Every time I speak to my grandparents the first thing they ask me is if I have a boyfriend, or, at the very least, if I’m talking to someone. The truth of the matter is that I am a 22-year-old woman who has never had a second date, let alone a relationship. As upset as that makes my grandparents, I’m busy working on something much more important than a relationship- myself. 

Self-love is easy to say and a lot harder to accomplish. It is something that requires constant work and dedication. The act of self-love isn’t just about saying that you love yourself but is about accepting who you are as a person. All of who you are. 

I have always struggled to accept my weight. We are constantly bombarded with images of the ‘perfect body’, the ‘perfect weight’, and the ‘perfect dress size’, and that has never been me. When I was 14, I decided that being the ‘perfect size’ was my number one priority. Stubborn as ever, I would do anything to achieve it. So, I starved myself, walked everywhere, was constantly at the gym, and counted every single calorie that went into my body. At the age of 14, I had such a small amount of respect for myself, and my body, that I would do anything to make people comment on how much weight I’d lost. 

I look back on photos of me then and I look like a pre-pubescent boy. I had developed reasonably sized boobs and rounded hips quite early-on in puberty (thanks genes), and lost both in under a year. I looked tired and pale. Hardly the picture of health that I had imagined. It didn’t matter how much weight I lost, I still kept telling myself that I was fat and ugly and needed to try harder. 

I can pinpoint the exact moment that I felt, for the first time, well and truly in awe of my body. I was in my first year of university and my housemate, who was a film practice student, had asked me to help him with a project. When he asked me to do it, I was a couple of wines deep, so, of course, said yes. The next day when he asked again, and I was completely sober, I said yes with the beginnings of regret in my stomach. 

A couple of weeks later it was the day of the shoot. I was so nervous. It was the first time I would be naked, except pants, in front of a camera, for all to see. As I stepped in front of the camera and dropped my dressing gown to the floor, I dropped all of my insecurities with it. I had a fight or flight moment where I said to myself, ‘you either do this now, or you walk out of this door, disappoint someone you want to be friends with, and, more importantly, disappoint yourself.’ For an hour, I stood, posed, and danced in just my pants in front of two boys I barely knew. 

It was a few weeks later when I saw the completed project. I could not believe that the woman I saw on the screen was me. Beautiful, and littered with stretch marks, complete with fat rolls and cellulite. I had never felt so empowered and in love with myself. 

Since that moment, I have been working hard on my self-love journey. I’m still not ‘over’ the fact that I had an eating disorder and I don’t think I ever will be. I am, however, taking small steps, every day, to appreciate my body. I am using the term ‘fat’ to describe myself because I’ve learned that it’s not an ugly word. It’s a body type, and it’s my body type. Having people like Lizzo and Stephanie Yeboah in my life is a huge help for me. They are role models who show that fat women can live their lives unapologetically and however the fuck they want. I have recently just finished reading Steaphine Yeboah’s book ‘Fattily Ever After’ and it is FILLED with excellent tips to help you on your journey of self-love. 

Like I said though, self-love is not just about being able to love the way you look. It’s about loving all aspects of yourself and accepting who you are. I have been working hard on accepting my body and, through that process, accepting who I am. I have learnt how annoying I am. How I bottle up my emotions until they explode out of me all at once. How distant I become when I’m feeling upset and how that can come across as being bitchy. I’ve learnt how much of a determined person I am, and that it is both a strength and a downfall.

Part of my self-love journey has been establishing the things in my life that make me happy. One of those things is baking. I’m still relatively new to the baking scene, but I know that every time I bake it brings me joy. A pure joy that leaves me smiling for the rest of the day. 

I still have days where I don’t like who I am. But, I’m learning how to unpick my negative thoughts and learn from them. Self-love takes time, but surrounding yourself with people who love and support you makes it easier. I am spending my Valentine’s Day with my mum, who has always supported me in everything that I do. 

Whoever you’re spending Valentine’s Day with, and however you are spending it, I hope that your day is filled with love, including the most important kind- self-love.