February for couples and singles alike, is a month of the anticipated or dreaded Valentine’s Day. For many, whether coupled or single there is a pressure to meet the demands of the celebratory day. Whether this is making a fuss of your partner with a sweeping romantic gesture or feeling as if you need to find a date for February 14th, there are a lot of imagined standards to meet when it comes to the day of love. Even if you prefer to view the day with sardonic disdain this still indicates its power of instigating attention, and those who put stock into the day will find themselves feeling loved and nourished or disappointed and down. Shouldn’t then we call into question our very approach and value we pin to a day that should essentially spread only a pure emotion such as love? What if we changed our perspective so that Valentine’s day is a day of happiness no matter where you are romantically?
Valentine’s day as we know it, replaced a Roman Festival, the Lupercalia, in the fifth-century. This was originally a day that welcomed in spring and celebrated fertility by pairing women and men off at random. By the fourteenth-century, Valentine’s Day embodied a day of romance that subsequently became very popular in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and more. The commercialisation of Valentine’s began in the USA around the 1700-1800’s, where cards illustrated with cupids, cherubs and love hearts opened the floodgates for an abundance of candy, roses and heart-shaped gifts that snowballed through the centuries. With it (along with many other social conventions), came the subliminal messaging that being in a couple was desirable and being single was something worthy of sympathy.
In 2019 Emma Watson took the media by storm when she mentioned to Vogue that she was ‘self-partnered’. It sparked the usual and predictable jibes and mockery but also prompted some stimulating discussions on the way we as a society approach singularity. Emma Watson commentated on the prescribed order of life and the anxiety and shame that it can induce. This was in particular reference to her approaching 30 and not having hit the societal goalposts of a partner and child that so many people believe to be a requirement to a happy and presentable life. In essence this is not much different to Valentine’s, many of us feel dejected if by that imagined goal of February fourteenth we have not managed to find a partner. By extension, many of us in partnerships feel failed if the day has not met certain expectations.
Emma Watson concluded that she was happy being single which she preferred to reference as ‘self-partnered’. This encouraged many more people to recognize and celebrate their singularity, to be happy as they are without needing anyone else. Happiness and love need not be derived from another.
These principles feed into ideas of Self-Love, which is one of those phrases that can be met with either enthusiasm or a rolling of the eyes – there seems to be a level of which each person can tolerate. Yet, the practice of, and confidence in this concept can be quite liberating. Here are some simple ways to practice self-love:
Mindfulness – This can be applied in whatever way suits you. Whether Yoga or meditation feels right, mindfulness practices can help you navigate through life with a different perspective. Being kind to yourself is a key principle in many mindful theories. Try treating yourself as you would a friend, celebrate your achievements (even the little ones), revel in your own company and enjoy the moments that your life brings. If this includes being single (or self-partnered) then enjoy this time in your life that you can have to yourself. Take the time to find out what your own values and desires are not societies and live by your own rules. Reshape Valentine’s to celebrate your own specific brand of love.
Healthy Lifestyle – This doesn’t just extend to eating properly and undertaking regular exercise. It also bleeds into areas within your mental well-being such relationships and scenarios in your life. Evaluate whether these are negative or toxic in any way and adjust accordingly. If there are people in your life that regularly belittle or revel in your downfalls, distance yourself. If a career or hobbies are causing undue stress, adjust the conditions that cause that stress. Further, if you suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, perhaps now is the time to begin to seek help.
Chase your Dreams – One fantastic benefit of being single is you have the ability to focus on yourself and only yourself. Often in life we busy ourselves with the needs of others and our needs and desires can be put to one side. Now is a great time to really evaluate what you want from life and go get it. This doesn’t have to be big dreams either. Take the time for yourself, to do the little things that you want to do, experience what you want to experience. Whether sky-diving or vegging out in front of Netflix. You do you.
So, whether you are single or coupled this Valentine’s Day, make your own rules. Find your own happiness and don’t conform to societal pressures. If you are coupled, figure out what Valentine’s means to you both and do it. If you are single, that’s okay, enjoy it. Perhaps the future holds Valentine’s where you are in a couple, but for this year, you may not have another chance to do what you want. There is a love and freedom in caring for yourself.