About six months ago, “Danni”* came to see me. She complained of an underlying depression she had been dealing for a long time. Danni was a 30 year old beauty with auburn hair, striking green eyes, great energy and a gorgeous kick ass tattoo on her left forearm. She was a neonatal nurse and loved her job, although it was emotionally draining at times. It became clear quickly that there was another, likely more pressing issue Danni was dealing with. His name was Nick and she was definitely smitten with him. Nick was no traditional guy. In fact, he didn’t believe in anything traditional, like, for example, “labels” on relationships. No boyfriend/girlfriend, no pet names, no commitments, no gushing, no overage of expression of affection. No, “Good Morning Beautiful!” texts. Nope, none of that traditional nonsense that most of us eat up like Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. I know, you’re wondering why she was with this Jackass? The thing is Nick was not a jackass at all. In fact he was quite attractive, funny, interesting, bright, and thoughtful. He owned his own business and was a hard worker. And the sex…was phenomenal! But Danni had an uncomfortable feeling of insecurity. And she couldn’t shake it. Like many of my clients, she was starting to wonder if she should stay or go.
I am no stranger to insecurity, and so I could relate. In fact, a part of me wanted to say, “Ditch that guy!” (We therapists refer to that as countertransference.) Now, because I am a human but also a very responsible and thoughtful therapist, I took a step back, remembered it wasn’t about me and asked Danni what bothered her the most about this relationship. She was able to articulate that she didn’t know what he was thinking or feeling and it made her question if she was attractive enough, good enough, sexy enough.
Danni was doing something so many of us do every day: looking outward for validation instead of inward. The work we did together from that point was aimed at Danni realizing, seeing and feeling how amazing she was. I guided her toward learning to love herself. That way, she could have her validation and her Nick too! Here’s where we started:
- Make an awesome list. Give me 10 things you are awesome at, or are awesome about you. If this feels hard, start small. Maybe you make an awesome grilled cheese. Maybe you straighten your hair like a Rockstar. The point is, it’s ten things people. Just 10!
- Start the ol’ gratitude list everyone’s talking about. Five things a day you are grateful for: your kids, your job, your new nose hair clippers, whatever!
- Buy yourself a thank you card, and tell yourself how much you appreciate YOU. For all YOU do!
- Repeat after me, “I’m beautiful.” “I’m worthy.” “I love and accept myself.” Do this daily. Multiple times a day.
- Take yourself on a date. If you’re not used to be alone, start small. Browse the bookstore with a latte. Go to an afternoon movie when you are less likely to see couples together.
Here’s the thing: the most important relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself. So treat YOU really well. The better you feel about yourself, the more you love yourself, the less you depend on other people to help you feel a certain way. The more you love yourself, the more freeing and beautiful your relationships will be.
So, back to Danni. She comes to see me faithfully every week with her sense of humor in tact. She has learned to acknowledge how truly amazing she is. She recently joined a kickboxing class and booked a solo trip to the Caribbean. Her self esteem is quite high.Fast forward six months and she and Nick are doing very well! She is even contemplating moving in with him. I brought up the subject of Valentine’s Day and she laughed. And I laughed. And I suggested she treat herself to something really great. She agreed. And that’s what self love’s got to do with it!
*Disclaimer: Client names, traits, and identities have been changed to ensure privacy and confidentiality.