5 Ways to Celebrate Radical Self-Love This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day. 

 For some people, it’s a celebration of love and romance. 

 For many others, it’s the dreaded “Singles Awareness Day,” which can spark feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and sadness as singles everywhere scramble to find last-minute dates and worry about ending up alone.  If Valentine’s Day is difficult for you, make February 14th a holiday centered around loving and appreciating yourself, no matter your relationship status.  Here are 5 ways to celebrate self-love this Valentine’s Day.

  1. Dress to Impress… Yourself

When you look your best, you’re sure to feel your best!  This Valentine’s Day, wear an outfit that makes you feel confident.  Don’t be afraid to take some risks — pull out that dress that makes you feel like the stunner you are, dust off those heels you love, but never wear, and top it all off with your favorite statement necklace.  Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or your love life is complicated this year, dress to impress yourself on Valentine’s Day.  You’re a 10, so you deserve to feel like one!

2. Create a Self-Love Wall

What do you love about yourself?  This year, embrace how lovable you are and remind yourself of the love you deserve by making a self-love wall.  Think about some of your favorite attributes — are you kind?  Generous?  Intelligent?  Do you love your hair?  Do you have gorgeous eyes?  Take some brightly-colored Post-it notes and write down everything you love about yourself, along with simple ways you can practice self-love in your daily life.  Stick your “love notes” somewhere where you’ll remember to read them — on your bedroom wall, your mirror, or even your scale.  There’s nothing like cute decorations that constantly remind you how incredible you are!

3. Make a Gratitude List

No matter your relationship status, you have so much to be grateful for this Valentine’s Day.  Remind yourself of all of the good in your life by making a gratitude list.  Choose 20 things you love about your life just as it is and reflect on how they fulfill you.  Write about why each of the people, places, and things you’ve selected make you feel happy and whole.  Then, read over your list.  You’ll discover that even without the “perfect relationship,” there’s still so much to love about your life, and you’ll have a written dose of perspective readily available for the days when your relationship status — or life in general — gets you down.

4. Plan a “Friendship Day”

Who needs romance when you’ve got friendship?  This year, instead of wallowing about “Singles Awareness Day” alone, get some friends together for a self-love celebration!  Bake some Valentine’s Day-themed cookies, set up a self-serve popcorn and candy bar, mix up your favorite cocktails (or mocktails), and watch movies about friendship, self-love, and independence.  Make it a “Galentine’s Day” brunch, complete with waffles and frittatas, for a Leslie Knope-approved affair, none of your friends will want to miss!

5. Treat Yo’ Self

Valentine’s Day is your day, so don’t forget to indulge!  Treat yourself to your favorite meal or dessert — in bed, if possible.  Break out that face mask or bath bomb you’ve been dying to use.  Buy yourself that gift you’ve been eyeing.

Remember that self-care doesn’t need to be frivolous or time-consuming.  If you’re on a budget or will be super busy this Valentine’s Day, there are still plenty of great ways to treat yourself like royalty!  Take a short walk on your lunch break or between classes.  Take a few moments to breathe throughout the day.  Listen to your favorite music.  Start re-reading your all-time favorite book. Journal your thoughts and feelings.  Give yourself some positive affirmations to get through the day with a smile.  

This Valentine’s Day, whether or not you’ve found that special someone, remember to show yourself all the love and care you deserve.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

The Moment I Acknowledged My Disordered Eating

I smiled as my heart swelled with pride.  And then, suddenly, without warning, my heart sank as I saw myself reflected in her words.

Her recovery milestone was bittersweet.  I felt proud to see her conquer her battles, but a harsh reality immediately slapped me in the face.

I was reading about sustenance on an empty stomach.

I was reading about successful recovery with a wavering desire to heal myself.

I had spent years convincing myself that my maladaptive restricting behavior was perfectly normal, acceptable even.  That my disordered thoughts were symbolic of my strength and discipline, rather than a symptom of a mental illness.

In that moment, I discovered that with every movement, I felt lightheaded.  I realized I had spent the majority of my day drifting in and out of sleep due to the powerful fatigue accompanying my inadequate nourishment.  I was suddenly aware of the increasingly loud rumbling of my stomach, begging for satiation.

I could no longer deny the truth.

I am a disordered eater.

The perfectionism.  The feelings of inadequacy.  The desire to self-punish.  My lifelong, complicated relationship with my appearance.  

In a single moment, my symptoms collided with my reality.  It was a perfect mess, the orderly chaos of painful self-awareness.

Through my tears, I resolved to work towards healing.  At long last, I acknowledged that I am worthy of nourishment, that I deserve to take up space, that I am disciplined by virtue of my life circumstances alone and that my desire to heal, rather than my disordered eating, is ample proof of my strength.  I finally recognized that I am enough.

With my newfound desire to heal indelibly etched on my soul, I ate the meal I had previously attempted to withhold.  I could feel my energy slowly returning as the sustenance spread throughout my body.  Instead of longing for the gnawing emptiness of hunger, I relished in the sensation of wholeness that consumed me.  The idyllic warmth I felt as I sustained myself sparked my desire to heal from my disordered eating, to celebrate the progress and fight through the setbacks — one day, one meal, one bite at a time.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

What Taking a Selfie Taught Me About My Life With Cerebral Palsy

I’m a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a former honor society president, a respite care worker, a mental health and disability advocate, and a published writer, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is… taking a selfie.

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  While most other 22-year-olds are celebrating graduations and new beginnings in advanced degree programs or in the workforce, I’m celebrating participating in a hallmark of “self-absorbed, social media-obsessed” millennial culture.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a seemingly simple selfie virtually never reveals the complex truth concealed behind it.

I have lived with mild hemiplegia cerebral palsy since birth.  Essentially, the muscles on the left side of my body are significantly tighter and weaker than those on my right side.  Consequently, I perform tasks that many people complete with both hands exclusively right-handed.  Simultaneously holding and angling a phone and reaching over to press a button to take a selfie with my left hand is nearly impossible.

Nearly.

I recently discovered that in the search for self-love and peace with my body and my physical abilities, I was settling for comfort over physical functionality.  In viewing my body through a lens of love and acceptance, I was inadvertently losing the will to foster growth, to push my body to accomplish the impossible.  Embracing my body exactly as it is, tight muscles and all, meant accepting an artificial limit on my physical prowess.  I was forcing myself to plateau in the name of self-love.

As a millennial woman who is constantly inundated with an unending stream of perfectly-posed selfies, I longed to be one of those girls who could snap a cute selfie with either hand — despite my cerebral palsy.  However, I convinced myself that any attempt to take a selfie exclusively with my left hand would result in either a broken phone or a broken spirit, so I carried on with the hackneyed routine of extending my right arm to the perfect angle to take a flawless selfie.

One night, with pin-straight hair, razor-sharp eyeliner, and clad in a cozy, oversized sweater, I felt restless.  Adventurous.  I wanted to try something different, something that would push me in a way I had never dreamed possible.  Despite being caught in the throes of reoccurring body image issues, I was feeling my look, and I wanted to document it.

I immediately knew the perfect way to challenge myself.  With my left hand, I grabbed my phone and began angling it to take a selfie.  Slowly, gingerly, I reached toward the shutter button, trying my hardest to simultaneously keep a firm grasp on the phone and prevent my slightly shaky left hand from wobbling it and, in the process, blurring the picture.

I pressed the button.  The distinctive “snap” of the shutter filled my ears as I discovered that, miraculously, the photo was clear, and my phone remained in my affected hand — not shattered on the floor of my bedroom.  I smiled wider as I realized that I had stopped settling for “good enough” physical capability and had begun reaching towards growth.

Snap.  Snap.  Snap.

Over and over, I pressed that button, relishing the unquellable surge of pride I felt in my body for accomplishing something I never believed I could.  After a lengthy series of critiques, I finally took a selfie I deemed Insta-worthy, and, like a stereotypical millennial, immortalized my left-handed selfie success on social media.

It isn’t the most flattering selfie I’ve ever taken, the prettiest, or the most perfect.  On the surface, there’s nothing particularly special about it.  But it’s more than just a selfie; it’s a symbol of growth, of achievement, of rising to meet challenges, of refusing to plateau.  It’s physical proof that self-love does not equate to settling for “good enough.” It’s a representation of joy in its purest form — knowing the power of pushing the body to its limits to make the impossible possible.

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

Assess Your Motivations

You want to change something about yourself or something in your life.

So… why haven’t you done it yet?

Why hasn’t it happened?

Ask yourself why. Do you have any motivations? Or do your motivations not feel important enough to pursue the change?

If I asked myself 6 months ago, or a year ago (or at any time whilst I was in denial about EDNOS), I would have said that my main motivation in life was be thin and stay thin. After all, I thought that being thin was the route of my happiness. But at what cost? By damaging my mentality and wellbeing? Just because somebody appears to look healthy, or happy for that matter, it doesn’t mean that they are. If you are happy with every aspect of your life within your control then you, my friend, have won your inner battle and faced your fears. If you are sat questioning why you aren’t, then ask yourself whether you’ve allowed ambivalence to steal your power for too long. Why are you afraid to make the change?

Think of something in your life that you aren’t completely happy with. Make a list of what motivates you to change it. Now write down all the reasons why you haven’t started to make that change yet. Are the reasons listed in front of you actually good, or are they simply just excuses? What are you afraid of? Something in your brain is telling you what might happen, what might go wrong, how it’s not possible. Stop listening to ambivalence and take note of what you could be faced with, what you can overcome, how you will pursue it. It is possible.

If I ask myself what motivates me to get over this eating disorder I could say several things. My partner is the main one – I don’t want to lie to him anymore or cause him any more upset. Our relationship is better than ever. I don’t want my hair to fall out again now it’s started to repair itself. I want children at some point and considering I now don’t seem to have periods and have been recently diagnosed with polycystic ovaries (PCOS), I realize how important it is to keep my body healthy.

I could go on, but my list would still be missing one significant thing at the top. ME. You can’t change yourself for anyone or anything but yourself, no matter how important the other factors may seem. You have to want to do it for YOU. Yes all the other motivators are an important part of the change but ultimately, if you don’t actually want to do something, you’re never going to do it and it will never change. You must be driven from within. I will learn to defeat ambivalence and I will change.

It’s hard to picture a new way of life when giving into your ambivalence is all you’ve known for so long. I’m still coming to terms with it myself. But aren’t we stronger than that doubtful voice muttering inside our head? Think about it…what do you really have to lose? There is so much more out there if you open yourself up to the possibility of something new. Make a new list of what you WILL achieve with change. Happiness is only the very start of it.

Amy Whittle

My name is Amy, I’m 22, and I’ve been living with an eating disorder on and off for 9 years. A few months ago I was finally honest about it with my loved ones. I am now on my challenging journey through recovery and have started an online blog to help aid me along the way and hopefully provide some positivity and motivation for others who are going through a similar thing.

In the Battle For Self-Love, I Will Always Rise to Fight Again

I, like so many others, have found myself constantly obsessed with the notion of social desirability.  I strive to signify perfection, to become a woman who is both brilliant and beautiful.  Womanhood is fraught with battles of perception, battles of the self against statuesque, slender, photoshopped models gracing glossy magazine covers.  Some days, women lose those battles.  Some days, I lose those battles.  I fight valiantly — my sword a sharp mind — but I am knocked to the ground by societal expectations that infiltrate my most powerful weapon.  In those instances, I must admit defeat.

 

I have convinced myself throughout my life that I am secure in my body, but I have come to realize that that is merely a notion.  An ideal I have yet to reach, a fraudulent lie, a deception.  I present as a tall, slender, able-bodied woman who loves her figure.  The reality?  I am a woman with a physical disability, and, thanks to society’s idolization of able-bodied beauty, I loathe my body.  I scrutinize my every flaw, hoping that today won’t be the day that I am forced to “come out” to a new friend — or perhaps even a stranger — as disabled.  The proof of my disability is in my slightly stiff, occasionally swaying gait, the tension in my arm, and my uneven, off-kilter hip bones.

 

I was a few weeks from graduating college when I was forced to stride into battle, to confront years of negatively skewed self-perception with nothing but my mind as a shield.  I was prepared for a fun night of ping-pong and pizza in the study room with my friends, but woefully unprepared for the conversation that loomed ahead, threatening to break me.  As I walked ahead of my friends — none of whom lived in my building — to open the door for them, I felt shame and insecurity penetrate my heart. I worried that tonight someone would ask about my gait, and I’d hang my head in shame as I obligatorily uncovered my ruse.

I suppose that my hips don’t lie, because, as we approached the elevator, one of my friends asked in a friendly, even tone if my legs were different lengths.  I nearly froze in place, terrified that if I revealed the secret I desperately attempted to harbour, my fraught self-perception would soon become their perception of me, too.  I didn’t want to be viewed as a “person with a disability” forevermore, encumbered by a label not even an increasingly progressive society could remove.  I felt relieved that my lilting gait itself remained unquestioned, as broaching the subject would have forced me to either deny my own life story or explain my deepest, most terrifying secret.  My lifelong disability.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, my legs are different lengths,” I said, as confidently as I could muster.  I made a half-hearted joke about my body being misaligned, but I wanted nothing more than to disappear.  I scrutinized my friends’ faces for traces of pity.  None was to be found.  Why, then, did I feel so ashamed?  It was not my friends’ fault that I constantly harbored undeserved hatred towards my body.  That day, I lost the battle.

Later that night, I stood in front of the mirror loathing my uneven hips, my atrophied left leg, and my slightly curved spine for making me seem unattractive and undesirable.  I stared at my slender arms, desperately seeking any trace of beauty in my body, but they seemed bone-like and frail to me.  My face — its own battlefield from years of unrelenting skin problems — reddened.  My eyes grew puffy, with stinging tears hovering in the corners, threatening to fall.  I felt trapped in this body — my body — for the rest of my life.

A year and a half later, after months of continually fostering the self-love I sought but never thought I could attain, I stood in front of the mirror once again.  Despite my long-held, crippling ambivalence to reveal my true self, my friends finally understood the pervasive struggles that stemmed from my flawed self-perception, loving me through all my battles.  My mind, the weapon that had often failed me against magazine spreads of perfectly symmetrical, socially desirable women, was poised to fight for self-love.

As I found my eyes affixed on my stomach, still slightly bloated from a veritable feast just a few hours prior, all I could see was the enemy surrounding me as I stood alone on the battlefield.  I could feel the harsh breath of my enemy against my ears as my gaze moved downward, towards my uncomfortably uneven hips.  I nearly dropped my armor, surrendering to my longtime enemy as I silently criticized the stomach that sustains me, disparaged the legs that allow me freedom of movement, and berated the hips that have revealed the truth — that resilience in the face of adversity trumps physical perfection.

I escaped the enemy the only way I know how.  I fell asleep, the fog of my murky self-image still enshrouding me.

I awoke to find the fog lifted, the battlefield engulfed in sunshine.  As I rose, my mind still poised to fight for the love I deserve, I discovered a renewed hope in my ability to reach complete self-love.  Some days, I win in the valiant against society’s beauty ideals, some days, I lose.  But until I see myself through a lens of wholehearted love — a lens no longer clouded by twinges of hatred — I will always rise to fight again.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

 

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.