Every year in the middle of February, people around the world display their affection by sending cards, flowers, or chocolates along with messages of love. Yet how did this tradition evolve into the commercialized holiday we know today?
Valentine’s Day may have its roots in a Roman festival called Lupercalia, which marked the beginning of Spring. And the holiday’s name stems from St. Valentine, a third-century priest who was sentenced to death for performing illegal marriages for Roman soldiers. This saint even sent a love letter to his jailer’s daughter before being taken to his execution on February 14th. The word “valentine” came to describe a lover in popular poems and songs by the end of the 15th century.
The ancient Greeks had many words for love: from affectionate and playful … to erotic and enduring. Any of these can be celebrated on Valentine’s Day—it’s easy to spot cards and gifts that speak to these qualities.
But how often do we find reason to express the Greek concept of Philautia, or Self Love?
Many people regard this as a negative quality—a narcissistic selfishness or a desire for more than is necessary. However, the reality of self-love exemplifies a deeper truth: in order to care for others, one must first learn to care for oneself.
So when was the last time you celebrated yourself by acknowledging the person you are and the challenges that you have weathered?
It’s essential to realize that people celebrate all kinds of love on Valentine’s Day. Beyond the traditional romantic relationships, people also show affection to extended family and friends.
Why shouldn’t we bring this consideration full circle and shower ourselves with attention as well?
Consider all the options: Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Which of these provides you with the strongest feeling of being cared for?
Recognize that you are deserving of love and celebration, just for being you. You don’t need to earn this gift, and you don’t have to wait to receive it from others.
See if you can let go of the thought that it might seem selfish or less valuable to give this to yourself. In a way, self-love is the most precious thing you could experience. It awakens your heart more fully to giving and accepting love from others.
So this Valentine’s Day, how might you like to celebrate your unique and deserving nature?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
I’ve tried both suggestions, and was amazed at the results.
My choice would be beautiful stationary or a lovely pen.
For me this involves a cup of tea while sitting in my Adirondack chair on the patio, alone with my thoughts. No distractions and no interruptions.
I recently put a Do Not Disturb sign on my study and cleaned out my desk drawer so I could finally find what I needed while working.
Sometimes we forget what the simple act of touch can do.
In reality, it can be quite challenging to practice self-love. Particularly because we’ve had a front row seat to every thought, decision, and action taken over the course of our lives. We know the good, the bad, and the heartbreakingly ugly, so it makes sense that we often judge ourselves more harshly than others.
Loving yourself doesn’t mean you should celebrate your suboptimal choices or give up on self-improvement. It’s more about accepting who you are—strengths and frailties both—as a unique and lovable human being. Philautia, or self-love, allows you to stop comparing yourself against the imagined inner lives of other people, while gaining the confidence and grace to share your gifts with the world.
Looking at it this way, we bear the ultimate responsibility for our choices and our actions. Neglecting ourselves not only harms us, but it affects everyone we interact with and all the lives we touch.
Embracing the gift of self-love, in whatever form speaks to us most deeply, enables us to view people and life situations with a new perspective…one informed with humility, gratitude, and awe for each moment we draw breath.
So don’t short-change the people you care about by overlooking the little ways you can show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day.
Since I imagine most readers will find this concept rather new, I invite you to begin with the easiest of Small Steps.
If you haven’t already identified your primary love language, take a moment to read last week’s post, or take Dr. Chapman’s online quiz. Recognizing what replenishes your heart with joy and fulfillment is a wonderful act of self-care.
With 10-15 minutes more, consider options for how you might show yourself some love this week in honor of Valentine’s Day. Mark some space on your calendar and don’t worry about appearing selfish or unavailable—for once, make it all about you!
There’s no reason to close yourself off from all the ways in which the human heart can experience love. Family, friends, lovers, partners…we have enough tenderness to share with others generously. Just remember that before you can be happy with someone else, you need to find contentment within yourself.
Accept who you are, what roles you inhabit, and where you are on life’s path. And if judgmental thoughts arise, respond with kindness and compassion. Encourage yourself to keep moving forward through a generous gift of self-love.
Share below how you plan to show yourself some love this week, so we can inspire each other to give the gift of self-love.