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Becoming My Own Valentine

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I vividly remember the first time I brought valentines to school. I can hear the door chime of our local grocery store, parents flooding in and out with boxes of heart shaped cards and candies in hand. I remember being ungodly excited to pick out my *perfect* cards, Troy Bolton themed of course, in the hopes that my classmates would love receiving their valentines as much as I loved gifting them.

I loved writing out the names of each and every classmate, each ‘to and from’ feeling like a personal affirmation of how much these fellow seven year olds meant to me.

I loved getting valentines because I loved feeling loved, who doesn’t?

As much as I remember being infatuated with picking out and writing cards, I also remember the feeling of complete and utter angst when not receiving as many as I had given out.

I remember the sneaky exchanges between girls who mutually decided to leave me out of their card piles, the low murmur of giggles, the heat that crept onto my cheeks as I learned what it felt like to be embarrassed.

I remember from that day on wanting nothing more than the validation from these fellow classmates. I craved their acceptance and I learned how to squeeze myself into a box that I didn’t fit in to attain it.

And as constricting and uncomfortable I felt in that box, it still felt better to me than younger me’s embarrassment.

This isn’t an Anti-Valentine’s day rant encouraging young women to burn their love letters and ditch a consumerism plagued holiday, because, quite frankly, I love Valentine’s Day. I love expressing my feelings for people in the form of cheesy cards and boxes of chocolate, I’m a person who loves love.

This is my attempt at pleading with young women to stop sourcing their validation from other people. As women, we’re taught unconsciously from a young age to please. We’re taught to minimize ourselves for the comfort of others, to be smaller, to check the boxes that others have created for us. 

After seven year old me experienced my first (of many) rejections, I learned to value the sense of belonging to something more than anything else in my life. I clung to the validation that being a part of any group was infinitely better than being alone.

In grade school, when an invite to a birthday party was earth shattering if not received.

In middle school, when frying my hair everyday with a straightener everyday was part of my morning routine to "fit in."

And in highschool, when having been a douche bag’s “valentine” was better than having none at all.

I was conditioned to place my worth on belonging to the point where if I was left out, I felt completely useless. Basically picture a full blown meltdown, apologizing for everything under the sun that was not my fault, a borderline anxiety attack, quite literally the WHOLE nine yards. I was punishing myself for other people’s actions, and even though I should have listened to my mother (famous last words), I couldn’t convince myself that my worth came from within myself and not outer body sources. 

It wasn’t until I got to college and realized I had the capability to be my own valentine that my entire perspective changed.

I didn’t need someone else’s card to prove that I was worthy of their love. I didn’t need the shitty flowers or chocolate to believe I deserved someone’s affection.

Do we all want to be shown acts of love? Of course. I’m an absolute sucker for stupid notes scribbled on napkins and post-its, midday texts, and “just because” gifts.

Does that mean I can’t show myself those same acts of love? Absolutely not.

On a day where we become hyper focused on loving those around us, welcome the space to love yourself.

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