Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but expressing love, mutual appreciation for those special to us shouldn’t be limited to the holiday.
What we often forget is that our own love of ourselves is equally — if not more — important.
“It’s often said that we have to love ourselves first before we can love others,” said Dr. Ashley Zucker, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “However, loving ourselves doesn’t always come naturally. We’re often our own worst critics, and how we treat and view ourselves can sometimes be far worse than how we interact with anyone else.”
According to Dr. Zucker, if you’re being self-critical, it can help to pause and think, ‘What would I say to a friend or someone I cared about in the same situation?’ Why would we say anything different to ourselves?
“Take the time to practice gratitude,” advised Zucker, who also serves as assistant area medical director of Mental Health and Wellness at Kaiser Permanente San Bernardino. “Think of three things you’re grateful for each day before you go to bed. Even better, write them down! It’s so important to try to recognize that you don’t have to be perfect as we all make mistakes.”
Zucker noted that self-love is about giving yourself grace when you make mistakes.
“Acknowledge what you could have done differently and reflect on doing better the next time the same or similar situation comes around,” she said. “Take the time to eat well and move every day, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat perfectly or do intense exercise. Focus on including fruits and vegetables in your diet and try going for a short walk each day. Small bouts of movement can be just as effective for your physical and emotional health.”
Zucker noted it’s important for parents to remember that their children are watching their behavior as they view them as their most important role models. As such, it’s important to model forgiveness for yourself when you make mistakes. That will show children that it’s okay to learn from their mistakes and that no one is perfect.
“If you’re a parent, role modeling self-love can be a very powerful and important life lesson for your children,” she explained. “Be aware of how you talk about yourself in front of your kids. If you talk poorly about yourself or your body, they’ll start to think the same about themselves.”