February is a tough month for a lot of women, myself included. I typically sulk, looking at my calendar and anticipating yet another cold, lonely Valentine’s Day celebrated by myself.
I usually try to ignore it and all the other toxic social media reminders. But eventually, the feelings of lack, unworthiness, and undesirability catch up to me. It’s been bugging me lately, though, because I’m pretty comfortable in my single-dom. A while back, I decided that I was not emotionally or mentally ready to put myself back out in the dating ring, and that’s okay.
That’s not to say I’m not a romantic at heart. Deep down, I aspire for more love to be shared and relationships to be cherished—but as I reflected on this, it hit me. It reeeaaally hit me.
It’s not my relationship status that gets me down; it’s the realization that I don’t know what it feels like to be truly loved. Genuinely, unapologetically loved. No strings attached, no nudges to be changed or altered into a different form or shape of myself.
It starts with family
I don’t think I could tell you the last time I felt truly appreciated or admired by my parents. I’ve been trained to do as I’m told or face the repercussions of acting out or speaking up.
My twenty-three-year-old self can now recognize that I grew up in a toxic household that didn’t put much emphasis on joy or happiness. Instead, I have one parent in particular who is rather pessimistic and bitter towards life and another who doesn’t want to “rock the boat” and chooses to stay out of most conflicts.
Because of this, the part of me responsible for feeling love and giving love doesn’t feel as developed as it should be. I notice that I have difficulty accepting affection; I often get uncomfortable in these situations and don’t know how to properly reciprocate.
It takes me a very long time to warm up to people, whether new friends or romantic partners. The truth is, I’m still working through my core programming of not being worthy of love.
How I’m choosing love
One of my favorite fitness influencers ended a workout saying, “there’s no one in life that is going to tell you to get out of bed and start achieving your goals. That motivation and desire come from you.”
And she’s right. I realize that because I struggle to feel loved, I need to work on how I want to love myself and how I want love to feel.
So, I’ve started developing some new habits. The steps I’m taking to choose love include:
- Dating myself
- Showing up
- Sparking joy
1. Dating myself
Taking myself on dates has become a more recent revelation for me thanks to social media platforms, and I’m fully here for it.
I’m no stranger to going to a coffee shop and grinding out some work I want to catch up on, but that’s not what I want to accomplish on this love journey. I want to go to that coffee shop, order my favorite latte, and relax with a nice book or journal.
While I’m very comfortable in my own company, I’ve noticed that I rarely check in with myself to see how I’m doing. I want to spend this time getting to know myself deeper, like a potential date.
Think about it, we spend so much of our dating lives getting to know others, so why don’t we return the favor to ourselves?
I’m most excited about this step. I’m curious about what I might discover that I’m not acutely aware of!
Meditation is one habit that I’ve fallen in and out of love with more times than I’d like to admit. It’s one of those things that we know is good for us but, for some reason, have a hard time sticking to.
One switch I’m going to make to my meditation routine is to focus on any negative self-talk that arises. I want to accept that I’m having this thought and then let it go. I think meditation is often a roadblock for me because I tend to fixate on the negative thoughts and have a hard time working through them.
So, to overcome this challenge, I’m going to write down all the bad thoughts on paper in that moment so I can get back into the practice. I’m someone who needs to write things down to get them out of my head, and I’m hoping this will spark a more successful mediation habit.
I’m very aware of who I am. Aware of what my body looks like in space, aware of my Virgo tendencies, aware of when I’m doing well, when I’m not doing well, etc. One thing I am immensely aware of is the struggle with accepting myself, in particular, accepting my body.
As a mid-sized girl, I know all too well the struggle of literally not fitting in. Not fitting in with the straight-sized girlies or the plus-sized gals, not really having a space for me to be me.
In my relationships, I’ve noticed this lack of body acceptance manifest itself as not wanting physical touch from friends or family, not even from myself. No hugs, no cuddling, nothing.
So, I’m making it a point to hug myself at least once a week. It might seem silly, but as someone who has struggled with feeling alone in a body she doesn’t always love, hugging myself has become extremely therapeutic. In times of emotional breakdown, loneliness, or simply lounging on the couch and watching Netflix, a good hug can work wonders.
After all, you want your significant other to hug you for a sense of security, so why wouldn’t you want to hug yourself, too?
4. Showing up
No one in life forcing you to achieve your goals. You need to want it for yourself. In my case, I need to seek love. I seek love within myself, and I will show love to the ones I care about.
This means not ghosting people or leaving them on read. We all need some space for mental health, but showing up and communicating our boundaries like adults is a necessary variable to the equation. I will catch up with my closest friends and ask them how they are doing. I want to ask them where they feel supported or could use more support.
This also means changing the way I communicate with my parents. They’ve taught me the only ways they know how to show and receive love, much to my dismay. So, now it’s my turn to flip the switch and have deeper conversations they’re probably not used to having. I know this will be difficult, but it’s my best bet at healing a wounded relationship with them and myself.
5. Sparking joy
I know it’s probably cliché, but loving yourself also means exploring the hobbies and activities that make you happy. For me, this is a combination of working out, being creative, and learning German.
We all get caught up in the busyness of life, but it’s important to stop, reflect, and ask ourselves when was the last time we did something fun. It should be a priority on this love journey to make ourselves happy above other commitments.
The opportunity to find love
February and Valentine’s Day don’t have to be a bleak reminder of what you’re not happy about in your life. Instead, we can frame this time as an opportunity to get to know ourselves and show up for ourselves in ways we never thought were possible.
I’m excited to fall deeper in love with myself this year, and I encourage you to try and do the same.