I have been cynical about the world’s largest corporate holiday, aka Valentine’s Day, for most part of my adult life. I don’t like being told what to feel about anyone, including myself. And I don’t necessarily like announcing to the world how I feel about my spouse. That is between us.
Valentine’s Day dictates to society: “Today is the day to celebrate love and prove to the world how much your partner means to you. Go ahead; exhibit your affection!”
When I was in my teens, I felt conflicted on this day, but I also wanted to belong. There was this excitement to dress up on Valentine’s Day and the whole environment felt high on “love.” I distinctly remember feeling uncomfortable thinking that a girl’s existence on planet Earth was validated by the number of roses she received from different boys on World’s Largest Day of Consumerism. I saw some classmates (absolutely lovely human beings and brilliant minds) look despondent when they did not receive roses or attention. For those of us who got the attention of the other sex and did not necessarily want or warrant it, we felt scared turning the boys away. I found Valentine’s Day patriarchal mixed with a hint of misogyny and a negative side effect of Bollywood (unrealistic, misogynistic fantasies around romance).
I did not like this societal narrative. No one talked about loving yourself, voicing your needs, or owning your story. Your worth was measured by what others thought of you. I found relying on external validation and societal approval disempowering. Why did I need to live my life based on other people’s perception of me?
As an adult, things shifted because I worked hard to change my relationships. I run a tight circle of close and beautiful relationships, and I pay attention to what they have to say. I cannot be bothered by what every passerby feels about me, my life choices, and who I am. It’s all noise that adds no value. This feeling of self-reliance and personal growth has been the biggest gift I have given myself, my husband, and people I care about.
Now I can clearly see the pressure Valentine’s Day puts on couples to show up to this holiday, prove their feelings for each other to the world, and express love through materialism. Because on some subconscious level, they are still seeking those “likes,” “comments,” and approval. I used to know couples who were disconnected at the core and wanted their partner to be a version they desired. There was daily bickering and lack of mutual respect in their loveless relationships. Emotional abuse. Exhausting (That’s why I used the past tense: used to know). But come Valentine’s Day they would flood social media with pictures of an expensive dinner or a romantic getaway with hashtag #feelingblessed #myheart … all to impress everyone but their own partners and win societal approval.
Can you love someone else when you have not learned to love yourself? Can self-worth be bought?
A classmate confessed that her husband berated her repeatedly for being fat after she had delivered their baby. Her revenge: she lost the weight and found a boyfriend in the gym. She traded one man’s criticism for another man’s affection without connecting with her own self and asking what made her happy. What happens if the boyfriend suddenly thinks she does not look attractive? Where was self-love, self-worth, and self-care in all of this Netflix’s Bridgerton-like passion?
“Will you get cosmetic surgery, botox, or something else to win another person’s approval and to feel beautiful,” I asked her. She didn’t have a response. When your self-esteem is tied to other people’s opinion of you, you become an emotional yo-yo and can never attain bliss.
What if we changed the narrative this February?
“Valentine’s Day promotes external validation and harbors insecurity,” says Prabha Saha, CEO and founder of Singapore-based home-styling company called Om Sweet Home. Hah! May I just say that great minds think alike? Saha decided to expand Om Sweet Home to include Amaaya Wellness.
“The basic principles were the same – that of sustainability and wellness,” Saha says. She decided to name her brand Amaaya because she believes that everybody, at our very core, desires to feel beautiful and loved (meaning of Amaaya).
“When we feel loved, we experience a sense of wellness,” Saha said. “Self-love is step #1 to wellness. Self-love or self-care are not luxuries; in fact, they are necessities…to keep us sane, happy, and productive. And if we take care of ourselves, then our family and all our other relationships automatically get taken care of. There is nothing selfish about them. In fact, investing in your health (mental and physical) is the best gift you can give your loved ones. If you love yourself, every day is Valentine’s day!”
Saha wants to contribute to help raise the global emotional well-being quotient for young girls and women.
When you love yourself and know who you truly are, life becomes so much easier. It impacts how you navigate the world and your own well-being. When you have your own back, it’s pretty amazing how you walk into relationships and friendships with little to no baggage and can accomplish big things in life.
“Self-love is really the heart of self-care,” says Angela Bisanti, owner and instructor at bambooYOGA in Forest Hills, NY.
I absolutely love Bisanti’s astute statement.
She further says, “To me, self-care means ensuring I am prioritizing my own physical and emotional needs. Although my routine may differ slightly from day to day, there are elements that are non-negotiable. I make sure that I have the time for the routines that bring me joy and make me feel whole. Self-care is, in many ways, a funny phrase. Why should it be a challenge to take good care of yourself? Just like eating and sleeping, exercise, mindfulness and really anything that brings you joy is a must.”
Too often, people tell Bisanti that they do not have time for yoga or don’t have time to be alone, and she disagrees.
“Although, there have been times I felt too busy or overwhelmed I have really learned that if you don’t take the time to regularly treat yourself with importance and love, you will be forced to take the time one way or another. Making the time to care for yourself is unquestionably preventive medicine.”
In Bisanti’s line of work (even during the pandemic), she helps a community of people on a daily basis. She reminds them, “Love yourself enough to stand up for what you need and put your needs at the top of your to do list. There is nothing better in life than to feel your best and be able to be your best every day.”
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” ~ Lucille Ball