You Are Your Most Important Relationship
February 13, 2018
Valentine’s Day—the one day a year where the world/Hallmark demands we have “love on the brain,” as queen Rihanna would say. But think for a second: When was the last time you showed love to yourself? The last time you spoke to yourself with compassion, or maybe adjusted your schedule to better serve your energy, or asked for what you needed?
If it feels tough to think of a time, you’re not alone. As compassionate beings, we’re great at loving other things—our partners, our friends, our family, or job, even our cats—before we love ourselves. We often even take pride in putting ourselves last on our list. But when we do this? It’s like trying to run a marathon in Crocs. Self-love is the foundation we need to support us through everything else—our relationships, our work, our life. It’s a lesson Jacqueline Gould, 26, learned firsthand.
Four years ago, Gould found herself stuck: in a cycle of bad relationships, in an ongoing battle with an eating disorder, and in a struggle to find her true self. “I was just struggling horribly with my self-confidence,” Gould says.
As her wellbeing spiraled, she checked herself into outpatient treatment for her eating disorder. It’s there she had a wake-up call. “I realized nothing was going to happen unless I happened for me.”
In that moment, Gould decided to commit to self-love, and it’s a decision she says changed the course of her life for the better.
“I started taking time for myself, putting myself first, saying ‘no’ and being OK with saying ‘no’, and standing up for myself,” she says. “I started finding what actually made me happy. I was able to look in the mirror and really see myself—and like what I saw.”
“I realized nothing was going to happen unless I happened for me.” - Jacqueline Gould
But the change didn’t happen instantly. Falling in love with herself felt like learning to ride a bike, she says. “You get on the bike and fall off and get on the bike and fall off—but eventually, I got on the bike and started riding. That’s when I noticed everything in my life started happening.”
Her goal now: to help other people who feel stuck like she once did. Her journey inspired her to become a wellness influencer and mentality coach, and she now helps people learn their worth and flourish with the help of self-love.
Want in? Here, Gould shares five ways you can start showing yourself some love this Valentine’s Day.
1. Write Yourself a Love Note
“On Valentine’s Day, I used to put so much pressure on someone else to do something for me,” Gould says. “And when they didn’t? It was this whole, ‘I’m single, I’m alone’ thing.”
To take back control, Gould now writes herself a love letter every February 14. “I realized if I celebrated myself, it didn’t matter if anybody else did.”
“I realized if I celebrated myself, it didn’t matter if anybody else did.” - Jacqueline Gould
She suggests writing a letter about your passions, your interests, your dreams—as if you were writing to a partner you admired. If you make it an annual exercise, it's a great way to track your growth, too.
A letter Gould still remembers writing to herself: “A couple years ago, I wrote that I’m worthy of my dreams and that I have the ability to create change,” she says. “That was so big because I was telling myself that I believe in the person that I was becoming and that my potential is unlimited.”
2. Create a Self-Love Menu
Gould helps her clients create a “menu” of things they can turn to when they’re feeling underappreciated, under celebrated, or if anything is getting them down. It’s a list of activities that make them feel good—and it helps them have actionable steps when they need a little self-love.
On Gould’s menu: buying herself flowers and drinking her favorite hot chocolate. “But it could even be as simple as watching the Netflix series you want to watch,” she says. “Do something that’s going to make you feel good.”
3. Go on a 'Me Date'
While restaurants are all about the “table for two” on Valentine’s Day, try carving out some solo time to take yourself on a date. It could be at your favorite cafe, or maybe even in the comfort of your home. Wherever it is, Gould says focus on being present with yourself. “No Instagram, no laptop—just get emotionally honest with yourself.”
Pretend you’re sitting across the table from yourself on an actual date, and ask yourself some of those big date questions: What do you want in life? How are you going to get it? Why do you want it? How are you feeling right now?
“Really dig deep and be honest with yourself,” Gould says. “Nothing feels better than really being heard, and you can do that by listening to what you want.”
And, like the good date that you are, show compassion to yourself when answering the big questions. “Feeling worthy really requires us to see ourselves through loving eyes,” Gould says.
4. Know Your Worth—And Say It
Another practice that’s helped Gould: Proclaiming her love for herself. “I started looking in the mirror every morning and saying, ‘I am enough.’” At first, it felt uncomfortable for her. She didn’t believe a word she was saying. But after a while, the message started to sink in.
“It takes a while until you believe it, but once you allow yourself to believe it it’s all worth it,” she says. “To this day, I still do it every single morning as a little reminder.”
It also helps to get grateful for what you have—and dwell less on what you lack. Gould says she learned to accept her imperfections, and then chose to focus on her strengths. “Find gratitude in the things you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have,” she says. “That’s when it’s really empowering—you realize you have so much you don’t need to search for it all.”
5. Trust That You’re the One
Society pressures us to find “the one,” but Gould likes to take another approach: You’re the one for you. “Once I was actually alone with no lingering relationships that weren’t serving me, I realized dating me was the best possible match I could ever get paired up with,” she says.
Rather than trying to find your Jerry Maguire “you complete me,” trust that you have the power to grow and complete yourself, with the help of self-love. And the bonus? Once you love yourself, you’ll start to attract the right people, too. “If you allow yourself to feel worthy, then you’ll actually start attracting the people worth your time.”
But like any relationship, know that this one with yourself takes work. Even Gould says she has to recommit to loving herself every single day. And some days? She doesn’t nail it. But what matters most is loving yourself, for better or worse, and knowing that you deserve to love yourself first.
“Relationships come and go, but the one with yourself really does last forever,” Gould says. “That’s the one that needs to be prioritized.”
More Tips From the 🌟 Shine Squad 🌟 on Loving Yourself First
"Take a second and write down your five biggest achievements, even if it’s getting out of bed everyday before 3 p.m. It counts." - Kiki Wilkinson
"Make sure you know your values and priorities, and don't let the other person's ideas change them past a certain point (i.e. be flexible, but not passive/submissive). Take time for your needs; don't prioritize others over yourself." - Umika Kumar
"As an indoor cycling instructor, I lead classes in hopes of filling others up. I’ve realized in order to be effective in doing this I must fill myself up first! I choose from a variety of things: a run, listening to a podcast, reading books, playing with my son, and hanging with my hubs. Having the list is helpful—when my bucket dips low, I reach for one of these so that it fills up enough to share with all of my riders!" - Danielle Stuhr
"Go all in on a goofy hobby: Like get all the good stuff you need to make beaded necklaces and earrings. Get the tools and set yourself up in an area in your living space that can be dedicated to your hobby. Treasure that space!" - Liz Michelle
Read next: 5 Ways to Put Self-Love Into Action