Love is intangible. You cannot hold love in your hand, and you cannot wrap it around your neck like a noose. Yet so many of us do. Love is not predestined for others and withheld from ourselves. Love is not limited, it is ever changing. Self-love is exactly that, you cannot hold it and it does not take up a place in the sky, but you can feel it. Humanity has such a strong need to have love, feel it, taste it, smell it, sleep next to it. But love captures a million moments in a lifetime, every drop of paint in a portrait. Self-love can only come from one’s self, and therefore it intangible. I believe the need to physically see love is the founding of Valentine’s Day, of pastel wrapped hearts covered in ‘kiss me,’ a diamond cut around a finger, cards and candies, etc. February defines love so physically because seeing is the only way humans ever believe in anything.
Art by Emma Collins.
The signs of self-love are not always so obvious. White lines around your wrist fading back to pink, a story admitting you’re not perfect, a story you would have otherwise kept to yourself, answering honestly when your roommate asks if you are okay. Recently I’ve hit a bump in the road, a speed bump. I thought I could get over it if I just kept pushing forward, but it became too much, too fast. And I couldn’t go backwards. I believe you deserve to hear some of my experience and remember the importance of self-love in your own life. You deserve self-love in your own life.
I define myself in many ways; I’m a transfer student, I’m a sister, I’m a pet owner, I have anxiety, and when I see a pretty girl, I ask her out for tea. Several aspects contributing to my self-esteem are because of my love life and how it has been perceived by those around me, particularly myself. As a teenager, I was extremely aware of the controversy surrounding my existence. But I pushed my sexuality away before I could even understand it. I decided being queer was too much trouble, and if I really cared about those around me, I wouldn’t make them choose whether they loved me or not. I was so focused on the love of others I forgot to ensure the love I had for myself. This would all change when I began therapy my junior year of high school.
While I never discussed my sexual identity with my therapist, she helped me grow and see value in myself. Therapy can be a great way to start a conversation about how you see yourself and your life, whether its group therapy, voice chat, an anonymous phone call, or discussing your mental health with someone you trust. The most important aspect of therapy, for me, was learning self-compassion and to accept my emotions, my fears, instead of berating them. Accepting my sexuality and loving myself was like jumping through hoops, but with each jump I came closer to self-love.
Transferring to Ann Arbor was a dream come true, and I thought it was the ‘and she lived happily ever after’ of my long, complicated story. But it was the only beginning. From the day I moved forward I encountered new people, new challenges, new experiences, and instead of looking down at myself for having lived so little I decided to live more. I attended new groups, I started a Meetup account, I downloaded a dating app before realizing it was not for me thank you, deleted it, and redownloaded. But hey, progress isn’t linear. And neither is self-love. Oxford describes self-love as, “Regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).” The phenomena of the “narcissistic characteristic” is where I find most people struggle. This idea that self-love, that any kind of love for yourself, is narcissistic is toxic and deters us from selfcare and being honest when we deserve better. I have decided to stop making excuses for others and for myself, because like I said, progress isn’t linear. Maybe this is the first time you’ve ever considered self-love as more than a naïve waste of time or, maybe this is you revisiting an important aspect of how you see yourself. But whether it’s February or not, self-love is always important, and it is the love you deserve the most.