“Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.” Unknown

During my many years of being single, I used to dread Valentine’s Day. It was just another chance to feel sad about being on my own. I often wondered where my love was, why I hadn’t met him yet, and what was wrong with me. Valentine’s Day only magnified these feelings.

I’d gorge on self-help books and articles in an effort to improve myself and find the love I thought was eluding me. Many of them contained messages about self-love and seemed trite to me. I wondered what loving myself really meant and how that would help my situation.

After all, I just wanted to meet a guy. I wanted to get to the good part, the relationship part. Why should I care about self-love?

I thought I treated myself pretty well. I bought nice clothes, ate healthy foods, stayed in shape, and got my hair and nails done. I even treated myself to a vacation once in a while and had a nicely decorated apartment. Wasn’t that enough?

As it turns out, those things aren’t really the point, although they’re nice to have. Self-love is more than those outer things, just as a loving relationship with another person is much more than gifts, fancy dates and vacations.

The truth is that love starts with you and lives inside of you. No one else, no matter how much they may want to, can give you the love that you lack within yourself. They can’t bring a container of love to your house and pour it into you, like hot chocolate on a cold day. All another person can do is to ignite feelings that you already have.

Think about the last time that you held a puppy, a newborn baby or someone you loved very much. Close your eyes and imagine what it felt like. If you do this right now, you’ll have the same feelings you did then, even though the experience occurred in the past. Those feelings came from you. They are yours.

Every feeling you ever have comes from you inside of you in the same way. When you really experience and understand this, you’ll know that love is always within reach for you no matter what. It is independent of any other person or experience. You can create it.

You can generate feelings of love for yourself. You can look at yourself in the mirror and approve of yourself. You can say aloud “I love you”, “I love your eyes”, or “You look especially fantastic today”. If this makes you feel silly it’s all the more reason to try it.

I started to say “Hello gorgeous!” to myself in the mirror every morning. One day, I wrote vows of love to promise myself in the mirror and placed a ring on my finger as I said them. I still have that ring today.

When you’re filled with love for yourself and others, you show up in the world as a warm, confident person. Contrast this with the person who’s always trying to get his or her needs met through other people. Which one would you rather spend time with? Which one would you rather be?

Most dating tips advise us to act in ways that mimic this way of being, but people can see right through us. It’s much better to really love yourself than it is to play games and try to act like we do.

When you really and truly love and accept yourself, your heart will open up. You won’t feel the need to protect yourself so much. You’ll have so much more love to give. You won’t be acting from a place of feeling like you need to put yourself out so that others will return the favor, but from a genuine overflow of joyful abundance.

Your love won’t be contained and will burst forth from you with joyful abandon. You’ve been around people like this and they’re intoxicating. Don’t you want to be like that? I sure do.

When you love yourself, you automatically love others. @ReneeSuzanneLuv (Click to Tweet!)

You can relax. You don’t have so much riding on everything and you can lighten up. You look at the world with softer eyes.

Once I really got this, I could go on a date and simply enjoy his company. Even if he didn’t turn out to be the love of my life, I could still wish him well and not feel like I had wasted my time. I could simply enjoy an evening in the company of another human being on his own journey.

I still wanted to get married eventually and I didn’t spend months dating these men in the hopes that they’d change. I just softened up while still standing for what I wanted in life.

When you love yourself, you know that you deserve to have what you want most in life and you reach for your dreams. You find out what it takes to get where you want to go and then follow through. You know you’re worth it and it’s up to you. You’re not waiting for it to happen on its own.

The only person you need to trust in life is yourself, and you’re not about to let yourself down. Self-love requires regular and consistent action, it’s not just for reading about. You have to actually do it.

Once I realized these things and acted accordingly, a lot of things fell into place for me. I felt so much better about myself, launched my coaching business, and started dating better men.

And yes, one of those men actually ended up being the love of my life after all. Because I’d learned to love myself, I had the capacity to be a good partner to him and was wise enough to recognize a relationship-ready man and find him attractive.

My wish for you this Valentine’s Day, and every day, is that you will open up your heart to love the person who will benefit from it the most. Yourself.

Renée Suzanne is a coach for smart, successful women who want to find love. She helps women go from heartbroken to happily-married. She believes that true love is possible for anyone who’s willing to create the conditions in her life for it to flourish. She’s been featured in The Huffington Post, Glamour, and Tiny Buddha. When she’s not saving women’s love lives you may find her curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and a good book or out on a hike with her husband. Her two books, “Beloved – How to go from relationship challenged to relationship ready” and “Ten things you can do to upgrade your love life” are available on Amazon. She also has more than 100 inspiring videos on her YouTube channelWant more love in your life? Check out her free audio course at reneesuzannecoaching.com.

Image courtesy of automnenoble bogomolov.