There’s a whole lot of pressure in this world of ours. In fact, most days I feel as though I am inside a slow-cooker; I am constantly thinking about the future, about the expectations of others and about what I need to do next. I am very rarely present. One pressure I feel especially, is the pressure to have an ‘other half’. My grandparents met when my gran was 12 and my grandad 15, and they’ve basically been together ever since, through bickering and banter, love and difficulties. My parents met when they were around 19, at a disco, and they’ve been going on movie-dates and doing everything together ever since. My brother has been in a honey-moon-style relationship for almost three years now and all of my best friends are in long-term relationships. I am literally surrounded my couples and it does take a toll on your own sense of self. Should I be trying harder to find that person? Would my life be happier with someone to share it?
The answer is complex. Yes, I would probably be happier with someone to share things with, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot find happiness in this world by myself either. Yet, that seems to be the general consensus. People make us happy, so a romantic relationship is inevitably something that we should all be seeking out. Right?
It is one of the first questions family friends and faraway family members ask:
Do you have a boyfriend?
It’s innocent enough, but it’s also a little relentless. Asking about your studies, and your job comes second to your relationship status, and then there’s the concept of happy. Never do I get asked are you happy? Are you okay?
‘How are you?’ doesn’t count because it’s become less of a question and more of an obligatory statement that accompanies a greeting. It’s like a checklist, and if you don’t check one of the boxes it only sparks further questions. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?? Don’t you want one? Did something happen? These questions always baffle me because at no point in my life have I ever made such a decision regarding a relationship. I didn’t sit down and go right, I think I want to be single. It just sort of stuck. I don’t have a romantic partner because I haven’t met someone that I want commit to, and dedicate such energy and emotion to. It’s not a decision, it’s just the way my life has progressed.
This is why days like Valentines Day can be difficult. You’re surrounded by vases crammed full of red roses and when you enter Aldi you’re swamped by boxes of chocolates wrapped in fairy-floss pink wrapping. All your email subscriptions – to clothing websites, book stores, and Netflix – are all romance-themed. It’s inescapable and even if you’re pretty resilient, it can get exhausting. But something I think we need to remember is that Valentines Day is meant to be about ‘love’ and that is love however you want to interpret it. Why should it just be about romantic love? Self-love, in my personal opinion, is the most important form of love on the planet. You are the only person who is guaranteed to be by your side your entire life. Your relationship with yourself is one that you cannot take for granted, just like any other. You have to nurture friendships and relationships with the people around you, so why wouldn’t you have to nurture the relationship you have with yourself? It’s so important and something I believe many of us forget.
Not to mention, I also believe that in order to have healthy relationships with those around you, you also have to love and respect yourself. I was talking to a friend of mine just last night about this, and we’ve watched so many of our friends go through toxic, difficult relationships where they sacrifice their own happiness for that of their partner. This is a reflection of someone who maybe doesn’t have as much love for themselves as they should. I know self-love can be extremely difficult – especially in this current time – but it is so essential. You don’t necessarily have to have an impenetrable self-love set of armour to be in a relationship, but you should have a healthy respect and appreciation for yourself. Know yourself. This is all so well-worn and corny but I think it’s so important to repeat it until it sinks in. People rave about self-love because, in the end, what else do you have? Believing in yourself and being your own biggest fan means that even when things are really tough, you’ve got your own back. If you’ve taken the time to build up this relationship then you can face challenges that would have overwhelmed you if you didn’t have that.
So, on this day of red roses and romance, please give yourself some lovin. Whether that means face masks and extra chocolate or taking a moment to check in with yourself, really see how you’re feeling/coping with things at the moment. Then, when you realise how good that self-love feels, do it every day (although perhaps not the extra chocolate, that may be going a little too far).