6 Radical Ways to Practise Self-Love This Valentine's Day
Gushy displays of romantic love and celebrations of coupledom are the Hallmark card bread-and-butter of Valentine’s day, but a cultural shift means many more women are choosing to celebrate their relationship with themselves.
Self-love has long been pathologized as selfish or a needless indulgence, but true self-compassion is often hard earned. In a society that often measures a woman’s ‘worth’ by what she does for others, acts of self-love can be a radical act.
Below are six ways of practising meaningful self-love this Valentine’s Day.
1. Shift the Shame
Narratives around self-love can paint the entire concept as narcissistic, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Judging yourself and holding yourself to unrealistically high standards can leave you feeling run ragged and unable to truly enjoy your own achievements.
In the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation, cultivating compassion for the self allows it to radiate out to others - bathing even jumped up Paul from marketing in a slightly more positive light.
You truly can’t pour from an empty cup and allowing yourself a little pick me up, whether it’s a rousing mental pep talk or a donut is not shameful.
2. Give Yourself a Break
The mere concept of shaming, ridiculing and belittling someone into their “best self” is absolutely ridiculous, but we often do it to ourselves.
Mentally cracking the whip and lashing ourselves for ‘failing’ those new year resolutions is, weirdly, not actually that inspirational! Being kind to ourselves lowers anxiety, helps to foster grit and resilience and makes us more motivated. The carrot of rewarding ourselves for sticking to a new intention most of the time and not beating ourselves up for the days we don’t always yields more enjoyment and reward.
Leading expert in research into self-compassion, Kristen Neff, breaks this down into 3 components
- Mindfulness - Notice when you’re suffering, speaking harshly to yourself or feeling bad and respond with caring. If it’s cold and you’re knackered, get under the sofa blanket, have a biscuit and recharge
- Self-kindness - So you’ve accidentally shown a weird unflattering selfie of yourself on a huge screen during a presentation and have retreated deep into your shame cave, maybe never to emerge? Whisper some kind encouraging words to yourself, like you would to a friend. It’s not the end of the world and you’ll laugh about it one day
- Shared experience - All humans are flawed, beautiful, weird beings and so are you. Isn’t that lovely?
3. Live by Your Own Style Rules
I can still remember the day I realised, with abject horror, that I was dressing incorrectly for my body type. How could I not have realised I was accidentally making myself look like a squat funhouse mirror when I should have been tricking people into thinking I was a willowy gazelle with a selection of cinched waists, high heels and things to draw the eye from my problem areas?! I was doing it all wrong! Luckily I was only 16 and I’d learnt this early so I could change my entire wardrobe. Phew!
Guess what? It was rubbish and made me really sad. I’m sure you have a similar story.
Living rigidly by style rules instead of just looking in the mirror and figuring out what you think looks good on you really sucks the joy out of dressing.
Image credit: The Shirt Company
If you’re reading this, you probably love fashion and there’s such joy in choosing clothes that showcase who you are. No matter what your body type happens to be, you can dress it in whatever the hell you want.
I love wide legged pants and oversized shirts, even though thousands of articles have told me I am too short to wear them and should be wearing something to conceal that fact.
Image credit: The Shirt Company
Being comfortable in your own skin is so important and you know what makes you look and feel great. Wear it!
4. Clean Up Your Social Media Feed
Social media gets a bad rep, but to a great extent, you choose what you follow and look at and it’s possible to create a more positive space.
The glorification of youth, productivity and perfecting literally everything is rife on social media and what begins as a page followed for inspiration can end as a harsh yardstick to measure yourself on.
Your bathroom looks crap compared to the ones on Pinterest, you're not as nice to your child when she’s screaming in Tesco as the gentle parenting influencer says you should be, your skin care regime is missing magical ingredients so you’re going to turn into a dusty old crone…
We all logically know social media portrayals aren’t real, but they still seep into the cracks.
I have noticed how horribly ageist the fashion spaces I follow can be, so I have started to follow older women looking fab and living their best lives. The account and.bloom is a great place to find them!
You can also block content on Instagram to stop people peddling cosmetic surgery, diet pills and other things you don’t want to disturb your peace.
5. Do Whatever Silly Little Thing Makes You Happy
stop glamorizing “the Grind” and start glamorizing whatever this is pic.twitter.com/IaDcnvcKRs— Owl! at the Library 😴🧙♀️ (@SketchesbyBoze) September 13, 2021
The grinding productivity mindset we all live in often judges things on how ‘useful’ they are which can leave our silly little hobbies in the dust at the bottom of the endless to-do list.
You don’t have to be at Pottery Throw Down level to enjoy making a wonky little vase and spending an evening squeaking out some notes on that flute you’ve bought but have never had time to play can be a blast.
When you shift to enjoying the process as opposed to looking for an end result, whatever weird little thing makes you happy is totally worthwhile, even (perhaps especially) if the most judgy people in your life would scoff at it.
I have a giant bag of dog fur in my cupboard which I plan to (inevitably quite badly) spin into yarn to make a jumper, what of it?
6. Unlearn Some Harmful Cultural Constructs
So, you happen to be single on Valentine’s Day? While attitudes have been shifting for decades, single-shaming is still very real and the societal pressure to couple up can be monolithic.
The pitying glances, the intrusive questions, the “you’ll find the one soon” — despite the fact that in a recent survey 58% percent of singletons were perfectly happy with their relationship status and not even looking.
In a BBC article, New York City-based psychotherapist Allison Abrams says that “internalised shame from societal attitudes towards singles can negatively affect self-image.”
It’s perhaps illuminating that this article was one of the most read and shared in 2022 and that the current number one single is all about choosing yourself over unsatisfying relationships.
Go on, buy yourself flowers.
Cover image credit: Flickr.com/polanaked