During my early twenties, I worked as a cake decoratorjob that revolved around the holidays. It seemed like I was always baking Christmas pies, New Year’s pudding cakes, or heart-shaped cakes for someone’s sweetie. The commercialism companies pour into these holidays can easily jade you.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day—the most commercialized holiday of all, behind Christmas. For some, that meant flowers, cards, candle-lit dinners, and those heart-shaped cakes I once decorated. But for others, all that focus on romantic love amplified a profound loneliness because their relationships didn’t measure up to some ideal, they didn’t have a partner, or they’ve yet to nurture the relationship they have with themselves.
But Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about romance.
Lennie Echterling was one of my mentors during my master’s in counseling at James Madison University. We’ve stayed in touch over the past ten years. Like me, Lennie lost his brother Denny suddenly, though in his case it was during a tragic mountain-climbing accident. Our losses have taught us hard lessons about love and the preciousness of our relationships.
Lennie argues that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love we feel for all the dear ones in our lives, which we can do by saying three simple words. I. Love. You.
I agree with Lennie, and I say I love you to all my peeps as often as I can.
I also think Valentine’s Day provides you with an opportunity to connect with the deep love you have for yourself—or perhaps the love for yourself you’re just now discovering. Nurturing your creativity should be a part of that self-love practice.
If you’re new to caring for yourself, you might wonder what that looks like.
When we’re in relationships with other people, we give them our time and attention. We look for the best in them and support their growth. We trust them, and when it comes to our creativity, we trust that it serves a purpose in our lives. As a result, we respect it enough to invest in it by showing up to the page, because when we do, we are showing up for ourselves.
It can be easy to give time and attention to a partner, friend, or family member, but I can’t count the number of writers who’ve said the following about their writing lives:
It’s selfish to take time to write.
My family/job/pet/laundry needs me more right now.
If it’s not going anywhere, why bother?
When I ask these writers how they feel when they write, here’s how they respond:
When they don’t write, they feel:
- Bound up
If so, here’s my question. Which version of you does the world really need?
Self-love isn’t selfish. It’s an opportunity to fill your cup so you can serve others with greater joy and abundance. It’s the path to becoming your best self—a self that’s willing to challenge the bullshit statements that get in the way of your progress. This care doesn’t have to take up your entire day. As I said, in the blog post on writing about trauma that was published last week, “You’ll spend most of your pens on daily living. A tiny fraction are for your writing life, so use them well.”
But by all means, use them, because following the call of your heart is how you say I love you to yourself.
When you practice self-love by caring for yourself and pursuing your creativity, you give others permission to do the same. Who knows how this could transform the lives of those around you.