Somewhere in the mid 1980’s, during that fifteen year stretch in between husband #1 and my second and forever husband, the song “The Greatest Love of All” came out. It was popularized by Whitney Houston but my favorite version is the one by George Benson. The song is about learning to love one’s self. I have this memory of trying to get to my office in downtown Boston, stuck in traffic on the Mass Pike with the song playing on the radio. Since I had nothing better to do (long before the days of smart phones and laptops), I really listened to the lyrics for the first time. It was Valentine’s Day. I was alone and lonely and I started to cry.

Certain songs are markers in our lives, don’t you think? I’m dating myself now, but junior high will always be linked to Neal Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and high school will always be about the Beach Boys. We remember the song we danced to when we met the love of our life. We choose songs for our weddings. (My husband and I chose Frank Sinatra’s “The Best Is Yet to Come”.) Songs mark our special moments.

Hearing “The Greatest Love of All”, on Valentine’s Day, when I was single, was a turning point in my life, a critical moment, a crossroad. I had an epiphany. I could follow the same path, the one I had been on for years, hoping that the next man, or the next clothing size down would bring me the happiness I was looking for. Or… I could take the other road, the one less traveled (to paraphrase Robert Frost) and start a love affair with myself. I chose the latter.

I have more than a few clients who insist that they will be able to love themselves only after they have lost ten, twenty, fifty pounds or a jean size of two. They believe that self-love will happen only after they are happy with what they see in the mirror or after finding the perfect partner. Fixing the outside, they believe, can heal the inside. They’re wrong! And I tell them so, hopefully lovingly and gently. Actually it happens the other way around.

So how do we flip the switch? How do we learn to value what’s on the inside, at least to the same degree that we value what’s on the outside? How do we become our own Valentine? Here are a few tips:

~ Take good care of yourself! Get eight hours of sleep a night. Eat healthy nutritious foods. Exercise regularly. And make time for connections with loved ones and friends.

~ Appreciate your body for what it does, not just for how it looks. “Thank you body for digesting my food that gives me the energy I need to get me through my day.”

~ Practice random acts of kindness. Do something kind for a stranger every day. The smile we get back will feed us much more meaningfully than ice cream or cookies.
~ Affirmations are powerful. Try one or more of these and say them ten times a day. (Remember, you’re not supposed to believe these yet. If you did you wouldn’t have to say them!) “I am lovable exactly as I am.” “I am safe, protected, and loved.” “My body is an expression of vibrant health and vitality.”

~ Find your gifts and talents and use them in the world. Each of us has something special to contribute to others, to our communities.

~ Act as if… you are gorgeous, powerful, bright, creative, confident, kind and generous – right now. Imagine how these behaviors and soon-to-become beliefs would affect the way you walk into a room and how you are perceived by others and by your self?

So let’s all sing together… “the greatest love of all is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me. The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164, or