By Victoria Lynn Hall
Happy Valentine’s Day.
I’m not a big fan of most conventional holidays in general these days. Most of them have been commercialized and exploited to a point that, for me at least, they create an atmosphere of stressful expectations. So much so that I finally realized a couple of years ago that the best gift I could give myself for Christmas was to throw out my “Christmas To-Do List” and just celebrate it by watching a favorite movie and listening to my favorite Christmas Carols. This allowed me to give my time, energy and money to the people I felt needed it most rather than to living up to some societal expectation of what I was supposed to do (like decorating my home to make it “Insta-worthy” or giving expensive gifts to people who really didn’t need them just because they happened to be related to me).
So as this Valentine’s Day approached I knew that, as I have learned to do with Christmas, I could choose to celebrate it in a way that makes sense to me. Initially I thought that would mean not celebrating it or acknowledging it at all as I am essentially single (relationship status: it’s complicated) but then I came across a meme first thing this morning that said, “Happy Valentine’s day to myself. I love you.”
And I felt that in my soul. Not only because I do, indeed, love myself but because I am a rebel at heart and the thought of making this day – a day where people might be manipulated to feel they are not lovable if they don’t have someone to lavish them with gifts or that they are not a loving person if they don’t shell out the money to do so – a day to feel good about myself without the need for external validation feels like a deliciously rebellious act.
Then. as I began going through this day with this attitude I realized how many ways I could be loving and generous with myself; I could give myself another hour in bed to rest; I could cook myself a nourishing breakfast; I could give myself a break from worrying about that thing I have no control over; I could forgive myself for that mistake I have been beating myself up about; I could forgive others instead of holding on to the anger and resentment that was manifesting as tension and pain in my body; I could do some light stretches and yoga poses to work some of that residual tension out of my body…
Finally I came to the obvious conclusion that I thought I already knew but didn’t fully grasp until now: If actively loving myself like this for one day was a rebellious act then, surely, doing it 365 days of the year would be revolutionary! And if everyone loved themselves…
But wait, I stopped myself to ask: could everyone afford to love themselves? A person working a second or third job on the weekend to make ends meet or pay off student loans couldn’t afford to sleep in on a Sunday morning. That person might not have time for a hot breakfast. That person would probably have a lot more worries than I did and have more trouble just letting go of them. A mistake for them would probably have more consequences than it did for me as they were probably under more pressure to perform a certain way for a boss or for customers. And what if the anger and resentment they felt was not just toward a few people who hurt them recently or in their past but toward societal and systemic attitudes and injustice that they had endured their entire life? How hard would it be to forgive that when they couldn’t escape it? What dis-ease might that cause in their bodies that a workout would not be enough to dispel? Then add to that not being able to afford mental or physical health services!
“Oh. My. God.” I thought as another painfully obvious conclusion dawned on me:
We live in a society where not everyone can afford to love themselves.
Loving myself is a privilege.
This realization, however, doesn’t make it any less revolutionary to me. On the contrary, it makes me even more determined to love myself; to keep myself healthy and whole so that I have the energy and presence of mind to prioritize solidarity with those who don’t have my privileges over the priorities that a capitalist society would rather I serve; to keep validating myself based upon what I have to give myself and others rather than on what a capitalist society tells me I need to get.
Yes, loving myself is a privilege and it is my responsibility to exercise my privilege in a revolutionary way.
Do you have the privilege to love yourself? If so, are you exercising it? If not, what do you think needs to change in order for that to be possible? How do you think those who have certain privileges can stand in solidarity with others who don’t? Leave a comment to answer these questions or you can write me at Victoria@AmplifireProject.com.
A self taught artist and creative entrepreneur, Victoria Lynn Hall lives in the Kansas City area with 4 spoiled cats. She believes in art and the magic of kindness.