Now that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I have been, to be completely honest-indifferent to it. As much as I like to think I’m a hopeless romantic, something so expected like Valentine’s Day takes away so much excitement for me. Especially when I imagine scenarios that are almost continuously past reality that only ever do occur in chick flicks. However, as I dug deeper into Valentine’s Day, I realized the essence of it is really a celebration of love. Now love I can get hyped about. Reality and life has really tainted our definition of love. Upon hearing the word “love,” we picture the romantic gestures and judge a relationship based on what social media tells it to be. But true love is more than the aesthetically pleasing photographs and cheesy gestures we all feel guilty for wanting. Love is choosing to appreciate that which is in front of us, even after discovering its flaws, past-good or bad, and choosing to love it still. It’s choosing to hold their hand even when they’re in sinking sand; knowing we could jeopardize ourselves. Love is selfless. The reason it has gotten so tainted is because so many times we confuse selflessness with lack of self-love. We accept the love that first comes our way because we think we’re not good enough for a better offer. We blame ourselves when a relationship goes south as if the other party didn’t share the blame. We question ourselves and bully ourselves because we did not “try hard enough,” we were not “pretty enough,” or even “smart enough.” We think that we have to try our best for someone else and forget that we needed to start trying for us and only us from the very beginning. All along, the only person we needed to prove ourselves to, was our very own selves. We try to decode what the other person expects of us and we alter ourselves to fit their expectations just to keep them a moment longer. If people learned to love themselves first before jumping into relationships-or even making choices, the world would be much different than what it is today. And I don’t mean to undermine the difficulty of practicing self-love, after all-we’ve been taught against it all our life. Self-love is something I still struggle with and need to practice every day. They will tell you it is selfish. How is it selfish to say no and yet it is a noble act to string someone along on account of their feelings? The past and society has so often implied we are a rare kind if we are truly content with who we are. They say we settled. Who said you cannot grow and still be true to yourself? Now selflessness, that is doing something for someone knowing you will not get anything in return. While lack of self-love happens when we become our own antagonist, selflessness is when we choose to see others’ needs and place them before our own-without sacrificing our own morals. Selflessness very often comes after we’ve learned to love ourselves. That self-love reflects onto other people and we become selfless when we learn to love. That is the beauty of love. True love wants to be shared, it cannot be contained and until we learn to love ourselves, we cannot be able to truly love those around us. Otherwise, we are only chasing approval or words that tell us something we want to believe. But you have to believe yourself first. You have to believe you are beautiful and that you were meant for much more than you think is “okay.”

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