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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Valentine’s Day has long been known as a time to show affection to the ones you love in your life. Tracing back to ancient Christian and Roman traditions, St. Valentine’s Day was created for various rumored reasons. First, the more common excuse for the holiday’s creation was to celebrate St. Valentine’s death or burial. Secondly, and less talked about, some believe the holiday was set in place in an attempt to Christianize the celebration of Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival on February 15th.

In the late 1300s to early 1400s, Valentine’s Day began being known for romance. Geoffrey Chaucer referenced the holiday as a “day of romantic celebration” in his poem “Parliament of Foules” published in 1375. Since then, the holiday has grown exponentially, especially with the rising opportunity for the day to be capitalized upon by corporations.

It wasn’t until the late 1900s the ironic idea of a “self-love day” was created. It was shown in movies and TV shows as sad, lonely women eating chocolate and doing face masks because they were “their own Valentine’s” this year. Self-love was a sarcastic trope used to show the hyperbolic emotional profile of single women – with no substance behind the claim. In 2010, Leslie Knope of the TV show Parks and Recreation even popularized the term “Galentine’s Day.”

Finally, as Western society entered the 21st century, it began acknowledging that you could, in fact, have a legitimate “Self-Love Day.” It was no longer a play on loneliness, and instead an opportunity to truly appreciate yourself. I’m thankful to have grown up in a time when it wasn’t corny or unusual to take a day to love yourself – or take every day to do it. The surge of self-love books, campaigns, & health and beauty products have been the fruits of the genuine self-love movement of the 21st century.

Self-love is such a crucial part of emotional wellbeing. The cliche quotes are true: you cannot fill another’s cup before you’ve filled your own. Having positive perceptions of ourselves decreases the risk of several mental illnesses and is linked to greater success in life. Beyond this, as people, we deserve to feel worthy and esteemed regardless of the benefits we see in our professional or academic life. To have a loving relationship with your mind and body is necessary to living a happy and healthy life.

In honor of this, I’ve compiled some of my favorite things I like to do to show myself love. They range from short-term to long-term, from easy to involved. Try picking up a few if they interest you.

Journaling

Being able to write down and reflect upon your thoughts is a very healthy way to process your emotions. Sometimes, we don’t even realize we’ve been holding something in until we start to write and it pours out of us. There’s something to be said about journaling; at least in my experience, there’s a sense of relief when I physically write something down that’s been bothering me… It’s as if I’m literally plucking it out of my brain and putting it somewhere else for safekeeping, allowing me to stop ruminating on it for the time being.

Stretching

Stretching every morning has really been helping me start my day in a way that gets me in tune with my body. I push myself to feel every muscle across my back and abdomen, down my arms and legs, and throughout my neck, shoulders, hands, and feet. Doing this wakes up my body, and when I don’t have time to hit the gym, it still gives me that sense of working the muscles a bit to ease the tensions of the night.

Makeup/Dressing Up

There’s something very soothing about taking the time to be attentive to yourself. I spend about 20 minutes every morning doing my makeup and picking out an outfit that I’ll feel best in. Making the time to be sure I look how I want to that day makes me feel like I paid attention to myself, like I did something for me. “Dressing up” doesn’t have to mean wearing a pantsuit or a new dress… “Dressing up” means putting on clothes that will make you the most comfortable that day. Some days for me that’s athletic wear because it pushes me to stop by the gym, other days it’s fishnets and Dr.’s because I want to feel confident and bold, but a lot of the time it’s a baggy t-shirt or sweatpants. I’ve come to accept that some days, I need to dress for my anxiety. From worrying about what my arms and back look like in a certain crop top to feeling the pressure of high-waisted jeans on my stomach, there are a lot of micro-anxieties that come with certain apparel. It’s okay to “dress up” in a way that makes you feel good, regardless of how others want to perceive you.

Showers/Skincare

Much like how I dress and apply makeup, the way I shower and work through my skincare routine is another form of attentiveness. A few years ago, a therapist told me one of the first, simplest steps to anxiety treatment is taking a mindful shower. He said, “if nothing else, shower mindfully.” This isn’t to say that paying attention to your soap in the shower cures anxiety; he meant, “even if you can’t bring yourself to focus on an assignment, or your job, or your partner… start unbelievably small and focus on one daily habit like your shower.” Something as routine as a shower can become habitual, we mindlessly grab the soaps, rub our bodies, and let our minds wander to sometimes very scary places. Instead, look at your loofa. Watch yourself pour the soap. Focus on the circles your scrub on your stomach. Using this time to practice mindfulness can be very helpful when it comes time to use it in the real world. Additionally, when you consciously run through your shower and skincare, it provides that sense of self-attentiveness that in turn provides a feeling of self-love.

Sitting in Silence

Another mindfulness tactic, sitting in silence can help you get back in touch with your body and emotions. Like journaling, sometimes we aren’t aware of what we’re holding back until we’re left with no distractions and forced to address our minds. I try to sit in silence for at least 10 minutes a day. This is different than the common meditation because you aren’t trying to focus on anything, nor are you trying to empty your mind – you allow whatever thoughts you have to run free, without an end goal. I most often do this outside so I have something to look at: the trees, birds, sky, ground, passersby, etc.

Being with Those Who Make You Happy

While this may seem self-explanatory: you do not owe anyone but yourself your time, attention, and love. After you’ve loved yourself as much as you can, be sure to give love to those around you who won’t take it for granted. I’m grateful to have a friend group, family, and partner who cherish the love I provide and return it unconditionally. It’s a non-negotiable for self-love to surround yourself with people who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated: kindly.

Caressing Your Body

The act of holding your own body can be incredible for growing self-love. We oftentimes caress others more than we caress ourselves. Show the same affection to yourself that you’d give to your family or partner. Be intimate with yourself. Hug your shoulders, hold your stomach, trace the features of your face; become familiar with each curve and point on your body. You should know your body better than anyone else. If you have the space to, stand in front of a mirror and hold yourself. It sounds disgustingly cheesy, but it really can make you feel a new sense of self-esteem. I sometimes find myself fresh out of a shower standing in the mirror, embracing the stomach I so long hated for its bloating, the chest I used to think was too small, the arms I once believed were too hairy. Be comfortable with yourself, naked or otherwise – and with this you’ll find physical self-love.

Going to Therapy

I cannot emphasize how important going to therapy has been for my self-love journey. Speaking with a professional can help you find your power and learn more about what you need from yourself and those around you. It’s often difficult to find someone who clicks just right with you, not to mention the hurdles most people have to jump through just to afford mental healthcare… but if it is available to you, go to therapy. We have check-ups for our bodies, our teeth, our eyes.

Resources

History of Valentine’s Day

The Importance of Self-Love

Hey! I'm Ariana and I'm a Senior at the University of New Hampshire. I'm a Business Administration: Marketing major, with a minor in Anthropology. This is my fourth year writing for Her Campus, and I held the position of Campus Coordinator (Co-President) my second year! I love the friends I've made in this organization and the opportunities it has provided me. All the love, Ari
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