How To Be Your Own Valentine

Single, in a relationship, it’s complicated? Who cares. I say, treat yourself. Valentine’s Day gets a lot of hate — it’s a made up holiday, we should show love every day, blah blah blah.

But, did you know that without self-love and self-esteem, barriers to career advancement are built that you might not even be aware of?

February is also known as the month of love—a time to remember the importance of love and compassion toward others as well as yourself. Negative self-talk can undermine job performance and increase stress, whereas self-compassion—the loving-kindness, supportive treatment toward yourself during job challenges, personal shortcomings and professional setbacks—is a more powerful career advancement tool.

Barriers To Self-Love

Self-criticism builds barriers to career advancement that you might not even be aware of. We’ve been taught that self-love is selfish or narcissistic, and that self-sacrifice is a virtue. If you’re like most career- climbers, you also have an internal voice that beats you up. It gobbles up more mental real estate than the voice that tells you the potential you really have.

During the 1990s, comedians mocked the notion of self-love and self-affirmations with tongue-in-cheek phrases such as, “I’m smart enough” or “I’m good enough.” Al Franken created and performed the fictional character Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live in a mock self-help show called Daily Affirmations. All these years since, these ideas have steered women away from seeking self-love and positive affirmation.

In disavowing self-love, many career professionals find more comfort brutalizing themselves for their missteps and shortcomings. The belief is if we give ourselves too much leeway, it might turn us into slackers, and negative self-treatment is more likely to boost performance and advance our careers.

But nothing could be farther from the truth. Coming down hard on yourself after a misstep is like fighting the fire department when your house is on fire. It just pours salt in your wounds and reduces your chances of rebounding and ultimately success. Substituting loving-kindness for self-judgment motivates you to get back in the saddle.

The Science of Self-Love

Neuroscientists have discovered a direct link between self-compassion, resilience and success. You’re more likely to enjoy well-being and success when you give yourself occasional doses of self-compassion. Studies from the University of Michigan show that self-love and self-affirmations serve as “cognitive expanders,” allowing us to talk to ourselves the way we might speak to someone else so that the judgment voice isn’t the only story we tell ourselves. As a result, self-love provides the fuel that boosts our moods, job performance and achievement.

Studies from the University of Wisconsin show the more self-compassion you have, the greater your emotional arsenal. The researchers discovered that compassion meditation changes the brain, affecting brain regions that make you more empathetic to other people. Positive emotions such as loving-kindness and compassion can be developed in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. The imaging revealed brain circuits that detect emotions were dramatically changed in subjects who had extensive practice in compassion meditation.

Other studies show that the expression of empathy has far-reaching effects in your personal and professional lives. If you cultivate the habit of loving-kindness self-talk, you change the way your brain fires in the moment. Forgiving yourself for previous slip-ups offsets further procrastination.

How To Practice Self-Love

The first step to practice self-love is to be for you—not against you. If not for yourself, then who will be for you? Self-coaching to change your thought patterns is essential, because once you change your thoughts, your feelings change, then your actions change, and the cascade culminates in a real resultschange.  Forgive yourself for shortcomings and see them for what they are: habits, old behavior patterns or just plain mistakes that all of us make.

When you’re more loving toward yourself and accept your limitations with compassion, you deal only with the stressful experience, not the added negative feelings from self-judgment.

Give yourself a thumbs-up every time you finish a project or reach a milestone. Or, better yet, splurge a little on a treat for yourself like some beautiful fine chocolates, a facial, or beautiful skincare products.

You do not need someone to treat you to the finer things in life when you can treat your own self. That chocolate tastes just as good whether your husband bought it for or whether you bought it for yourself, I promise. Better yet, hit those February 15th Valentine’s Day chocolate sales, you know they are calling your name!

While you’re doling out love to others this year,don’t forget to give yourself the gift of self-love on Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!