In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to discuss the greatest love of your life. Self-Love is a lost art. Self-love is fundamental and monumental to our well being. I use to think I loved myself because I had self-worth and self-confidence, and I believed I valued my mind and body. I came to realize, however, that self-love is very different from having a healthy respect for your own worth and abilities. I grew up with parents who instilled self-worth and confidence in me. I grew up really believing I could be anyone I wanted to be. That is a gift my parents gave to me and a gift I hope I gave to my sons.

But as we grow and begin to make meaning of the world around us, our shadows and doubts about ourselves develop. We are meaning making machines, and our young minds aren’t emotionally mature enough to understand everything around us, so we give events and situations meanings about ourselves and the world around us. We come to believe that parts of ourselves are wrong, and we begin to compare ourselves to everyone around us. We hide the parts we don’t like, and we hide the qualities our parents or others told us were wrong. We learn to judge our abilities, our bodies, our minds as inferior. We compare our accomplishments to others. Little by little our innate love for ourselves diminishes. We don’t see it happening. We begin to punish ourselves and develop ways to hide those aspects we don’t want the world to see. We stop putting our needs first, and we stop giving ourselves the nurturing we need. We go out in to the world and try to find someone to love us, even when we don’t really love ourselves. We attract people in to our world that mirror our deepest beliefs about ourselves, beliefs we thought were well concealed. Then we wonder why they don’t love us the way we need or want them to.

So I have come up with a game plan to ensure we fall back in love with ourselves. In the Jewish religion Chai stands for life. It is the 18th letter in the alphabet. I bring you eighteen stepping stones for life and self-love.

1) Love and accept yourself exactly as you are. Love your dark and your light shadows. Accept the good and the bad. For us to be whole, we need to accept this truth: every quality in anyone is also in us. I invite you to find out what your shadows are and make peace with them by bringing them into the light (from your subconscious to your conscious).

2) See your vision for your future. You need a vision and a game plan to get there. One action step at a time. Always choose in alignment with your vision. There is a great sense of self-love when you stay in integrity and alignment with where your heart wants to go.

3) Keep your word. The surest and fastest route to self-love is to honor your word. When you and the Universe know that your word is gold, you can’t help but love yourself. This takes work and commitment. Don’t make commitments you won’t keep. Don’t hide behind a mask so people can’t see the real you with all your flaws and all your glory.

4) Reverse each critical thing you tell yourself with two positives about you. I read in one of Debbie Fords book that we aren’t responsible for our first thought, but we are responsible for the second. Thinking something negative about ourselves is our default mode. What we think after that first thought is our choice. Choose love.

5) Take responsibility. We are not destined to be victims. Being a victim keeps us stuck. It denies us the future we want. At best, we are the co-creators of our lives.

6) Forgive yourself. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Whether we are forgiving ourselves or someone else, this is a gift for us. We can’t be free with blame weighing us down.

7) Give to others as much as you receive. It is just as important to be able to receive from others, as it is to give to others. Stay balanced. Set and maintain healthy boundaries for yourself.

8) Have a love affair with yourself. Spend the day treating yourself well. Take yourself out, pamper yourself, and buy yourself a gift. Self-care is critical. Tell yourself you love yourself.

9) Surround yourself with positive people. Nothing will take you down faster than being around negative people. Find friends that lift you up and don’t pull you down.

10) Honor your precious, treasured self. Thank your body for all it allows you to do. Stop beating yourself up for the parts you wish were different. Concentrate on the parts that help you live the life you are living.

11) Celebrate your victories. Be proud of your accomplishments. Honor your light qualities, don’t just work on owning your dark qualities. We were taught not to toot our own horns, but I say toot away!

12) Help others. There aren’t many things that will make you feel better about yourself than doing for others without any thought of payback.

13) Honor who you are becoming. Have compassion for yourself and your journey. Accept exactly where you are and know that the Universe will bring everything you need exactly when you need it. We can’t see the big picture. Every small step is a step in the right direction.

14) Stay in integrity. Every choice, word, and decision you make should always be in integrity with where you want to go and who you want to be. It isn’t always easy, but it is the most fundamental way to love and honor yourself.

15) Stay in the present moment. Today is your day. Don’t waste it with regrets of the past or wishes for the future.

16) Stay in your own business. When you are in other people’s business you welcome in pain. Stay in your own. Don’t worry or compare your life to others.

17) Challenge yourself physically and mentally. Step outside your comfort zone. Grow. Let your light shine and be as big as the Universe wants you to be.

18) Treat yourself with kindness. At the end of the day, you are all you have!

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to see and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -Rumi

If you would like help uncovering your shadows, please contact me for a free interview coaching session here.