In honor of Valentine’s Day, do me a favor. Right now. Close your eyes (okay, you can’t read with your eyes closed, so read down to the line and then close your eyes). Close your eyes and think about someone you love deeply. Maybe it’s your child, your spouse, a sibling, a good friend. Just choose someone whom you love with all your heart. Think about them for a couple of minutes. Everything you love about them. What about them makes you happy, makes you smile?

After you’ve spent some time thinking about your loved one, open your eyes.

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Now imagine feeling that way about yourself.

This is one of my favorite exercises to do with clients. Undoubtedly, the client smiles, lights up when thinking about their loved one. That smile quickly fades when they are asked to feel that way toward themselves. The thought of feeling that much love toward themselves is usually met with doubt or even shock.

For many of us, loving ourselves deeply is a pretty challenging concept. But it’s absolutely key to getting a handle on our health and wellness. It’s highly unlikely that you can reach and maintain your wellness goals until you learn to love yourself.

We spend a lot of time  fighting our bodies–denying it nourishment, physically punishing it, and doing anything and everything we can to change it. You cannot “beat” your body. Even if you win, you lose.

Instead, we need to find a way to accept and nourish our bodies. We need to focus on what we like, or at least can tolerate, about our bodies until we develop deeper love and appreciation. It’s incredibly difficult for those of us who have spent our lives hating our bodies, but I know that it’s possible. It’s only when you have accepted your body that things will get easier.

Back to your loved one. As the client looks at me in disbelief, I ask them whether their loved one is perfect. Of course the answer is no. Do you love them less because they are imperfect? No. (In fact, it’s often our loved one’s imperfections that we find most endearing.) The people you love are not perfect. In fact, sometimes they are far from perfect. But you love them anyway. Your relationship with them isn’t about fighting and punishment, it’s about love and support.

So cut yourself the same slack you give everyone else in your life. Try the same approach with your body. It will love you back.

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