I don’t really subscribe to the whole premise of a Valentine’s Day in which the focus is almost entirely on romantic love and capitalist consumerism. In my opinion, love between couples isn’t the only love worth celebrating, and buying expensive stuff isn’t the best symbol of these feelings. For me, 14th February is a day to show appreciation for the people that you care about, in whatever way is significant to them. If this means getting each other lots of material objects, then by all means do that. But I think it’s also important to not lose sight of the value of experiences and time spent together or doing something for them, such as making a special dinner.
In the run up to this day, I often find myself rolling my eyes at the crazy amount of marketing and advertising done by companies all over the place, whether that’s on the high street or online. In a consumer society, it’s hardly surprising that everyone is rushing to cash in on yet another celebration in the year that tells us it’s okay to spend lots of money, and I don’t blame them. That’s how business works. But that doesn’t stop me feeling a little depressed by it all.
Putting my cynicism aside, at the very least I think this day of love is a great moment to reflect on the love we have for others and the ways we show this to them, and also the love we have for ourselves and if we take the time to acknowledge this in our everyday lives. Up until the past few years, I’d never really thought about the importance of loving myself, in fact I hadn’t really considered it at all. Since realising self-love is a vital part of having a happy, healthy mind, I have also realised how hard it is for some of us to consolidate feelings of love in relation to ourselves. I mostly put this down to living in a culture in which it’s deemed self-obsessed and arrogant to appreciate things about ourselves.
We’re told we’re not good enough over and over again. Magazines preach about getting the ‘perfect bikini body’, a pressure to fit in at school persists, and TV adverts promote one face cream or another that supposedly erase or reverse a multitude of ‘problems’. We’re constantly bombarded by an endless supply of information reminding us of how many hobbies we haven’t taken up yet, or dictating to us the fact that we’re overworking and not dedicating time to family, or lazy and not working enough… It’s endless.
So this Valentine’s Day I want to promote self-love: ‘a regard for one’s own wellbeing and happiness’. I don’t expect this mindful effort to focus on liking parts of ourselves to change the whole historical, cultural and social upbringing we’ve all had. I know we might feel unable to fully believe in something positive about ourselves – our minds, bodies, capabilities, passions – but we have to acknowledge that regardless of these societal hurdles desperate to keep us unhappy in our own skin, we all hold bucketfuls of brilliant qualities. They might be invisibly floating beneath the surface of tumultuous waves and stirred-up sand, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Becoming aware of the necessity of self-love is much like finding a scuba mask in which to navigate these murky waters: it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to see the treasure straight away, but it does mean that you’re forever swimming closer towards a more solid feeling of love for yourself. Just the search for this feeling has the potential to offer up wonderful things on the way, things you never knew you appreciated about yourself will swim past like schools of colourful fish.
So my task for you all this Valentine’s Day is to contemplate what you love about yourself. This could be anything: from the superficial right down to the core of your character. When I first sat down to write this post, I thought it would be nice to round it off with a list of three things I truly love about myself.
Now that I’ve reached the moment of actually writing out this praise, I feel awkward. It’s almost like I’m embarrassed to admit that there are things about me that I like. That’s crazy! But I want others to be proud of the things they love about themselves, and it would be a little hypocritical if I can’t manage to do that myself.
I thought it might be helpful for others to know that I’m struggling to talk about myself in this way: it’s so much easier for me to share my pitfalls and problems online. I also find it easy to talk about the things I love to do. But the things I love to be? Now that’s difficult. *Takes a deep breath*.
I love my ability to feel compassion – perhaps one of the biggest decision-making factors in my life. It led me to become vegan and more recently to work in healthcare. Compassion has fuelled so many of my life choices so far, and I’m sure it will feature in my future plans too.
I like my hair colour, particularly in summer. It’s dark brown underneath and fades into dark blonde on top, with lighter streaks after having been exposed to sun for a few weeks. Sometimes people say that they can see hints of ginger in it too, but I’m not so sure.
I also love my curiosity. From my desire to learn more about society and the pull I feel towards planning travel adventures, to my literal and metaphorical hunger to turn any recipe I find vegan, whether that’s lasagna or meringue.
What’s something you love about yourself? Do you find it hard to share these things?
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