Happy Valentine’s Day! This day in the year that some think was created by Hallmark and florists to sell cards, flowers, and candy is here again. My, doesn’t time fly? I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your loved ones. But more than that, I hope that you have a wonderful day with yourself. For, hard as it is to envision, at some point we may find our loved ones occupied with no time for us, or even harder to think of, gone. Before it is necessary, we need to be able to spend time alone with ourselves and be totally comfortable with our own company.
February is heart month. We need to protect our hearts. Of course, that protection needs to include physical, including taking care of ourselves with good nutrition, exercise, and staying up to date on our routine checkups. It is important for our blood pressure and cholesterol to be at normal levels. It goes without saying that we should not be harming our bodies by smoking, drinking alcohol to excess if at all, or using illegal substances. Most of us know that, and many people take good care of themselves physically. That does not go far enough, however. We also need to take care of ourselves emotionally. In fact, if our emotional health is not what it needs to be, it is easier to damage our bodies physically.
Our relationship with others is important, and without healthy family and social relationships, we are often lacking in the ability to be happy. The relationship with ourselves emotionally is even more important. Without a healthy self-image, we lack the ability to treat ourselves well, and if that continues for too long, we can spiral into depression.
The words self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably, although while they are both important, there is a significant difference between them. It is important to understand the difference between these two.
Self-esteem is the belief in ourselves at our core and includes self-respect and self-efficacy. People with healthy self-esteem treat themselves well and require others to treat them well. This is not about being egotistical, it is about expecting the best for us from ourselves and from others. Healthy self-esteem is necessary to be our best self and to live our best life. We are not able to reach self-actualization, which is the achievement of personal potential, without healthy self-esteem.
Self-esteem is formed in our early years and comes from good nurturing, most importantly from our parents, and in their absence physically and/or emotionally, from our most dominant caretakers. Self-esteem is the more internal of the two, self-esteem and self-confidence. If we do not receive good nurturing as a child and lack self-esteem, it is usually necessary to rebuild that through therapy with a good and trusted therapist. A speaker friend of mine has often said that what we do not receive by the age of nine years old, we spend the rest of our lives trying to get. One manifestation of this is looking for love in all the wrong places, including from others when we do not love ourselves.
Self-confidence is the belief in ourselves more externally and involves achievement. Too often people who lack self-esteem try to be worthy by achieving success through external means, including positions of authority, accolades of others, etc. While this may work temporarily, this confidence is short-lived. As soon as the external achievement is lacking, the confidence in oneself wanes. Self-confidence can never replace self-esteem.
This discussion of self-esteem and self-confidence is not all-inclusive, and is not intended as a theoretical analysis, and certainly is not given as an excuse for being self-centered. This has nothing to do with self-centeredness or selfishness, and everything to do with being emotionally healthy. Further, the point of this is to understand why we do not expect the best from ourselves and from others, and why we depend on others to meet our emotional needs. People who do not love themselves, who do not treat themselves well, and who also do not treat others well, need to do the necessary internal work to rectify this and to be emotionally healthy.
Maybe this is too much of a stretch for Valentine’s Day. Can’t we just focus on flowers, candy, and other treats, and not worry about all of this? Well, yes, we can, for a day. But not for much longer than that if we want to be healthy emotionally and be truly happy.
Treat yourself and others well on Valentine’s Day and all days. Be your best self. We need your best to collectively be able to solve our world’s pressing problems. That is only possible when we are our best.