you rate in these three elements? Take the quiz below to find out your Self-Worth, Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence health-meter!

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