How to love yourself this Valentine’s Day

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The question:
“I know my self-esteem is pretty low, and it especially gets bad around Valentine’s Day because I’m the only one of my friends without a boyfriend. Sometimes I feel like a loser and think something must be wrong with me.

There’s a sad irony that a fifth-century holiday designed to honor love has become synonymous with torture for singles. Surely it’s not easy being the only unattached one among your circle of friends when the world is painted hearts and roses. But without knowing your history, I can tell that your problem isn’t with the holiday; it’s with the way you feel about yourself.
All loving relationships begin with loving yourself. Calling yourself a “loser” and wondering what’s “wrong with you” will not help you feel better. It will only make you feel worse.
Studies show that our thoughts affect our feelings. According to cognitive behavioral therapy, thinking of yourself as a “loser” is an example of “labeling,” one of 10 common thinking errors attributed to the causes of depression and anxiety. Thinking errors are distorted ways we’ve been conditioned to interpret what happens to us. Labeling, for example, is defined as making a character judgment about yourself (or another), instead of looking at behaviors that may be contributing to your problems. And because of the way our brains are wired, one negative thought often leads to another — i.e., “I’ll never be loved” — which can spiral to depression.

You can see for yourself how negative thoughts affect your self-esteem. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and pay attention to what it feels like when you tell yourself, “There’s something wrong with me.” Do you feel good, or do you feel sad and ashamed? Whatever your answer, that is the energy you’re putting out.
Now close your eyes and notice the bodily sensations when you silently say to yourself several times, “I am loveable and I accept myself unconditionally.” Even if you don’t fully believe these affirmations yet, you may still notice a subtle shift in your mood.

Ways to feel better
A good cognitive-behavioral therapist can challenge entrenched patterns of distorted thinking. But short of seeing a professional, there are some things you can do to love yourself on Valentine’s Day.

  • Pamper yourself. Buy yourself some flowers or get a pedicure.
  • Write yourself a love letter.
  • Make a gratitude list.
  • Connect with other singles and remember that you’re not alone.

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