This Valentine’s Day, prioritize loving yourself

When was the last time you took yourself out on a date?

As a holiday, Valentine’s Day has always been about love. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be about romantic love. Loving others has its place in life, but loving yourself is the best way to actually find happiness.

Self-love is different from self-care. Self-care is taking time to prioritize meeting your physical needs. In contrast, self-love is the emotional process of taking time to appreciate yourself and meet yourself with kindness and compassion. Loving yourself means seeing yourself for the unique and valuable person that you are. It is important to exist within yourself at the moment without altering your appearance or behavior to suit other people.

If you don’t already love yourself, start small. Try romanticizing yourself. Develop a crush on your own personality and image and work on appreciating your quirks and nuances.

Catch your own eye when walking by a shop window and smile. Admire the strong arch of your nose and the roundness of your cheeks. How cute is it that you have a cowlick in the middle of your bangs, or that you only use Cherry Coke-flavored chapstick? Your tendency to talk quickly when you’re excited about a topic is charming. The fact that you can explain the complex lore behind the elves in “The Lord of the Rings” is actually really cool. Your collection of anime figures is a neat facet of yourself and you should be excited to share it with the world.

After you’ve developed a bit of a crush, work up your courage and take yourself out on a date.

First, take yourself out to a nice restaurant you’ve never been to. Be sure to show up well-groomed (after all, this is a first date!) and order an appetizer and a dessert for the table –and stay off your phone too – you’re here to make a good impression. Let other people’s conversations wash over you, get lost in your own thoughts and people-watch to your heart’s content. Resist the urge to feel self-conscious. Being alone in public doesn’t mean you’re lonely, and other people at crowded tables may wish they were sitting at a table set for one.

On your second date, find a good slow exercise routine you can run through by yourself in your bedroom. Yoga is a good option, but any method works. Run through the stretches slowly in front of a mirror and admire how your body moves. (If you feel shy, lower the lights!) This is a good way to appreciate your body and all that it does for you. If you can, let go of the part of your mind that looks for imagined ‘imperfections.’ We are so often fixated on how our body appears that we forget that our body serves a greater purpose other than to be looked at. Your body breathes and moves for you. It houses your mind and spirit. The least we can do is appreciate it for all the hard work it does.

On your third date, plan an intimate evening at home. Set the mood right by ensuring your home space is clean and quiet. On your way home that night, pick up a floral arrangement and some scented candles and arrange them in a way you like. Once you arrive, take a hot shower, change into cozy pajamas and order your favorite takeout. Finally, turn the lights low and put on a comfort movie (After all, you’ve had a long day and deserve to be spoiled!). Drift off to sleep in your own loving embrace.

This isn’t a “how to love yourself” article, because no one can manually create the chemistry needed for affection: the magic secret ingredient for this to work is for you to let yourself love you. These suggestions are just the roadmap. It’s up to you to make the journey.