As we are celebrating not only love but self-love at Paulette, let’s talk about the greatest love of all: the love we should have for ourselves.

The month of February traditionally revolves around two things: being cold AF (well, maybe not this Winter because… global warming) and Valentine’s Day. Every year, this celebration of love brings together lovers and romantic souls who believe that red roses are the ultimate symbol of eternal passion. How cute. But, on V-Day, two opposite teams collide: the traditionalists and the cynics. Adepts of the candlelight dinner date/box of chocolate/extravagant jewelry combo vs adepts of the liquor-fuelled Gal-entine outings. In the middle resides the happy few, who don’t really care.

It’s true that when you are not in a relationship on Valentine’s Day – therefore not feeling validated by society, February 14th can leave a bad taste in your mouth. “I have no one to love, so why should I celebrate love?”, you might say to yourself, all bundled up in your bobbling Ikea blanket. The perspective of this cheesy holiday triggers mixed emotions and feelings. We get it. However, there actually is someone worth putting our bitterness aside for. Someone who clearly deserves love and attention: oneself.

Know Thyself

Have you ever watched Deux Moi, by Cédric Klapisch, or How To Be Single, with Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson. Two polar opposite movies, granted. The former is as subtle and emotional as the real-life hardships we may experience, making the story easily relatable. The latter is a typical feel-good American comedy, funny but over-the-top, and filled with inaccuracies (a junior paralegal could never afford a two-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, but I digress). However, in their own way, these two films tackle the same topic: how important it is to know and love yourself, before you meet someone special to love.

It is important to learn how to be by yourself and appreciate to be by yourself, instead of considering celibacy as a painful transition period between two romantic relationships. “By learning to be alone, you learn how to not be alone”, says the fortune in HTBS. Well, let’s be honest, when you get dumped overnight by the guy you were living with for the past 3 years – or the past three months even – you don’t choose your fate. It is a heart-breaking situation and you feel like you will never be able to recover from it. You might even, understandably so, want to throw your poke bowl in the face of whoever chimes in with a cliché inspirational quote that they’ve read in a questionable self-help book, “Love yourself, blah blah”.

Having gone through similar heartbreaks once or twice (or ten times) over myself, I can assure you that after a while, the heavy pit in your stomach and the deep hole in your heart fade away little by little every morning, until they disappear for good. Waking up becomes easier than the day before. The memories feel less painful. The wise words from the fortune cookie make more sense. The time has come to focus on you, yourself, and thy.

Is loving yourself the first step to a happier YOU?

Tiny side note: being single does not necessarily mean that you have a broken heart, and that you shed a tear at the very sight of two people holding hands in the street. That’s not what I mean. Similarly, being in a relationship does not exempt you from having a loving relationship with yourself first. As Samantha says in Sex & The City the movie (a train wreck that we love to hate, or hate to love): “I love you, but I love me more”. We’ve never found a more praise-worthy self-love guru than Samantha Jones, period.

Besides, we mainly associate the concept of love with romantic relationships. But in fact, love means so much more. It also means making sure that you build enough confidence in yourself to garner respect and appreciation from others, ask for what you deserve unapologetically, pick yourself up after a failure, nurture your creativity, take on a daring project with the conviction that you are strong “enough” to carry it out. You’ll increase your self-confidence tenfold thanks to all these little (and big) personal victories. A virtuous circle that applies to all areas of your life – not to be confused with being self-centered of course. It’ll change your day-to-day life for the better.

Let’s be honest, self-esteem and everything that goes with it are unfortunately not easy to master. As great as having a high opinion of yourself is, few of us can say that we love ourselves fully. Bad habits die hard, and we tend to spend more time focusing on what we dislike about ourselves rather than cherishing what make us happy to be us and not somebody else. While that’s exactly what we should be doing: focusing on us.

How do we make a change, you ask? Let’s start by having a more forgiving and compassionate attitude towards ourselves, physically and mentally. Heal our wounds, and take the time to resolve what still hurts by bravely opening up. Make a list of what we are proud of and what we have successfully accomplished rather than keep pondering on where we came short. Treat ourselves, body and soul. Identify our shortcomings, take responsibility for them and work gently to curve them. Above all, do not feel guilty when you are not quite happy with every single part of you yet.

Be gentle with yourself, always.

This year, for Valentine’s Day, we celebrate ourselves before celebrating being in a romantic relationship. Because if being in a romantic relationship does not define us, the love that we have for ourselves undeniably does. I love myself, therefore I am, without a doubt.

Article by Pauline Machado

English translation by PK Douglas