A year ago I started the journey of reclaiming my voice, along the way I realized that part of regaining my voice meant learning to love myself so that I may take care of my needs and pursue my dreams. I have spent the last twelve months growing, reflecting, and taking care of myself. It has never been a linear path of constant growth, there are always setbacks in times of stress and emotionally trying moments but nevertheless I am here still fighting till I reclaim my voice and can help others reclaim theirs too.

Valentine’s Day hasn’t bothered me in recent years but I think I have my friends to thank for that; this year it was almost insignificant since I spent it continuing my journey of self-care. It took me a long time to realize it but I figured if relationships require so much effort and care that I am willing to invest in others constantly, regardless of their interest in my well-being, then why not invest in my relationship with myself? After all, my dreams and the people around me deserve it more. Here are some of my reflections on what loving myself has entailed this past year.

Loving myself has meant making the difficult choice to face my fears and trauma head on, to process and heal in a controlled way so that I am defined by my strength and not what others inflict upon me.

Loving myself has meant embracing the love of my friends and family, recognizing my privilege from the existence of my support system and letting it help me so that I do not ignore my chances to grow and heal.

Loving myself has meant actively checking in with myself to make sure I don’t contribute to my mental illness.

Loving myself has meant seeing myself as a person beyond superficial means of productivity and utility.

Loving myself has meant choosing the path that aligns with my goals and empowers me to empower others when the time comes.

Loving myself has meant seeing failures, or shortcomings and breakdowns as a space to pause, reflect, and recalibrate.

Loving myself has meant acknowledging my progress and hard work so far.

Loving myself has meant focusing on what I can control instead of what I am unable to do and letting it limit me.

Loving myself has meant investing in my mental, physical, and emotional well being in the ways that make me feel liberated.

Loving myself has meant seeing myself as more than just a commodity.

Loving myself has meant tracking what makes me feel good about myself, recognizing what makes me feel like a person who matters, and embracing it.

Loving myself has also meant refusing to engage with that which makes me feel inferior––dismantling the doubts and recognizing where they originate from.

Loving myself has meant deconstructing the idea that one “deserves” or “doesn’t deserve” anything, reminding myself that my value and worth cannot be determined by anyone but me.