I’ve always had really vivid past memories of Valentine’s Day. For example, I could tell you about the time that my crush in the first grade gave chocolate to the girl that used to draw awful pictures of me and pull my hair every day instead of me. Or, I could talk about the bus ride home on that fateful February 14 in seventh grade where a boy I didn’t even know gave me a stuffed teddy bear and walked off the bus, and I never saw him again. I could tell you about what it feels like to be in a relationship and outside of one, happy and sad, frustrated and fain, and every emotion in between. But on this holiday dedicated to loving others, I think it’s much more important to talk about loving yourself first.
For starters, loving yourself is hard. It can be so easy to pour out passion for another person because when you love someone, sometimes we are blinded by that love and tend to ignore the misgivings or flaws in that person. On the other hand, we know ourselves better than anyone else does. We’ve seen ourselves through the entirety of our own lives, through all the moments where we made mistakes, hurt people, felt bad about ourselves, and were otherwise in our own eyes “flawed” and maybe even “unloveable.” When we think about what it would take to love ourselves, it can be more difficult than anything else to sort through all of the negative things and see the person that we are as one who is deserving of the compassion and respect we are so willing to provide to others.
This is where the idea that you can’t really love somebody until you know and love yourself really comes into play. New love feels a lot like butterflies and fireworks; beautiful, picturesque but temporary. No matter how powerful or honest a relationship is, the honeymoon phase does not last forever, and eventually we are met with the reality that the other person in the relationship also has flaws and has made mistakes of their own. Each person in a relationship has made mistakes and battles with personal demons. If we have not learned to love ourselves and acknowledge our own mistakes first, how can we say that we are ready and willing enough to love someone else and all of theirs?
It can take a long time to know how to approach a healthy relationship with yourself. Even if you have the best personal, professional and social life, it can still be difficult to look in a mirror and provide yourself with the compassion that you deserve. Perhaps the most important part in this journey is accepting that you as an individual are worth starting the journey toward a better relationship with yourself. You have to be willing to accept your flaws, accept the things about yourself that you wish you could change or that you think make yourself someone who is difficult, undeserving, or not worth loving. No one is going to be able to do this for you just like no one is going to be able to tell you what you need to do to care about you. You have to know when going into this journey that the person who is going to be able to care about you and love you the most someday is going to be the person staring back at you in your reflection, even if initially it might not feel like it. One step at a time, it gets easier, and one step at a time, you realize that this form of acceptance is so rare and so powerful, even if it takes a bit of interpersonal digging and healing.
I mentioned I’ve always had vivid memories of Valentine’s Day, and though some are bad and some are good, I can say this: It wasn’t until I moved on from elementary school where the holiday was spent celebrating friends, middle school when it was something I hated in favor of ignoring my feelings, and high school when I let people I loved get the best of me, that I realized that this holiday doesn’t have to be about someone else. In fact, it doesn’t have to be about anyone else. It’s about finding a love that you’ve had all along that can’t be bought or sold or given to you on a school bus. A love for yourself.
It’s going to be difficult. But, I promise it’s going to be worth it.