It’s Valentine’s Day and I feel like bragging. Although it would be easy to boast about my non-foodie son-in-law baking his Valentine—my daughter—an orange and almond cake(!) AND making a perfectly seared ribeye steak and roasted cauliflower with whipped goats cheese (OH MY!), I think I’ve achieved something equally impressive: Thirty minutes into a difficult discussion, I told Jeff I didn’t want to talk to him anymore and thus ended our conversation…on Valentine’s Day. Amazing, right?

Oh, it gets even better… Instead of letting him believe that I was shutting down to somehow punish him with disconnection, I actually told him that I was emotionally at my limit and I needed time to recover. That may have been one of the most loving things I’ve done on Valentine’s Day in a very long time.

He graciously responded in kind by saying, “Okay.”

That—my friends—is true love.

While you might be thinking, “Dang girl! You got moves,” I want to be transparent; I also relied on a few more traditional and less creative expressions of love as well: a heartfelt card, steaks, red wine and dark chocolate. (The chocolate may or may not have been for me😜.) However, the thing I feel best about is the love I showed myself by ending a hard conversation when I had enough and the love I showed Jeff by telling him that was what I was doing. I have to say: I’m really getting good at this love thing.

Jeff’s and my ability to love each other well has evolved over our thirty-eight years together. Although we still have lots of room to grow, we’ve come a long way from the early years when we regularly missed each other because of contrived expectations and pre-determined demonstrations of love. I cringe as I think back to one of our first Valentine’s Days together when we went skiing with a few other couples. I was so devastated that Jeff didn’t get me a card that he left the mountain to drive into town to get me one. Bless him. He was as confused as I was miserable. He thought taking me skiing over Valentine’s weekend was the gift. He didn’t think he needed to get me a card too. Sadly, he learned that trying to express love to someone who doesn’t love herself is very hard to do. While I may have come across as a competent and successful overachiever, in reality, I was a collection of insecurities and unmet needs. Looking back, I see that this made giving and receiving love rather complicated.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” (Mark 12:31)

Decades have passed since that ski trip on Valentine’s Day and I’ve learned a lot about love. Perhaps one of the most unexpected lessons I learned is the process of learning to love others well requires that we truly love ourselves first. Although it has taken decades for this truth to become a personal revelation for me, it’s something Jesus has always emphasized. When asked by a teacher of the law which was the most important commandment, Jesus said we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second greatest commandment is that we are to love our neighbor (spouse, child, co-worker, friend, and even our enemy) as we love ourselves. Although the simplicity of this statement might cause us to dismiss the difficult challenge it conveys, we can’t overlook the fact our ability to love well must begin with ourselves.

Leo Buscaglie quote "To love other you must first love yourself" against a heart background

Why is self-love a struggle for so many? I suspect that for some people, somewhere along the line, they were told they weren’t enough. Have you ever gotten a message from a parent, teacher or peer that you weren’t smart enough, cool enough, fit enough, kind enough, or (fill in the blank) enough? Or, it could be that your parents were too busy with work or too consumed with their problems to invest in a life-giving relationship with you. If you felt overlooked or unseen in your family of origin, you may have (unconsciously) internalized the lesson that you are undeserving of love. This messaging doesn’t have to be perceived on a conscious level for it to have a deep and lasting impact on how well you love yourself. Heck, even if you had the best parents in the world, maintaining a high level of self-love can be challenging because we all make mistakes and therefore fall short of our full potential in life. So, what can be done about it?

A quick internet search about self-love offers some helpful thoughts on the topic: “Loving yourself is a journey of self-acceptance, compassion, and self-care. It’s about recognizing your worth, embracing your strengths, and being kind to yourself, just as you would to a close friend.” Although there is some practical truth in all of these recommendations, it’s tempting to believe that a lack of self-love can be fixed with getting regular massages or indulging in long baths with candles. While those practices are lovely and good, they fall short of developing the kind of self-love that rubs off on others. (As a side note: After spending the last three years taking “navy” showers in our Airstream, I look forward to trying to grow my self-love in a long, hot, bath😜!)

a child in a bathtub with oranges and a faucet

The evidence of true self-love is in the knock-on effect that it has on those around us—our family, friends and neighbors. It’s the knock-on effect of love that ultimately will change the world. Jesus’ life is a reflection of this truth. His mission to save sinners and facilitate reconciliation between man and God was a mission of love. It was for love that Jesus came (John 3:16) and it was through his loving sacrifice that humanity is saved. Thus, loving ourselves and others well will always be our greatest work. It also has the potential to be the most challenging work we ever do. I can attest to that!

Getting to the point where I knew and loved myself well enough to end a hard conversation with Jeff to care for my emotional health has taken decades of practice. (As I said, I’m finally getting the hang of this love thing!) Although learning to love myself has had a significant impact on all of my relationships, it’s also impacted the way I eat, exercise, rest, and relate to myself. The journey to self-love has been arduous. Strongholds of over-work, perfectionism, people-pleasing and brutal self-talk all had to be dealt with and purged from my life. Admittedly, I am a work in progress—making mistakes is still hard for me to deal with— but I’m determined to keep growing so that I may learn to love others well.

What about you, dear reader? I wonder if self-love is something you have ever thought about. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to give it some thought. Many of us truly desire to love our families and “neighbors” well but are trying to do it from a place of lack. We can’t give away what we don’t possess. We may think we are loving others well, but if we don’t have a firm foundation of self-love, we can inadvertently show love to others to meet an unhealthy “need to be needed” in us. Ask me how I know…

In next week’s post, we will continue to explore this topic and consider how a relationship with God contributes to our ability to love ourselves. In the meantime, I encourage you spend some time thinking about the ways that you exhibit great self-love and the ways that you don’t. Here are a few prompts to get you going. Consider journaling about what you see, sense and hear.


    • How does the way you feed your body meet your needs, feel good and promote health and energy? Do you ever mistreat yourself by over/under eating or filling up on food that leaves you feeling unwell?

    • How does the way you usually move your body feel? In what ways does it promote health and energy? Do you make time to take care of your body through movement?

    • To what degree do you allow your body to rest well?

    • To what degree are you in touch with your emotions throughout the day?

    • Are you able to put work away and not think about it until your designated work times? If not, what’s happening there?

    • If you cannot say no to requests from others without guilt, what’s happening there? What do you believe about yourself or your place in the world that might need to change?

    • Are you able to ask for what you need without guilt or shame? If not, what happens inside you?

    • Listen to your internal self-talk for 24 hours. What did you notice? In what ways could you be more kind and encouraging to yourself?

    • How do you deal with mistakes?

    • What about yourself do you think needs to change?

    • Make a list of the things you love about yourself.

Thank you so much for joining me each week as I share my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours too! 👇🏻

I would be grateful if you would consider sharing my blog with others! Would you forward this to one or two people? Thank you!

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