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My Own Valentine: Why We Should Practice Self-Care (and Celebrate Self-Love) in February

Photo by Jess Watters from Pixabay

I don’t know how it happens for other people, but I remember the specific moment I realized I loved myself.

A couple of years ago, I had the worst year of my life. I won’t go into details as that could fill a book of its own. Let’s just say my self-esteem was the lowest it has ever been.

As I drove to group therapy, Demi Lovato’s song “Sober” started playing on my radio. I parked just as I heard the last line of the song about apologizing to herself. I immediately started bawling.

The line triggered an image in my mind’s eye, which you might find odd. Just bear with me.

I pictured myself standing tall, looking my best all dressed up and well-groomed. Walking towards me was another version of myself. I’ll refer to that second me as “she” to avoid confusion.

She was dressed in days old clothing and her head was down in shame. She also had her arms crossed over her torso, as if she was hugging herself. Concerned, I met her halfway. She looked up slightly and barely got the words, “I’m sorry”, out before she started crying loudly, gasping between sobs. “I’m so sorry!” she repeated.

I immediately put my arms around her, letting her cry against my shoulder as I stroked her hair. Up until then, I often felt self-loathing. In that moment, though? How could I hate such a vulnerable creature? She was repentant for her mistakes and wanted to put forth an effort to make up for them.

She was imperfect, sure, but aren’t we all? I couldn’t blame her for being human. Besides, she was in a significant amount of pain, more than she had ever been through. She’d gone through a lot in her life and was only now getting the proper mental health treatment.

Judging myself was one thing, but looking at her like a sister or friend? If my actual sister or any friend came to me like that, of course I’d say exactly what I said in that daydream:

“Shh, it’s okay. I forgive you. I love you.”

When I told my therapist, she was moved and impressed by how healing that moment was for me. I was too. Ever since, though I mess up sometimes, I usually catch myself as I say negative criticism to myself and immediately try to counter it with something positive. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m proud of myself thus far.

Now, here’s why I shared this story.

It’s tough to feel self-loathing, but it’s especially challenging in February when couples are flaunting their love. Whether on purpose or not, it can still hurt for spectators who aren’t in the same place in their romantic lives.

True, Galentine’s Day has become a tradition on February 13th, which is awesome for female friends and family to share their love for one another. Yet, not all women participate in Galentine’s Day. There also may still be men, transpeople, genderfluid individuals, and non-binary persons who don’t have a tradition like this to turn towards, let alone plans for the actual day of the 14th.

On the other hand, it can also be problematic to enjoy Valentine’s Day for the complete opposite reason. When we do have a romantic someone, the level of seriousness and length of time together dictates what we’ll do or what gifts we’ll swap that day. Clearly, a Valentine’s Date can be complicated to figure out.

Plus, there are family members like our parents or children, as well as coworkers and other close friends, to celebrate with too. We don’t want anyone to feel left out – a lesson we learned in grade school when we all had to bring enough Valentine’s Day cards and treats for the whole class.

Of course, by doing so, it was tricky to have our crushes notice us when we were competing with the whole class for attention, but I digress.

My point is that Valentine’s Day can be stressful (and expensive)! With cards, candy, gifts, dates, treats, events, and quality time spent with those we love, there’s little time for ourselves.

If we do end up with time on our hands, we may still struggle to make good use of it. Instead, we might waste it on comparing ourselves with other people’s romantic lives, wondering what’s wrong with us.

That’s why I want to encourage practicing self-care to celebrate self-love for February. Taking care of ourselves is always important, but sometimes we need to be mindful about doing a little more self-care than usual. We get flu shots for flu season, take vitamins, get vaccinations (not getting into that debate), eat healthy, and/or exercise to prevent physical illness. We must also take preventative measures for our mental health.

That being said, I consider the focus of self-care in February to be about learning to love ourselves. There are many activities to help us do so. Some simple examples include:

- Keeping notes with positive phrases so we can improve the way we talk to, and believe in,
- Looking in the mirror and picking at least one feature or trait we like about ourselves
- Taking ourselves on dates to our favorite restaurant, movie theater, spa, park, etc. and spoiling ourselves

While I’ve done all of these self-care routines, my favorite is the last one. Let me give you an example that happened recently.

It’s a Sunday evening and I’m craving ice cream. As I’m slightly lactose-intolerant, the only kind I can have is vegan. My boyfriend was unavailable, my mom didn’t want to go, and it was too last minute to invite anyone else. So, I took off by myself to my favorite local vegan restaurant.

I read Little Women while I waited for the waitress (who was super nice). The time went by quickly with the March sisters entertaining me with their shenanigans. In addition, I treated myself to a whole dinner and dessert combo, even going as far as to bring my parents cookies from the restaurant’s bakery. It was a win-win for everyone!

Here’s my thought process on self-care dates like mine: Whether we have a romantic relationship or a close friendship, we learn to love others by spending time together. We get to know one another the more we do so until we realize just how much we care about that other person. Then, by the time we know we love that person, we’ll do anything to support and care for that person.

I don’t see why we can’t do the same for ourselves. With the theme of love in February, it’s the perfect time to start.

What self-care routines do you use to celebrate your self-love? Please feel free to share in the comments!