At this time of year, there is a strong focus on relationships. Valentine’s Day has monopolised conversations and everyone wants to know if you’re seeing someone, when you’re getting married, if you have any romantic plans for the weekend. Very little is said about a more important relationship, the one you have with yourself.
We have spent much of the past year separated from those we love, working from home without the support of our coworkers and friends and missing the most basic of human connections. It is a difficult time and it doesn’t make a difference if you are living alone or surrounded by a large family in your home, we’re all struggling.
One woman who has found a way to support and strengthen our spirits at this time, and when the world goes back to normal too, is clinical hypnotherapist Fiona Brennan (Instagram: @the_positive_habit_). Brennan’s second book,, is being published at the end of the month and it sounds like the perfect salve for our emotional wounds.
“You can be surrounded by people and still feel very lonely. If you don’t have enough space for yourself then you’re going to be missing out on that important relationship, the one with yourself,” she says.
Brennan says she is keen to remove the stigma that caring for yourself is selfish. She says without a healthy relationship with ourselves, we can’t expect other connections to grow and strengthen.
“I want to break up the myths of self-love being selfish. It really is the most selfless thing you can do, to take time for yourself because you then create a much more loving energy that you share with other people. That’s the greatest gift that we give people, our energy.
“It is the most selfless thing you can do because even the word can conjure up a feeling that it’s selfish, when we hear ‘self’ we immediately think ‘selfish’ and it’s actually not at all, you need to be in a strong position with yourself before you can actually love another person fully without expectations of that person that they might not be able to meet.”
While Brennan’s second book is being released at a time when we are all reckoning with the effects of isolation, it is a concept she decided to work upon long before Covid-19 was first heard of.
“My first book is calledand that came out in 2019. One of the chapters in is called ‘The Love Habit’ and I speak quite a lot about self-love in that chapter. I knew as I was writing it that there’s a lot more here to be said. It’s the thing I’d see most often in my work with clients is lack of self-love and also a lack of clarity of what it is and how to do it, how to actually implement that.”
Brennan says if we are not able to provide love and support to ourselves, we can’t do so effectively for others, and notes the various lockdowns have forced people to confront this issue.
"We need to feel acknowledged and valued by other people. We need to be seen, we need to connect. If you’re not providing that for yourself, which many people are not, and you’re not getting it externally then you’re going to suffer. Your mental health will definitely be impacted. Having said that, you’re never really going to get it externally, even with no lockdown, lots of friends and a big family, you still will always need to have a positive relationship with yourself. That comes first,” she says.
Brennan says she first encountered her own struggles with self-love 25 years ago.
“I start the book talking about loneliness and my own loneliness. When I was 20-years-old I was living in Paris on my own and I’d gone over there without any family or friends around me. I was heartbroken and scared. I questioned myself and I just felt so isolated in this big city without knowing a soul. A lot of the experience of learning to love yourself comes with time. I wouldn’t have been able to access what I needed back then without more guidance, that’s why I really do believe we need guidance in these areas,” she says.
Irish people are known for being self-deprecating and Brennan thinks this is a trait we need to suppress in order to support our emotional wellbeing.
“When someone has good self-esteem it can almost be seen as boasting or something that’s negative. People tend to push that down because they’re afraid of what people are going to say if they are too ‘cocky’. It’s not at all about being cocky but unfortunately, I’ve seen the flip-side. Lovely, gorgeous people are so hard on themselves and it’s heartbreaking how people speak to themselves. I’ve gotten a real insight into that just through the nature of my work.”
provides the guidance Brennan yearned for as a younger woman and offers a visual and auditory approach.
“I’m a clinical hypnotherapist so hypnotherapy is a huge aspect of everything I do, whether it’s working with clients, my online course, and my books. Everything that is in the book is reinforced and concreted into the subconscious mind through the audio.”
Above all, Brennan says the time we spend now building a self-love habit will stand to us when we can meet others once more and share our love with them.
“We’re going to be so grateful for what we took for granted, just meeting friends in a restaurant and being able to hug them. That’s pretty significant now,” she says.
A practical thing for people to do is listen to hypnotherapy or guided meditation on a daily basis to reinforce that mental training.
Be a friend to yourself and when you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself, ask yourself that question: would I say this to a friend? If the answer is no, which inevitably it will be, then don’t say it to yourself.
This is at the heart of the book and the work that I do, especially when dealing with anxiety, stress, and fear, which there is a lot of at the moment. The daily promise technique is where you are open to accepting all the parts of yourself. For example, you’d say: ‘I’m open to accepting all parts of myself today to the best of my ability.’ It’s important that it’s to the best of your ability, you’re giving yourself room to not be a perfectionist about it. When we feel stress or anxiety or any negative emotion, we accept it within ourselves so we’re not judging it. That is huge. It isn’t simple but it’s really important.
Spend two minutes and look at yourself. Make really good eye contact so you’re connecting to yourself. What you want to do is look beyond the physical. You’re looking beyond all the things we generally look at and you’re simply maintaining eye contact with yourself. This is a profound way to get to know yourself better and to become more at ease and comfortable with yourself. It’s amazingly powerful. When you do this with yourself is has the ability to make you more at ease with others.
Have five hugs a day and hold the hug for 15 seconds. The physical touch of hugging is hugely important for feeling safe and to release oxytocin, which is an important neurochemical that helps us feel love and safety. Make a mental habit and incorporate hugs into your behaviour with your loved ones. If it’s only one person, or a dog, if you have nobody but yourself, hug!
- The Self-Love Habit will be published on Friday February 26 (Gill Books, €16.99).
- Tickets to The Self-Love Habit Masterclass on Saturday, February 27 are available now on Eventbrite.ie at https://theselflovehabitmasterclass.eventbrite.ie