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This simple self-love ritual will help you reclaim Valentine's Day

Celebrating love by centering self-acceptance

by Virgie Tovar, Author and Activist

Valentine’s Day feels overwhelming and fraught for many of us. V-Day has always made me feel weird. During the years I have been single, this day has often left me feeling like a totally pathetic loser.

One year I spent this day screaming with my head under a pillow while listening to Wild Horses (the Rolling Stones version) on repeat. The week prior, my boyfriend and I had had Puerto Rican food in San Francisco’s Haight neighborhood, then he drove me up to Twin Peaks and told me that he felt we were engaged in a toxic dynamic and needed to take a break. He then asked if I wanted him to get me pregnant as a farewell gift. I declined. One year this day was celebrated by watching horror movies back to back, snacking on treats that were murder-themed (eating them represented the unfulfilled desire to kill my own dreams of ever being happy again).

During the years I’ve been partnered, this day has often left me feeling disappointed or anxious about participating in the public display of romantic success.

One year my boyfriend and I ended up screaming at each other about our respective ideas of an appropriate budget for a “romantic getaway.” Conclusion we reached: he was high-maintenance and classist, and I didn’t have high enough expectations because of my childhood trauma. This is the stuff that little girls dream about, right? We ended up at a B&B in a beautiful part of California with 6 other strangers (all couples). My boyfriend spent most of the weekend individually propositioning them to play Settlers of Catan (and was denied). Thankfully there was a hot tub, which I enjoyed by myself.

Valentine’s Day can come with a lot of pressure for people. Should we buy chocolate, flowers, teddy bears or candles? Should we stay at a hotel or make reservations for dinner? What if you disagree about where you want to go or what you want to do? What if you get the wrong gift and your boo feels betrayed because you didn’t know they were allergic to, like, lavender?

For some people, Valentine’s Day reminds them of their greatest fears: loneliness, rejection, or the feeling that we don’t measure up or fit in.

It’s completely human to feel the longing for love and unconditional acceptance from others, but I’d like to advocate that we celebrate this day in a different way—by deepening our practice of love for ourselves and our bodies.

This year I decided to really reclaim and reimagine Valentine’s Day as a day that centered self-love. I wanted to create a practice that prioritizes the recognition that our love for ourselves can be the heart of this day.

This idea came about because 2018 was a landmark year for my own self-acceptance. It was all about slowing down, prioritizing my needs, letting go of toxic relationships, spending time alone, and drinking a shit ton of tea. Self-love is a practice that has the power to repair past traumas and to invigorate our relationships with others. As a fat woman of color, my self-love practice has saved my life and returned my sense of humanity to me after years of feeling ugly, unlovable and worthless.

I lost my sense of self-love when I was introduced to fatphobia, sexism and racism. The loss of self-love is a wound and a trauma that is promoted by living in a culture that values homogeneity, stifles creativity, prioritizes productivity at any cost, and promotes the pursuit of wealth and status above life and connection.

Self-love is many things: allowing ourselves to feel rage at the people and culture who have hurt us, grieving for the loss of a loving relationship to our bodies, fiercely defending our boundaries, opening our hearts up to the possibility of healing, touching our bodies lovingly, wishing for a better and safer world, and growing a practice of restoration and care. These things can all be happening at once!

My work is specifically focused on teaching others how to love their bodies. I developed this easy practice designed to turn our focus inward and toward our bodies. Even if you’re partnered or have other plans, I encourage you to consider adding this little ritual to your day.

The ritual

This is a touch-based ritual. If you don’t feel comfortable touching your body yet, you can just do the spoken part. Find a place where you can have quiet for 10-15 minutes.

Step 1

First, it’s time to ground. Tea helps! It’s warm and the duration of sipping a cup of tea is about how long it takes to get centered. As you sip, slow and deepen your breath and let yourself calm down. Take as long as you need. Keep doing deep inhales through the nose and out through the mouth until you’ve stopped feeling fidgety or distracted.

Step 2

Now, repeat the following incantation three times, each time touching a part of yourself you have a difficult time loving (for instance, if you decided to focus on three body parts, you will say the following a total of 9 times—3 times per body part):

This part of me makes me complete
This part of me makes me whole
I love myself unconditionally
Each breath brings me closer to the healing and self-love I desire

Step 3

Finally, once you’re done, do four final big breaths. It often helps me to write about any realizations I’ve had during the ritual after I’ve finished.

Commit to making this Valentine’s a day that centers self-acceptance and the recognition that self-love is the true cause for celebration.

If you want to join me for a 60-minute self-love webinar on Valentine’s Day click here for info!

Virgie Tovar started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight and is the author of You Have the Right to Remain Fat (August 2018). In 2018 she was named as one of the top 50 most influential feminists by Bitch Magazine. She holds a Master’s degree in Sexuality Studies with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender, and has been featured by the New York Times, Tech Insider, BBC, MTV, Al Jazeera, and NPR.

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