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Self-Love in the Wake of Trauma

February is the month of hearts and flowers, a time when an idealized version of love is celebrated through overpriced roses and fancy greeting cards. It’s a time when the conversation revolves around love, from finding it to keeping it. However, if there’s one thing I learned after everything I went through, it’s that there is no real love unless you start with self-love.

For those who have experienced trauma, the feelings of guilt and self-hatred often linger long after the physical scars heal, and self-love can be difficult to find. It doesn’t matter what kind of trauma you have been through—acute, chronic, vicarious, or self-inflicted—there is a degree of survivor guilt attached to what you went through. In order to heal, you have to learn how to love yourself, which can be a lot easier said than done.

  1. Know You Aren’t Alone: Your hurt may feel solitary, but you are far from alone. There are so many people who are going through traumatic events, and who need love and support just like you do. Reach out to someone, whether that’s in real life or virtually. You have no idea how your words can change another’s day until you say them.

  2. Be Mindful: Pay attention to what you are feeling. Give those feelings room to just be, because the more you stuff them down or ignore them, the more powerful they become. Don’t beat yourself up for having a bad day, or for having a good day. It’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to be happy. Just notice what you are feeling, give yourself permission to feel that way, and make adjustments to your day when you need to.

  3. Practice Good Self-Care: Do what keeps you healthy, both physically and mentally, from working out to something as simple as a manicure. Treating yourself with care creates a healthier self inside and out, which only multiplies those good feelings. When you take care of yourself from the minute you wake up until the time you go to sleep, you are sending your brain the message that you are important. That message is the foundation of strengthening your self-love.

  4. Set Necessary Boundaries: If someone in your life is draining you emotionally, or creating a toxic environment, it’s okay to set some boundaries. Even if it’s something small, like a neighbor asking you to babysit every Thursday afternoon, don’t feel bad for refusing. If doing something or being connected to someone interferes with your own mental, physical, and emotional needs, it is totally okay to say no or to stop seeing those people.

  5. Forgive Yourself: Make this month the month of self-forgiveness. We all screw up, we all go through painful moments, we all have times we don’t act as our best selves. You are still a wonderful person—and you need to forgive yourself for the things that are weighing you down. Just keep reading these words: I am still a wonderful, worthy person until you believe them and know them in your heart.

  6. Live with Intention: Lots of people use a single word or a phrase as their guidepost for the year ahead. If you have such a word, like Gratitude, or Service, then make a list of ways you can live that word. For instance, with gratitude, maybe you create a gratitude journal and list things you are grateful for every day, but you also make a special point to thank the people you interact with, whether that’s the mailman who dropped off your packages or the server who brought you a drink. How can you be intentional about the things that matter to you today? When you live with intention, you feed yourself with joy.

Self-love is an ongoing process. It’s not just one month or one day of the year. It’s something we all work on every single day, sometimes every single minute of the day. Make February your month to give yourself a huge mental hug. You’re worth it—you truly are.

For more on my story, pick up my book, You’ve Got Some Nerve today.

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