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The cycle of love.

For many people, Valentine’s Day can be a pretty stressful day.

If you happen to be coupled, the social pressure of acknowledging your love for each other can easily become filled with expectations and disappointments. And if you happen to be single, Valentine’s Day can be a loud reminder of your loneliness.

Either way, it seems to me that for a day that’s supposed to be all about celebrating love, the people who get the most value out of the day are florists, chocolatiers, and greeting card makers.

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t become a day we dread. It shouldn’t be a day filled with pressure, anxiety and depression. Remember, it’s about celebrating LOVE. Love in all its forms.

Our world is in trouble. And not from all the bad things we hear on the news these days. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18% of the population suffer from depression related illnesses every year. We are in trouble because so many of us feel lonely and depressed and we aren’t willing to admit it or talk openly about it.

For some people, depression is a result of a chemical imbalance, and thankfully, there are drugs available to treat that, but for the rest of us who walk through life feeling unfulfilled, disconnected or depressed, drugs aren’t the answer.

The answer is Love.

Only love can cure loneliness and depression. But the problem is that we seek to receive love from outside of ourselves and become dependent on people, places and things to experience love.

We seek more “likes”, we crave attention, we say yes when we mean no, we people please, all for the sake of feeling love.

But that’s not real love. That’s a temporary fleeting illusion of love that leaves us empty and hollow.

To bring more love into your life the first step is to examine how loving are you with yourself? What is your relationship with you like? If your life is filled with worry, anxiety, self-doubt or lack of self-confidence, chances are that you are not doing such a great job in loving yourself.

People who truly love themselves are naturally confident. And not in a cocky, narcissistic way. They possess the kind of confidence that generates a strong belief in self and that results in access to courage and creativity.

The more you love yourself, the more you will believe in yourself. And the more you love yourself, the less you will listen to your fears.

Someone once told me that fear is a terrible consultant. So why do we keep listening to fear? Why is it so hard for us to stop believing our fears and simply trust love?

That’s because trusting love requires courage and faith. Fear doesn’t. Fear, when unchecked, feeds on itself and grows like an uncontrolled virus. Fear keeps us small and stuck in our wishes and hopes. Fear, when in charge, feeds our anxieties and depressions and worst of all, it drowns out love.

I’d like to suggest that this Valentine’s Day, you begin to bring some attention to the way you love yourself. Stop waiting for love to come from other people. No one is going to love you if you don’t love yourself.

I know that loving ourselves is much easier said than done. But it’s so worth it because when we love ourselves we kickstart the cycle of love.

The cycle of love, if you're wondering, is the idea that once we love ourselves, we are then capable of being loved, and then are capable of loving others, which makes us love ourselves even more.

But something else happens that is a beautiful side effect. Things in our life begin to flow better. Our value of ourselves increases to the point of influencing the choices we make in our personal and professional lives. We begin to attract the kind of people who value who we are and what we do.

When we love ourselves, we value ourselves, and when we value ourselves, we make different choices in every area of our life. We don’t compromise who we are and are able to say no without fear.

So, how is it done? How do you bring more love into your life? You practice. Because if you want to be good at anything, you must practice. And this Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to start.

One of my favorite self-love practices is taking myself on artist dates. The Artist Date, according to Julia Camron’s Artist Way book, is the idea of making time for yourself, once a week, on your own, to do something 'enchanting'. To play, have fun, or do something that nourishes you.

I take myself to the theatre (you’ll always get a great seat buying one ticket!), or a movie matinee, or a museum visit, or a used bookstore where I can spend hours looking for old books I can cut up and use in my collages. Get the idea?

Your first Artist Date may have all the awkwardness of a first date. But don’t give up. Give this process a chance. Go on at least four consecutive weekly dates and notice what happens. You may find that you are starting to feel more fired up about your life, more interested in new things and feeling more inspired and creative overall.

My wish for you is that you fall madly in love with YOU so that you may experience love in everything you do.

May this Valentine’s Day be the day you kickstart a new cycle of love. And may this day be a new step towards bringing more love into your life.  

"Love Yourself" art by Lim Heng 

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