Love, Romance & Self-Love
Huge title, I know.
How do we encompass and cover such massive ideas, and meaningful aspects of our lives in one blog post? Love, relationships, building relationships, breaking relationships, repairing relationships – they are all aspects intertwined within the human experience.
Yes, it might be nearly impossible to cover much about the complexities of all of these experiences in one snappy read, but with Valentine’s Day and all its associated expectations looming (maybe) over us, it’s important to go back to basics with our own relationship with love.
Often, our very first perceptions of ourselves and love are fostered through observing how our primary care-givers interact with us and/or with each other. These, however, can stay with us well into adulthood, and they can manifest in both helpful and unhelpful ways.
One of the ways we talk about the way we engage in intimate relationships in psychology is attachment styles. Attachment styles are frameworks that reflect the way a person interact with one another in close relationship.  There are four main attachment style:
Secure, which can look like:
- Having a respectful perception of self and partner in relationship
- Keeping up healthy boundaries
- Not being afraid to communicate openly and directly about one’s needs
- Sharing wins and losses with one’s partner, not manipulating or playing games
Anxious, which might look like:
- A strong desire to be close and intimate with partner, that is matched with feelings of inadequacy or fears of being abandoned
- Placating your own needs (whether consciously or unconsciously) to accommodate for your partner, or so as to not seem ‘needy’ or ‘annoying’
- Feeling especially negative about the future of your relationship
- Acting out to provoke a reaction from your partner that ‘proves’ their love
Avoidant, which carries two sub-types:
- Dismissive-avoidant = This often shows itself as a feeling or belief of not needing love or feeling intimate with people. Individuals can ‘cut-off’ difficult emotions and suppress them.
- Fearful-avoidant = Individuals who express this kind of attachment style are conscious of wanting intimacy but are distrustful or fearful of feeling it.
And finally, disorganised, which often results from a child who grew up in the presence of abusive caregivers. A child with this attachment style learns from early on that the person that they love, might also be someone to be feared. People with disorganised attachment styles may exhibit:
- Consistently feeling like they need to protect themselves in close relationships
- Difficulty in forming and maintaining intimate relationships
- Difficulty in regulating emotions
Combinations of these attachment styles (e.g. Secure-Anxious or Anxious-Avoidant) also exist. A quick glance at these attachment styles may be a bit overwhelming, and they may sound like traits that are set in stone. Because our attachment style is shaped through lived experiences, seeking out experiences that help us to feel more self-assured can alter our attachment style to become more secure.
One of the ways we can do this is by practising self-love. Nurturing ourselves the way we should’ve been nurtured as children can help us with our personal and emotional growth. You might be thinking, “that’s easier said than done!” but here are a few simple ways to practice self-love this Valentine’s Season:
- Learning to identify, honour and comfortably express your needs in a way that respects yourself and others
- Identifying and respecting your autonomy and taking responsibility for your own actions
- Listening to your inner voice and trusting it
- Prioritising yourself and your needs over pleasing others
- Saying no
- Setting realistic expectations for yourself
- Practicing acceptance of yourself and others as who they are
- Forgiving yourself
- Spending time with yourself – reflecting on your feelings, actions, and thoughts
Engaging in therapy and giving yourself the permission, time and space to become acquainted with yourself is another form of nurturing yourself; it can also be beneficial in learning about your attachment style.
Some therapies to look out for that can assist in developing a stronger sense of self-love and self-esteem:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This form of therapy aims to help us learn to relate to our thoughts and experiences in a more compassionate, non-judgemental way, in order to learn about our experiences and ourselves in a safe mental space. It pushes us to be present and mindful with ourselves, and move towards values-directed behaviour.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This therapy looks at your thoughts as a catalyst for certain behaviour, and aims to alter these less helpful maladaptive thoughts/feelings/behaviours through practising realistic and grounded self-talk.
Internal Family Systems (IFS): IFS focusses on empowering for one’s sense of self through working with the multiple aspects of one’s personality that makes us ‘us’. These aspects can include parts of us that are angry, hurt, sad, etc., and approaches them in a delicate, open-minded way that values their experiences. This can help us to look at our experiences and our reactions to them in a gentler way.
At The Inner Collective, we can help you achieve a healthier and stronger relationship with yourself. Find out more on our individual therapy page, or contact us for more information.