This V-Day, have a Me-Day by showing yourself and your body some kindness
I am very, very single. Over the last eighteen months, cheerful and unconcerned in my singledom, I’ve worked to embrace an Emma Watsonian philosophy of being self-partnered. Striving to be happy while alone might sound like a simple idea, but sometimes it can feel bloody radical.
Self-love is not taught; it’s hard earned. So, I’d like to use this Valentine’s Day to have a cheeky rant about it.
Here’s the deal: we’re bombarded daily with imagery and advertising which reinforces the idea that being partnered is the default setting for humankind. You’ll find this in the DNA of the Disney films we devour as kids.
It’s on the pages of novels we’re required to study in school. It’s the chorus of songs we all know by heart – hammering home that love and happiness are essential, and that we obtain these things from another person.
We’re led to believe that the most important spiritual quest of our lifetime is to find that person.
Unsurprisingly, these love-quests dominate much of the wine-soaked conversations in my social life. As my friends and I march into our thirties, the urgency with which people desire to ~shack up and settle down~ seems to be increasing exponentially. All this is underpinned by well-intentioned questions from family and loved ones, who foresee a partnership as the only pathway to us living a love-filled life.
I’m over it.
I’ve spent most of my adult life basing my self-worth on how other queer men perceived me. Do they want to date me? Or sleep with me? Is it both? Neither?! Must be my fault.
It’s an exhausting use of my mental bandwidth, made all the more exhausting when factoring in my disordered eating and body image anxiety. A life-long obsession with dieting and exercise took on a newfound vigour when I came out as queer.
Body standards in the gay male community are laughable, and yet so many of us hold ourselves (and each other) to these standards of musculature. Attaining and maintaining the ~perfect~ body very quickly came to seem like the only way I would ever be able to forge romantic or sexual relationships. Again: exhausting.
When I started to accept and work on my disordered eating, the way forward meant unlearning lifelong behaviours. Simple acts of self-kindness and -compassion have helped in ways greater than I could’ve imagined. Showing myself a bit of compassion – the kind I’d show any friend, any day of the week – has been a fundamental shift in the way I move through the world.
Which brings us to Valentine’s Day.
I don’t think it really matters if you’re a fellow single queen, dating someone quite new and exciting, or in a multi-decade partnership. Showing yourself some kindness is crucial. The relationship we have with ourselves is the only one guaranteed to last our entire lifetime. Like any partnership or friendship, it has to be nourished. So, V-Day is a good time to take pause and think: how do I show myself some love?
I have discovered very tangible practices and rituals to feel that self-love. Like blocking or muting people online whose social media presence dredges up my own body image issues. Or cooking an over-the-top meal for a group of close friends and tapping into the power food has to bring people together. It might be something as objectively lame as blasting Whitney Houston’s version of ‘Greatest Love Of All’ and soaking in those lyrics till I actually, almost, believe them.
These things may not help you in the slightest. Although, if you haven’t already, have a think about actively finding ways to show yourself kindness. The odyssey from self-loathing to self-love is far from linear – mine is shaping up to be a life-long undertaking. But, at the time of writing, I’ve struck a balance that can best be described as self-acceptance. Which is a hell of a lot better than where I started.
Patrick Boyle is a writer and editor based in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Queer Icons from Gay to Z, published by Smith Street Books and available in bookstores around the world. Patrick also writes satire, and on lifestyle, the arts, queerness, and food.