To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we consulted Kaati Tarr, LCSW, for advice on how to nurture true love. Kaati counsels teens and adults.
Turns out the platitudes are true: relationships start with yourself. Kaati says, “Ask yourself, What do I believe about myself? Many people I see struggle to connect with people because they don’t feel good enough.” This can create an internal competition. She calls it a “hustle.” People think they’ll be worthy of love “if I’m nice enough, if I try hard enough.” But love isn’t something you can win or attain.
Relationships are also about the right fit. “People think, It must be me, but it’s an us thing,” says Kaati. “Find your people. There’s nothing wrong with you as an individual. You need to be with people who make you feel good and inspire you.”
“Ask yourself, What helps me feel loved?” Kaati says. She holds hands with her husband, because it’s something he likes, and he indulges her love for long talks. You may never get what you need if you don’t identify and ask for it.
“We’re so worried about people liking us, we never show them who we really are—we spend all our energy fitting in, which makes us feel more isolated and hustle more, which leads to burnout. Be your own lighthouse,” says Kaati. She says it’s important to resist comparing yourself to others. It will suck the energy out of you and conversely lead to judgment. “It’s important to be compassionate.” How do you become more compassionate? You guessed it: start with yourself.
Asking yourself questions isn’t easy. A therapist is a great way to gain insight. When looking for one, Kaati says to gather personal recommendations, make a list, and call a few. Get a feel by talking to them and asking about their accessibility, e.g., if they work on a call-back basis, accept texts, etc. Some, like Kaati, offer a free consultation.
Kaati's Top 5: Something for everyone!
MOVIE: Pixar’s Inside Out. So entertaining and poignant, this movie shows how all our emotions are interdependent and work together to make us whole.
VIDEO: TEDx, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Brené Brown is humorous and succinct. She has such great insight that it all sounds simple. She tells her own story to illustrate that it's not.
QUIZ: The 5 Love Languages. What language do you speak? Take the quiz to find out. You can also find out the language of your partner or child.
SITE: Self-Compassion. Learn about self-compassion, its importance, how to practice it, and more from Dr. Kristin Neff. And take another quiz!
APP: Headspace. This is a free meditation app that has a jam-packed paid version. Some sessions are only a minute, plus it has adorable animations.