A Valentine’s Manifesto for Self
‘I love myself. The quietest, simplest, most powerful revolution ever’. ~ Ism
There’s nothing like the arrival of Valentine’s Day to make you ponder the ‘L’ word. Of course, there are many types of love on offer in this lifetime. There’s platonic love, sisterly love, pet love, love for mother nature, parental love and a love for a something ‘greater’ than ourselves, to name a few.
And our favourite: romantic love. As a society we love to hone in on the particular brand of love that is the couple bond. We’re fascinated by it. Hollywood, popular culture and the media thrive on it. Valentine’s Day, Royal weddings, the Brangelinas and The Bachelor’s of this world feed our cultural obsession further.
Our dreams and hopes for romantic love are woven into the narratives of our lives; the stories we tell ourselves and our children. And up against it, all other kinds of love can feel, well, less than. Not quite as important. And definitely not as exciting. As for self-love... if we’re truly honest, it hovers around the bottom of the hierarchy, if it has a place at all.
If the phrase ‘self-love’ leaves you a bit squeamish, it can be forgiven. To admit even to ourselves that we’re taking on some kind of self-love project can feel indulgent at best, narcissistic at worst. But how often do we hear the well-intended advice: you can’t truly love anyone else until you love yourself. But what does this actually mean?
For a start, there’s no manual. How we choose to love ourselves seems to be as individual and personal as how we choose to love another. We might wonder if loving ourselves is more a feeling or an act? Like romantic love, no-one walks around in a state of amorous affection all the time, at least not after the initial period. Perhaps self-love could be expressed in the small daily acts, rather than a permanent state of self-appreciation, too.
With this in mind, we put together a little manifesto. Think of it as an offering, not a checklist. A place to start; something to try on and take with you that which resonates.
Start the day by checking in with your sweet self. Saying good morning is a great start. You don’t have to say it aloud or even in front of a mirror (although it’s a lovely way to greet oneself), but just simply acknowledging where you are today. How is your heart? How do you feel? You don’t need to do anything with the answer, asking the question is enough to make you feel cared for. By you.
Attend to your little person
Your inner child. The one who is pure innocence and delight; perfectly whole and complete. She’s strong and fearless some days and uncertain and frightened others. Walking around in an adult body, it’s easy to feel like we really should have it all figured out, forgetting that underneath we are still a little person who just needs to be scooped up sometimes. And put to bed when they’re overtired. Asking her, what do you need right now? Why are you sad? What are you afraid of? Is sometimes all the acknowledgement needed to soothe, tend to and return to adulting.
Love your body
Easier said than done! A great place to start is admiring and appreciating the full spectrum of beauty in others. Celebrate the beauty in the women around you. Expand your definition of what is beautiful; a laugh, a smile line, the way a friend carries themselves, a beautiful heart, an energy. In the same way, you could open to the idea that those parts you that you deem flawed or unlovable, may be the very things someone adores about you. Even better, parts that you will come to cherish yourself.
In our image-laden culture, we’re fixated on the aesthetics of the body. Even with the positive-body movement, it’s still largely focused on loving our body as an accessory. What if we were to turn it around and appreciate what our bodies can do? How powerful would it be to thank your body! For your strong legs that let you dance and run. For your hips, that nestle into someone, that carry a child. For your heart that keeps beating just for you. We can be so impatient with our bodies! And even think that we are our body. Rather than an amazing vessel which allows us to taste fresh sushi, relish the touch of a lover, smell the ocean and hear our child’s laughter.
Love your ‘ouchy’ bits
That’s right, the messy bits, the unresolved ‘stuff’, the irrational, the neurotic; the parts that you’d really rather not have, let alone admit to, let alone make friends with. Wrap those parts up in your arms. Hold space for them. As they are.
Find your bliss
And make time for it. Dance, drawing, yoga, gardening, singing, cooking, blogging, writing, ikebana. If you don’t know what your bliss is, go on a bliss-hunt! Find that thing that you love to do just for the sheer joy of it. Give it importance. Between the have to’s of daily living and our endless to-do lists, attending to our kids, partner, the house, our workplace, friendships... it can leave you feeling a little dried up. Take back your playtime!
Be your own best friend
Given that our relationship with ourselves is the one that outlasts all the others, it’s probably worth giving some thought to. If you’re not used to tending to your own needs it will feel pretty unnatural at first. You may not want to announce your plans for everlasting solo love on Facebook. But no-one has to know. It can just be an experiment. When you think of it like that, there’s no right and wrong way to do relationship with self. But the bi-product of nurturing it, is you have more to give to others. Pouring from a full cup instead of an empty one!
Attend to your emotional health like you would your physical health
We go to a doctor when we are physically sick. But for the most part, we try and manage our mental health alone. Burn out, adrenal fatigue, anxiety, depression and stress related health issues seem to just be part of our general condition now. There can be a feeling that if you’re not ‘super busy’, ‘under the pump’ or juggling a hundred different side hustles, then what are you even doing with your time?! But here’s the thing: no-one else will tell you to pause and take time out. If you feel like you’re burning out, then stop and survey the scene. Where are you saying yes when you really want to say no? It would be nice to adhere to a hard and fast rule like ‘if it’s not an absolute yes then it’s a no’ but of course there are things we attend to that don’t particularly thrill us.
Act like you love yourself
If love is in actions then loving yourself might look like something as simple as cleaning the kitchen before bed even though you’re exhausted, because you want to gift yourself a clean kitchen to start the day with good juju tomorrow. Loving yourself could look like taking yourself to that yoga class, even when you don’t want to, because you know you’ll feel better afterwards. Or leaving snacks in the glovebox of your car because you know how fun it is to discover packed snacks later when you’re hungry.
Love Sophie x
Image Credit - @oliverpacas