As we near Valentine’s Day we see a sudden urgency to find someone to spend it with. It becomes like a need to be in a relationship. It’s all we think about and think we need. In this mindset we often sacrifice the greatest relationship that we can have, the one with ourselves. We have all heard the saying “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else.” Sure, it may be cliched, but that does not take away from the very core truth of it. If we do not have a healthy relationship with who we are then we cannot know what we need and how to find it in others.
I get it, it is hard to undo the things we have been taught as a child. Some of us grew up in households where we were told constantly that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or worthy of being loved. That is a horrible thing to teach a child and leaves lasting scars that are even harder to unlearn. We are taught that the act of touching ourselves will cause us to go to Hell, in doing so we take on shameful mindsets of these acts. We file them away and consider them dirty. These are the things that leave lasting scars into our adulthood. It can create repressed emotions and intimacy issues They are fallacies that are taught to us by a society that wants to limit and control our free will and want us to be like everyone else. It is time that we throw the shackles of these outdated conventions to the wayside.
I grew up in a household with a mother that was larger, and she carried herself with pride and dignity. Did this help me? Not in the slightest. I have lived with body image issues since I was very young. When I was born, I was a skinny kid, I also was sickly. I had allergies to most things in nature, didn’t keep weight on, had breathing, and sight issues. The doctors put me on vitamins and pills that started putting weight on me. I remember standing in the boy’s department having to get “Husky” jeans. I was mortified. As I aged and started into puberty, my body image issues increased. I had put on more weight; I had this mop of wavy hair that had a mind of its own. Moving into middle and high school where I had to dress out for gym created new issues. Other than cousins and my own, this was the first time I actually saw other boys’ penises. At that age, I had not learned about growers and show-ers and all I knew was that there were guys who were noticeably different than I was.
I graduated high school as a pretty big boy, went to college and my issues magnified. So, it prompted me to reduce eating. Since I didn’t have a car in college, I walked everywhere I needed to go and I lost a lot of weight, it didn’t change my issues. I was technically a virgin at the time I entered college and as I started becoming sexually active, I thought that people finally started thinking I was attractive. I started to become vain and it forced me down a different path of body image issues. It wasn’t until after college and meeting my first boyfriend that my mindset started to change.
Shawn started showing me how people were beautiful, all people. It was during this time that I started to learn that self-love was a necessity to be able to become a more fuller human being. Accepting what we consider faults and finding the strengths in them. Looking even deeper to see my self-worth. My views of sex even started to change, scratching the tip of bigger problems. I started to learn that we need to take care of ourselves to be able to be the best possible person for those in our lives.
How do we take care of ourselves? That depends a lot on where you are starting from and please understand that I am not substituting for professional help. What I want to share is more of supplements to other, needed, self-care. These are only small steps into breaking the routine of self-shame. The first one is easy, buy and wear clothes that make you feel good, pretty, or even sexy. This can be shoes, jeans, a top, or even underwear. I opt for underwear, its a reminder throughout the day that I feel good about myself. It’s meant only for me to see and appreciate. Knowing that I am wearing it makes me smile and reaffirms my feelings.
Next, treat yourself to a “date night,” there is no reason that date nights should only be for couples. Cook yourself a nice dinner, have a nice glass of wine, go out to watch a movie, or anything that you consider a treat. Enjoy your own company.
Masturbation is another way to take care of yourself. Before you get all cringey and judgmental on me, we all do it and there is absolutely no reason to be ashamed of it. You are not going to hell for pleasuring yourself. But I challenge you to take it a step further. Most times, when we do it, it’s in a hurried manner. It’s simply taking care of an urge and moving on. Why should this be treated any different. It is a form of sex and very few of us want some rushed and lack of focus sex with another person. You should have the same perception when it comes to self-pleasure. Light some candles, put on some music that amplifies your mood, light some incense, and slowly disrobe. Take your time getting to the point of no return and fully enjoy the feelings you are giving yourself. They are important and valid.
Taking time to appreciate the small things. If you are sitting down to read a book, again, create the mood for it. If its listening to music, focus on the sounds and let it take over your senses. Stand in front of a mirror and hold your own gaze for 10 seconds and try not to have a single negative thought. If they pop into your mind, acknowledge that it comes from a place of bitterness and misunderstanding. Let it got and start again. Say to yourself that you are worthy of love and that there is nothing wrong with you. If those negative thoughts pop into your mind, don’t focus on them. Let them play out, then let them go, don’t allow them the power to grow.
To know what you need, you must know what you have. Loving yourself is key for that to happen. It’s not vanity to love and accept yourself, if it’s taken in a healthy fashion. Knowing who you are and loving what you have to offer gives you the ability to be able to search for that in another person. It also allows you to value them on the same level as you value yourself. Your self-care is important, it will allow you to have healthy relationships with others. It is time to start taking care of ourselves.