Valentine’s Day is a time to show appreciation for those you love. But shouldn't it also be about showing appreciation for yourself? Whether you’re partnered up or single, why not take some time this Valentine’s Day to practice self-love?
Working in the social-impact space, most of our days are typically spent thinking about others. And when we leave work, our focus often shifts to friends, parents, partners, and children. But it can’t always be about our work and our relationships. Sometimes, it needs to be about us. Right?
Self-love is about embracing who you are and appreciating the value you bring to those around you.
Show off your authentic and aspirational self
If you’re currently in an entry-level job, still in school, or at a crossroads in your career, it can be easy to focus on the tough parts or the things that aren't going as you had planned. Instead of thinking about why you’re not happy in your current role, focus on your potential for creating the future you want.
Anna Akbari, a sociologist and author of Startup your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, says that too often people get stuck because they place a limit on their own capabilities. How often do you hear people say things like: “I’m just an intern”? She suggests thinking about your aspirational self; the person you are striving to be.
“A huge part of being happy with your life and your career is to expand your definition of authenticity to include your aspirational self,” she says.
One way to make room for your aspirational self is by presenting yourself at work in a way that you want to be perceived. In other words, don’t show up in yoga pants because you’re “just” the intern, and for that matter, stop referring to yourself as just an intern!
Be proud of the little things
If you’re working in the public interest, chances are, you are doing so because you believe in making the world a better place. But whether you’re running long-term advocacy campaigns or working a few days a week in a soup kitchen, it can sometimes be difficult to see how you are making a difference.
Akbari suggests that we go beyond thinking of ourselves as people who positively contribute to the world only when we are at work. Instead, we should ask ourselves how we positively contribute to our own communities in our personal time as well.
“Think about all the micro exchanges you experience on an everyday basis that transform your life and the lives of those around you,” she says. “Small behaviors ripple; they are contagious.”
If you’re so focused on work, it can be easy to forget how the little things can add up to big impact. You may be struggling to win a big social justice fight, but you should still challenge yourself to find the energy to share a smile with a passerby. And even doing that, Akbari says, can be a small win that you can (and should) celebrate.
Nurture meaningful relationships
We always think about our romantic relationships around Valentine’s Day, but taking time to nurture our work relationships is also important.
Akbari says that meaningful interpersonal connection is the one thing that indicates long-term health and happiness. And having meaningful relationships with the people we work with not only makes the days more pleasant, it can make the work more rewarding as well.
Maybe there is someone at your office you can mentor? Or perhaps you have a colleague that you wish to learn from? Invite them to coffee or lunch.
Pro Tip: When you’re focusing on interpersonal relationships, do so face-to-face. It’s much more authentic than social media, Akbari says.
The best way to show yourself some appreciation and love? Take care of yourself! If you’re constantly focusing your energy on others—whether it’s the work you’re doing or family, friends, and partners—it can feel impossible to save time for yourself.
But, Akbari says, it’s vital.
It doesn’t mean you need to splurge on a day at the spa or go on a vacation, though both are excellent options if they’re available to you. Maybe you can take a few minutes at work for a mindful pause, a quick chat with a friend, a walk around the block, or a soothing cup of hot tea.
We’ve got plenty of suggestions for how you can incorporate self-care into your work day. Get more ideas here on Idealist Careers by reading 5 Self-Care Strategies for Care Professionals, or 4 Ways To Tackle Burnout and Practice Self-Care.
For more inspiration, check out Love Yourself First, 5 Quotes To Remind You.
About the Author | Samantha Fredrickson has worked in communications and nonprofit advocacy for more than a decade. She has spent much of her career advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations. She has degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and New York Law School.