Story by Dr. Eleni Eleni Boosalis | Brought to you by Del Ray Psych
Valentine’s Day began as a feast day to celebrate love and affection. This annual holiday is usually either spent directing your love toward another or pining over the love you don’t have. This year, Valentine’s Day amidst a pandemic seems a bit different. Some people are feeling held captive by the love they don’t want, some are longing for connection in this barren land of virtual dating, and others are truly in love. Regardless of the situation you are in, I propose changing Valentine’s Day this year and making it a day for nourishing not only others, but also yourself. In my observation, many people value and teach this concept to others but struggle to practice it themselves. While we often notice a feeling of warmth or a desire to nurture when seeing a loved one in pain, we are not as readily available to treat ourselves with the same attention and care.
The word “compassion” comes from the Latin and Greek that means “suffer with”. How is it that we are able to “suffer with” others by offering words of encouragement, but are more inclined to offer ourselves words of judgement during difficult times? When we see others are in pain, it is likely more apparent to us that suffering and failure is part of the collective human experience. When we are in pain, it may feel more like we are the only one suffering and it may feel more difficult to see that our experience is universal. While the research has shown that expressing love towards others offers a wide range of health benefits such as decreased stress, decreased blood pressure, and improved immune functioning, it is also evident that being kind and gentle with yourself (especially during times of difficulty) presents its own health benefits. Self-compassion has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Being kind to oneself, and offering support and encouragement to oneself is associated with increased happiness, improved feelings of self-worth, and increased resilience. Practicing self-compassion and kindness also provides the opportunity for children to learn how to positively interact with themselves from an early age.
Here are 3 elements of self compassion according to Dr. Kristin Neff of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.
Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement: Be kind and understanding toward yourself when you are suffering or feeling inadequate. Don’t ignore your pain or criticize yourself. Recognize that everyone is imperfect, including you.
Common Humanity vs Isolation: Realize you are not the only one going through this. Suffering and inadequacy is a very common human experience. Everyone experiences failure and feelings of inadequacy. You are not alone.
Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: Be present in your feelings and experiences in this moment and honor them. Don’t suppress your feelings and don’t over identify with them. Feelings and experiences aren’t who you are (failure), they are what you are experiencing (transient failed experience). Observe your feelings without judging and labeling them. They are temporary.
This Valentine’s Day and all of February, make an intention to express love and affection to yourself in addition to the ones you care about.
Have you ever asked yourself, why does this keep happening to me? Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Dr. B here to share with you some inspirational stories from survivors and thrivers that will motivate you to break unhealthy patterns so you can live your best life.
Eleni Boosalis, PsyD
Clinical Psychologist & Owner
Del Ray Psych & Wellness, LLC
(P) 571-281-0338 x501; (F) 703-563-3833