Be Your Own Valentine

It's the time of year for cards with red hearts, chocolates and flowers; Valentine's Day is approaching. The holiday can cause anxiety for some people who are seeking affection and bliss and for others who are celebrating their love with someone special.

This Valentine's Day, I encourage you to see it through a different lens. By all means, celebrate your beloved, but designate time to honor yourself as well on the holiday when we focus on love. When was the last time you really concentrated on yourself without guilt or concern for everybody else in your world?

Prioritizing yourself is not selfish or greedy, but an act of self-preservation and gratitude that allows you to be a better, spouse, partner, parent, sibling, friend or colleague. These actions steps will give you techniques if paying attention to yourself is difficult.

1. Say, "I Love You!" to Yourself
Declaring your love for another is the ultimate confirmation of affection, but have you ever said "I love you!" to yourself? Loving yourself is essential to boost self-confidence and self-acceptance, and you deserve to love yourself just as you give your love to others.

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up about body image, what we lack and what we have yet to accomplish. Take a moment and look at yourself in the mirror and declare your love for yourself. This self-recognition will actually help you to ignore the obnoxious roommate in your head that can lead your mojo astray. Start the day with the beautiful ritual of declaring your love for yourself and honor your body, since it's the only one you've got.

2. Heighten Your Senses
In a time-starved world with the constant struggle of integrating the personal and professional, we often miss the joy of our senses. Taste, smell and enjoy the look of your food, for example. If you are wolfing down your lunch at your desk, you are not loving and honoring yourself or your food.

Enjoy the quiet moments as well as the cacophony of noise and sense your world on a deeper level. A friend gave me a bear hug the other day, which was the perfect antidote to the stress I was feeling. Open your senses wide and experience the little things that make life extraordinary -- like the sense of touch.

3. Embrace Failure
I believe in the power of failure and in my fourth decade of life, I have finally given up guilt. I have learned to fail forward, fast and often, and I embrace change and see risk taking as a new opportunity ready to be discovered.

Give yourself permission to fail. Love yourself for trying new things and expanding your comfort zone. If it doesn't work out. move in a different direction. Self -forgiveness opens up room for gratitude, growth and bliss.

4. Define Yourself by Your Potential
Many practice self-loathing because they undervalue their efforts and only focus on achievement. Love yourself for trying and celebrate your determination, not just your results.

5. Advocate for Yourself
As a career and executive coach, I witness many people who will go to bat for others. I see professionals who sing the praises of their colleagues, yet they often lack the ability to promote themselves. Keep helping others because it's the right thing to do and it will make you a better person and a better leader. But, don't sell yourself short. If you can't stand up for yourself and show the world what you have to offer, nobody else will.

6. Write a Love Note to Yourself
My husband often leaves me little notes with loving and humorous sentiments. I cherish these and save them in a box. I know parents who send their kids to school with a pick me up message in a lunch box. Why not write yourself a love note and remind yourself how amazing you are? Leave it in a place you will discover unexpectedly and celebrate yourself. There is enough negative talk in the world -- we need more love notes, even if you write your own.

7. Do Something for Yourself
It's common to spend much of your time caring and doing for others, both at home and at work. A dear friend just lost her husband after his multi-year battle with a terminal illness. She has been a caregiver for over a decade and is struggling with creating her new identity and the opportunity to focus on herself since she had prioritized her husband and her kids for so long.

Make a point to schedule things just for you. Whether it's a walk in nature, a special getaway or a quiet evening to read or catch up on your favorite TV programs, take the time to focus on you.

8. Do What You Love
Bad jobs, bad bosses and bad organizations happen, but suffering is optional. Develop a plan to find your bliss vocationally in your career and avocationally in your hobbies and free time.

Remember that laughter is the best remedy for stress and if you are doing what you love, laugher and smiling will be part of your daily ritual.

Diane von Furstenberg, fashion icon and creator of her signature wrap dress, shared in a recent appearance on CBS This Morning, "The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself. And if you have that, any other relationship is a plus and not a must."

Be open to love from others and know that you alone are in control of loving yourself first. This Valentine's Day, say, "I love you!" and celebrate yourself in addition to the others you love. You deserve it!

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Director of Professional Enrichment at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, the British online magazine - The Rouse and More Magazine online. She is working on a TV series about career & life empowerment for women and hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - check it out on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook,LinkedIn, and Twitter.