It is an inescapable fact that Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day when romantic love and relationships are celebrated. Although that remains the primary focus of February 14th, recent years have seen an increase in understanding and awareness of how important other types of relationships are too. With supermarkets now stocking Valentine's gifts for best friends and pets alongside the traditional gifts and cards for romantic partners, year on year Valentine’s Day is becoming more and more of an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of our relationships and expressions of love. 
No longer excluding those who are not in romantic relationships or those who may be unhappy despite being in one, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly inclusive and increasingly recognised as a day to appreciate all of the meaningful connections in our lives; allowing more of us to participate in this day of celebration and helping us understand that romantic relationships are not the only important bonds worthy of celebration in our lives. 
 
Despite Valentine’s Days evolution into an opportunity to celebrate the numerous ways love and connection can be present in our lives, it is clear that not everyone feels positively about this day. For many, witnessing others celebrate their relationships when we don’t feel as if we have similar cause for celebration is difficult to say the least. It can evoke feelings of inadequacy and loneliness for many, and it is with this in mind that we find ourselves considering the most important relationship any of us will ever have, how Strive can help improve that relationship, and how working on that relationship invariably improves all of the other relationships in our lives. 
 
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Many of our Strive resources encourage members to consider how they relate to those around them. We support our members to actively improve these relationships by working towards understanding them better, taking active steps to improve them where possible, and ending them respectfully when necessary. We encourage our members to be compassionate towards others but can never overstate the importance of showing themselves compassion too. One way we emphasise the importance of self-compassion is by reminding our members that the longest and most important relationship any of us will ever experience is the one that we have with ourselves. 
 
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We will spend more time with ourselves than anyone else in the world. 
 
It is true for all of us that the longest and most important relationship we will ever experience is the one that we have with ourselves. It is also true that this is something that is all too easily forgotten amidst the day-to-day realities of life that demand our attention and deplete our resources. So today, we’re taking a moment to remind ourselves (and you!) that dedicating a little time to self-reflection in an endeavour to understand our strengths and limitations in the present moment (so that we are best placed to work with and not against ourselves) may feel like it’s taking us away from other pressing commitments but is, in fact, a significant investment in our well-being that will benefit us and those around us in both the short and longer term. It is an investment that will not only help us to navigate today as effectively as we can but will also help us to bring our best selves to all that we do in the days to come. 
 
We can be our own best friend and our own worst enemy. 
 
Many of us have an internal monologue, an internal voice that can be both a help and a hinderance. It can boost our confidence but can also be a source of discouragement and doubt. It can help us to solve problems but can be a source of both real and imagined problems too. It can help us to sustain positive emotions but can also leave us feeling stuck in a negative emotional state. It can do all of these things and much much more and is influenced by innumerable factors. 
 
For many of us our internal monologue is automatic, it sticks to patterns of thought that are familiar, and those patterns started to form early on in our lives, developing imperceptibly over time. Some of us are blessed with an internal monologue that consistently tells us that we are a capable and loved human of inherent value. However, for countless reasons, many of us have developed patterns of thought that tell us in lots of different ways that we are fundamentally only worthy if we earn our value and that we are inevitably failing this task in one way or another much of the time. 
 
Most of us have a mix of both positive and negative self-talk - our inner voice can be our best friend or our worst enemy and sometimes it’s both. 
 
One thing we all have in common though, is that we can challenge our unhelpful thoughts and, in doing so, begin to develop more helpful patterns that are kinder, make us feel better, and enable us to meet the world as the best possible version of ourselves. 
 
Some people find this process is quite simple; they are able to approach the task logically, adapt quickly to respectfully challenging their negative self-talk, and soon develop new patterns for a kinder and more compassionate way to relate to themselves. For many reasons there will always be those of us who find this process is much harder though, and many of us will require additional support or guidance when facing the numerous and varied challenges that self-discovery can present. 
 
It’s your story and you can rewrite it if you want to. 
 
For some, seeking assistance from a trained professional can feel like a failure to handle their challenges independently. However, it's essential to recognise that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Although it can be daunting, allowing others to help you is an investment in your well-being and is not only something that you truly deserve, but it also has the potential to benefit those around you hugely too. 
 
Self-love isn’t selfish. 
 
The relationship that we have with ourselves provides the foundation on which we build our relationships with others. Looking after and caring for ourselves, and improving our confidence and mental fitness, enables us to approach our lives as the best possible version of ourselves at that time. It gives us the strength and resilience needed to navigate challenges and embrace opportunities. When we prioritise our well-being and cultivate a positive relationship with ourselves, we are better equipped to connect authentically with those around us. By nurturing our own mental and emotional health, we not only enhance our capacity for empathy and understanding but also contribute to creating a supportive and considerate environment in our broader social circles. 
 
Relating better with ourselves makes us better at relating to others. 
 
Think of the amount of energy we could save if we stopped fighting with ourselves, if we were able to be our own best friend, supporting ourselves so that we can support others and allow others to support us in turn. If we met ourselves with compassion instead of judgement so often that it becomes a habit that we do automatically and is no longer something that we have to make a conscious effort to maintain. 
 
Ultimately, investing in our relationship with ourselves has a positive impact on all of our other relationships. Nurturing our own physical, emotional, and mental health, setting healthy boundaries, and making choices that align with personal values and goals forms the basis on which we can build and nurture meaningful and fulfilling relationships with others. 
 
Practice makes better. 
 
Self-love is the practice of caring for and valuing oneself. It involves recognizing and accepting our own worth, embracing both strengths and weaknesses, and treating ourselves with kindness, compassion, and respect. It is a dynamic and ongoing process that takes work. It contributes to a healthier and more fulfilling life, enabling individuals to navigate challenges with resilience and approach relationships and experiences from a place of inner strength and authenticity. The goal is improvement, never perfection, and the path is rarely without obstacle or setback. 
 
If you are able to, you can start to take independent steps towards a more compassionate and appreciative relationship with yourself any day you like but, if you need support, those early steps may involve seeking out appropriate support or allowing someone who cares for you to seek out support on your behalf. 
 
Regardless of where you are on your journey towards developing a happier and healthier relationship with yourself please remember that, although setbacks are inevitable, they do not take away from what you have already achieved and will not prevent you from continuing to grow and thrive in the future. 
 
I can buy myself flowers… 
 
So, if Valentine’s Day still has you feeling a little bit dejected (and to be honest, even if it doesn’t), please don’t ever stop investing in your relationship with yourself.  
 
Buy yourself flowers, write your name in the sand, take yourself dancing, hold your own hand, and… most importantly of all… spend some time really listening to what you think and feel. Meet yourself with kindness, empathy, and compassion; work on being your own best friend. 
 
And, if and when it seems too much to carry on your own, please, please, please let others help you with the load. If not for yourself, then for those around you who care about you. Remember, despite how it might feel at times, none of us are truly alone on this journey; seeking support is a sign of hope and resilience, a sign of strength not weakness and, just as you would be there for those you care about, let others be there for you.  
 
In moments of vulnerability, you are not burdening others; instead, you are giving them the opportunity to show their love and support for you - whether they be colleagues, friends, family, or professionals, let them help. 
 
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For more information on Strive and how we can help you or your team improve their mental fitness and relationships with themselves and others, please visit our website: www.strive-online.co.uk, follow us on LinkedIn, email us at info@strive-online.co.uk , or give us a call on 0116 340 0630.  
 
For more information on organisations that can offer specialist support to individuals seeking help please visit the Professional Support page on our website. 
 
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