Valentine’s Day can be perceived by many cynics as an Americanised, capitalist scam which profits off the romanticised ideology that you are incomplete without a (usually heterosexual) relationship. While it is about appreciating the loved ones in your life, and shouldn’t entirely be focused on romance, it does support the prevailing idea promoted in society that individually you need The One to make you whole, that your worth relies on the value that others give you. However, this is simply untrue: you are whole enough, and it is important to be equally in love with the idea of being single, as it is to desire a relationship.
Before becoming hypocritical, I must admit that I am quite the sappy romantic – I often dream on the day I awkwardly stumble in a bookshop, dropping my piles of books, to which my future wife will kneel and give me a hand, stare into my eyes, and then ask me to elope with her and her five dogs. But I know life doesn’t work that way, The One does not exist, and relationships – especially romantic ones – are frequently contaminated with discrepancies and disagreements that romantic films and books simply don’t mention. I’m not denying that romantic relationships can’t be fantastic and fulfilling, but they should never be the basis of your self-worth, and being single doesn’t mean you are less loved, or valued, or important.
Fundamentally, you are the person you will spend the most time with in your life. You’re the one who will always stick by you, get you through tough times, wrap you in a blanket and make you tea when you most need it. You deserve to appreciate yourself, and I strongly believe that learning to love your own company, while initially difficult, can be the most rewarding form of self-love possible.
I often bring up the subject of loving-being-alone, but people can really struggle to understand – and I don’t even mean ‘alone’ in simply a relationship sense. I mention that I took myself out for lunch and they ask: “Don’t you feel awkward?”. Perhaps the first time I did, but then I realised there is literally zero reason to feel embarrassed. Our society has normalised relationships to the extent where you’re seen as awkward to be doing anything alone – eating in particular. It’s a mentality that tells us you’re only worth the time and money if someone else is giving it to you. But you’ll never find contentment if you don’t believe yourself, alone, is worthy of that time and money. Spending money on taking yourself on a day-trip for instance – travelling somewhere different, getting dressed up, enjoying lunch out – is a form of public self-love that most people feel too awkward to perform. They don’t want to seem narcissistic, or self-indulgent, or pathetically alone. But it’s none of these! It’s an appreciation of yourself, it’s telling yourself “I’m worth this, I am enough, and I deserve to feel beautiful and content, and happy by myself.” Plus, these tiny acts of public self-love can give you a sense of confidence and independence like nothing else.
If you’re someone that really struggles to spend time alone, my recommendations start with taking yourself out for lunch, going for a walk, or even hopping on a train and going to the beach – nice little things where you actively make an effort for yourself, but nothing too stressful or extravagant. Once you establish this trust in yourself, and a peace of mind with your own company, the world is your oyster! Concerts, fancy restaurants, art exhibitions, even holidays – all of these wonderful parts of Life that you can freely enjoy without the hassle of finding someone to come with you.
I guess my point here is that it’s not narcissistic if this Valentine’s Day, you are your own Valentine. It’s not selfish to love yourself, and it’s not lonely to enjoy your own company. There will inevitably be times in your life when you are alone, when you want to do things or go places that no one else does, but if you learn to appreciate time with yourself then you’ll be able to live your life with maximum freedom and joy. If you’ve always wanted to go to Copenhagen (for instance, totally not based on a personal example), then you can say: “Heck! I’ll do it alone! I’m booking that flight to Copenhagen!” And you’ll probably have the time of your life.
It takes time to learn to love yourself the way we’ve been taught other people should love us, but spending time with yourself is one of the small yet achievable steps towards that goal, and trust me, it really works.