As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m constantly reminded that I will be spending Valentine’s Day alone.
While I’m looking forward to spending a quiet evening with myself doing something that makes me feel happy—like reading a good book, writing, or going to yoga—in some ways, it feels like I’m resisting a social pressure that tells me that I should be feeling really sorry for myself.
Although, women in North America are encouraged to be independent and self-sufficient, the dominant social narrative still emphasizes that Valentine’s Day should be shared with that “special someone:” Dining in fancy restaurants, relaxing with a glass of red wine and dark chocolate, being gifted with roses and diamonds.
That “special someone” is not supposed to be yourself.
When you’re single on Valentine’s Day, you’re subjected to pity pep talks, “There’s still time to find a date on Tinder” or, “stay hopeful, there’s always next Valentine’s Day,” and cards from your Mom reminding you that someone “out there” still loves you.
Why is there still so much stigma attached to being single on Valentine’s Day—or being single at all?
The longest relationship any of us will ever have is with ourselves, so shouldn’t Valentine’s Day be a reminder to prioritize loving ourselves, whether or not we have a romantic partner?
Sadly, though, we live in a world that makes it difficult to practice self-love, even when it’s not Valentine’s Day.
From a young age, we are taught that we are never enough on our own. Beauty is purchased. Happiness is pursued. Bodies are shaped. There’s always someone smarter, fitter, faster, stronger, and more beautiful than us.
As a high school teacher, I’m alarmed by the number of uber-thin girls who have told me how fat they are, and who have broken down in tears after receiving 9/10 on quizzes. As high-achieving teens, they are already striving for perfection in every aspect of their lives. They don’t see themselves as “enough” with out external validation.
But I did the same when I was their age. I over-scheduled my life with clubs, activities, and leadership roles to fulfill a compulsive need to be the best at everything I did. It wasn’t entirely my fault—“busy-ness,” over-achievement and perfectionism were glorified in the culture of my university.
I never made time for creative pursuits, like writing and photography, which add joy and meaning to my life. I began to destroy the relationships that I valued most by attaching external pressures on them. By failing to practice self-love, which involves staying authentic, taking care of myself, setting boundaries and pursuing my passions, I was lowering the standard for the kind of love I deserve.
It took a tough and painful breakup alongside several professionally disappointments for me to really start prioritizing self-love in my life.
Now I say “no” to social events I don’t want to go to and have stopped trying to please other people. I prioritize activities that give me energy and fuel my creativity, like reading, writing and traveling. I’ve stopped investing in friendships that don’t make me better or add substance to my life and instead, spend the bulk of my time with the people I really care about. I take days off when I need them.
While I intend to spend Valentine’s Day alone, I don’t feel sad or lonely. I feel free to do what I want with whom I want because I didn’t feel the need to achieve, or please, or meet any sort of social expectations.
While I would love to share my life with a partner, I don’t want to settle for less than I deserve.
I have faith that by investing time and energy into loving myself, I will eventually attract the kind of love that will make me stronger than I can make myself.
This Valentine’s Day, I feel lucky to be spending time loving the person who matters most in my life: me.
Author: Shannon Mullen
Image: Elephant Instagram
Editor: Sara Kärpänen