It's Valentine's Day! A day symbolized by chocolate, roses, chocolate, champagne, hearts, and did I say chocolate?
We get all soppy and gooey around those we love. Couples become engaged or married, and restaurants are packed with lovers on romantic dinner dates. Kids pass out Valentines at school parties in exchange for sweet treats and temporary tattoos. We give cuddly toys and dress our pets in cupid outfits.
It's a fun day that can be filled with warmth and affection. It reminds us that we're loved and appreciated by friends and family, and the chocolates are an added bonus.
But it can also be filled with loneliness. It's a day where we look so much to others for validation of love and worth, that the whole thing can feel like a charade. All the love and support in the world can't make us love ourselves, and a lack of self-love can make shows of affection from others seem misguided and fake.
It's a vicious circle that can lead to intense feelings of loneliness and depression. I've been there. I feel you. It sucks. And there isn't a simple fix. We can't wake up one day and say, "Today's the day I'm going to love myself." It doesn't work that way. (Though I think it's pretty safe to say that most of us wish it did!)
Loving yourself is a slow and painful process. It's something that all of us struggle with at some point in our lives, and I don't know if we ever truly get there. I'm much better than I used to be, but it's still a struggle. There are days when I just feel gross and don't like anything about myself. I don't think I'm worthy of anyone's love and attention. I think I'm a failure at everything and only let myself and others down.
Then, there are days when I look at myself or something I've accomplished and think, "Hell yeah! You rock, girl!" The days when I have more confidence than all the bad days put together and truly feel joy in being myself. I feel happy to be alive. To be proud of who and what I am, and to see the joy on others' faces when I realize their love for me is genuine.
Thankfully, I now have more of the good days than the bad, but it's a constant battle. I wish I could tell you to do one thing and your self-love will overflow, but I can't. It's a matter of ignoring all the hate and judgment in the world. Ignoring the successes of others and their 'perfect' lives portrayed on social media. Ignoring the harsh words and the shaming that's so prevalent in our societies.
It's exhausting, but it doesn't stop there. While ignoring is important, it's also a matter of acknowledging the beautiful things that make you who you are. Acknowledge your quirks and stand up for your unique personality. Learn to be proud of them. Don't hide things that make you different. You'll never love yourself if you shun the qualities that define you. Acknowledge your successes and allow yourself to recognize when you do something well.
Above all, know that you're not alone. There are many others out there experiencing the same difficulties. It's OK to speak up. It's OK to share your struggles. It's OK to scream when you have a bad day, and it's OK to cry. Looking for help doesn't make you weak, it makes you stronger.
So, on this Valentine's Day, I implore you to begin the journey of loving yourself. It won't be easy, but it'll be worth it in the end. You'll be happier with yourself and in your relationships with others.
I'm here for you. I'm listening. And I'm sending you virtual boxes of chocolates.