It’s hard to ignore that February is the month for love. Flowers, chocolates and romantic gifts are all around us — in stores, on signs and in ads. But what if you’re single, divorced or widowed with no partner to shower you with gifts? No need to feel alone and unloved. I’ve found the solution: self-love.
I’ve been single for several years now, and I’m more than okay with that. I did the math and figured out that I’ve been paired up 87 percent of my adult life, so a bit of time off isn’t the end of the world. This time alone has given me the chance to know myself better and love who I have become. The reinvention has been worth the struggle. The only relationship we’ll have throughout our entire lifetime is with ourselves, and we owe it ourselves to make that relationship a great one.
Sometimes the most challenging thing about being single is feeling like no one has your back. Without a partner to have as a sounding board to discuss what you are thinking and working on, help make big decisions, or give you a reality check, you can feel like you’re in it alone. However, you’ll find people in your life are ready to help if you will just reach out.
It isn’t easy to learn to love ourselves, with all our flaws. These are some strategies that have helped me:
Follow the “Joy Suck” rule
For many years, I’ve tried to live by the rule that if something is sucking the joy out of my life, it’s got to go. This gets especially hard when it’s someone you love. Prioritizing our love for ourselves before anything else makes the action we need to take obvious. Life is too short to be miserable, and if something is sucking the joy out of our life, you can change it. Prioritizing our love for ourselves before anything else makes the action we need to take obvious. Life is too short to be miserable, and if something is sucking the joy out of your life, you can change it.
Learn to be uncomfortable
When the worst thing I can imagine happens in my life, it always amazes me that it turns out not to be the worst thing that could happen. It often means I get new coping skills or that something new opens up in the place of what’s gone, or that I get to reinvent myself to make my life even better than it was before. Desperately holding on to the status quo so I didn’t have to feel uncomfortable for a brief time was killing my potential for overall happiness.
Tell yourself ‘I love you’
One day it dawned on me — I tell people I love them all the time, but when was the last time I said that to myself? Since that day, I look myself in the eyes in the mirror at least once a day and tell myself, “I love you.” At first, it was a bit uncomfortable, but the way it has affected my attitude is profound.
Make love songs about you
At one of the saddest times in my life, I was driving down the street when a love song came over the radio. I can’t remember what the song was, but I remember thinking, “This is a love song from me, to me.” Since that time, I have listened to love songs differently. Music is incredibly healing. Songs like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor have been healing anthems in my life more than once, and “Stand” by Sly and Family Stone always gives me strength.
Work on resting happy face
We’ve all heard of “resting bitter face” (maybe under a slightly different name), which is when we tend to look perturbed when we’re just relaxing. I’ve decided to try “resting happy face.” Every time I think about it, I try to slightly turn up the corners of my mouth and smile rather than automatically having a slack expression on my face. I’m amazed at how it makes me feel. Just smiling raises my spirits.
Build your support network
We don’t have to depend on only one poor soul for support. We can spread the love around and choose a whole team of people based on their strengths and needs. Whether we’re single or not, we need to have multiple “Touchstones,” people who bring us comfort and help us feel safe and loved. We need “Sounding Boards,” to discuss ideas with, “Frolickers,” who are just fun to be with, and “Truth Tellers,” who help us face the truth, whether we ask them to or not. If there are gaps in your safety net, it’s time to fix it. There are lots of groups you can join to find your support network.
Give these tips a try. You may grow a new, deeper level of peaceful love and understanding for yourself. Don’t be surprised if these feelings for yourself extend to other people in your life. Realizing a greater love for yourself will help you love others more deeply.
Jill D. Miller is a business consultant who created the Finishing School for Modern Women in 2015.