This week is Valentine’s day, a Hallmark holiday where we focus on those we love. For many people, this is a stressful day, a reminder that they are without a partner. Understandably, this creates sadness, stress and a feeling of isolation. When my sister was a widow, she dreaded this day.

I’ve been thinking about this and wondering how things would change if the focus of Valentine’s Day was practicing love for the self. The ability to have a loving, compassionate relationship with yourself is one of the most powerful experiences you can have. Yet, it is not discussed or taught to us as children. If anything, we learn the opposite with statements like:

You are getting too big for your britches, little miss know it all

Be seen and not heard

If you don’t lose weight, put others first, be quieter, no one will love you

You are too loud, too forward and ask too many questions to be loveable

The list goes on. Its no wonder you forget to appreciate your gifts and you internalize any criticism. As a result, we are adults who do not like ourselves.

I see this all the time with my coaching clients, students and good friends. It’s as if denigrating yourself and playing small is the life sentence we accept to be true.

Its time for a reprieve.

I learned how to truly love myself after my cancer diagnosis. To treat this disease and recover, I needed to partner with myself at a deeper level. Slowly, I changed my internal messages from negative and critical to loving and compassionate. I began to validate and encourage myself saying things like:

That was very difficult, and you did it

I know you are scared and that is OK, things will get better

Let yourself stop and rest when you need it

I know it’s hard and you are doing the best you can

When you begin to partner with yourself and become more supportive of your struggles, things change. Over time, you find you are more accepting, tolerant and compassionate to you and others. The old axiom “you can’t truly love others till you love yourself” is true. The kinder I am to myself, the more compassion I have for others.

So, my challenge to you on Valentine’s Day is to give yourself the gift of more self-acceptance. Find a moment to say something supportive to yourself. Allow yourself to do something just for you. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings instead of fighting them. Be your own gardener and plant the seeds of compassion for yourself.

It is the most powerful thing you can do, and it will change your world.