Eight Torontonians explain what self-love means to them

Roses are red, violets are blue, this Valentine’s Day let’s celebrate you


Valentine’s Day can suck if you’re single. The Hallmark holiday has always been focused on love between couples – and until recently, only hetero love. But we’re here to remind you that the longest and most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself, and you’re worth celebrating.

With that in mind, we surveyed eight Torontonians on what self-love and self-appreciation means to them. They also explained how they show themselves kindness and practice self-care. Here are their answers below.

Farzana Doctor

47, novelist, poet and registered social worker

What does self-love mean to you: Self-love is a work-in-progress and is an ongoing practice of self-compassion. It means remembering that I am part of a larger human experience of being wonderful and wonderfully flawed.

When did you start loving yourself: I believe we are born with abundant self-love and our families and society either reinforce this or chip away at it. It wasn’t until my 30s when I was introduced to mindfulness and self-hypnosis practices that I actively chose to treat myself more compassionately.

What does self-care look like for you: Self-care is life. It happens moment to moment. It’s how we breathe, move, eat, work, rest and love. It’s in how gentle we are with ourselves and the planet. It’s in each and every decision we make.

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Nick Wong

Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya

36, artist

What does self-love mean to you: Self-love is the crucial daily practice of undoing the trauma that taught me the opposite: self-hate.

When did you start loving yourself: It’s a work in progress, but reclaiming and owning the word “queer” in my late 20s was a significant step in my self-love journey.

What does self-care look like for you: Self-care is saying “no” without guilt. Saying no to someone is how I say “yes” to myself.

How often do you practice self-care: I go to a lot of movies because it’s one of the only settings where I can’t use my phone. For two hours, I am forced to disconnect and drift off.

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Kelly Showker

Mandi Gray

Mandi Gray

29, PhD candidate

What does self-love mean to you: It means treating myself the way I treat my best friend. That includes trying to stop negative self-talk.

When did you start loving yourself: The last three years I did a lot of intense work to overcome a lot of early trauma. For a long time, I thought that my traumatic experiences were my own fault. Within the last six months, for the first time since as long as I can remember, I actually feel happy and that I love myself.

What does self-care look like for you: Balance. I used to work from the moment I woke up until I went to bed every single day because I was insecure and felt that I had to work harder than my colleagues to make it. I was really lonely. After I was sexually assaulted, my ability to work was significantly diminished for a number of months. In that time, I learned about the importance of setting boundaries. Now I try to limit my work time between regular work hours.

For a long time, as a woman in academia, I always felt that my ideas were less interesting or important in comparison to my male peers. When I get an idea, I try to run with it. Sometimes its just for me, and sometimes I will share it with the world.

How often do you practice self-care: Every day. It takes simple everyday things like cooking a healthy meal, writing or taking a bath. I am in a unionized workplace so I have access to things like therapy and massage, so I try to do that regularly as well.

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Jack Lamon

Jack Lamon

42, owner and worker at Come As You Are Co-operative

What does self-love mean to you: It means taking time for myself in a world that doesn’t really believe we deserve to prioritize ourselves over capitalism. The reality is that you can take much better care of others if you can manage to take care of yourself.

When did you start loving yourself: I spent the entirety of my adult life choking down my own needs in favour of others – whether it was our customers, other worker-owners, or my partners – it always seemed that other folks’ needs were either more important or more urgent than my own. At some point, I realized that other folks’ needs seemed to expand exponentially as I satisfied them, and that my needs just weren’t getting any play in my life at all.

What does self-care look like for you: Self-care in my life is mostly about taking solo-time for myself every single day and taking the time on my days off to be kind to my future self. Whether that’s about bulk cooking organic food for the week or scheduling some nice hangouts with friends, it is about honouring the future incarnations of myself that will no doubt need that care.

How often do you practice self-care: I try to practice some form of self-care daily. I get up an hour earlier than I would otherwise to really relish that time with myself before anyone else is up.

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Saajid Sam Motala

Dainty Smith

Dainty Smith

38, storyteller and performer.

What does self-love mean to you: For me, self-love is an unapologetic commitment to loving my whole self, which includes the parts of me that are still healing, the parts of me that make me uncomfortable and the messy parts that hold trauma. I don’t think self-love is always easy. I think heart-work is hard work but I believe that it’s worth it and I am worth it. It’s a never -nding journey in continually choosing myself over and over again, knowing that I am valuable, lovable and worthy.

When did you start loving yourself: I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood that was fairly white and there wasn’t a lot of diversity, so I was always really fascinated by glamour, beauty and the self actualization it can give a person. There was a pivotal moment for me when I was a teenager when I read the book ‘Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. There’s a moment when the heroine has the realization: ”I had stopped comparing myself to the perfect beauties of movies and magazines. I decided I was beautiful simply because I wanted to be.” That always stuck with me, the act of choosing, of deciding.

What does self-care look like for you: Self-care for me is constantly asking myself questions and checking in. Asking myself, “How am I feeling today? What do I need? How is my heart?” It’s making sure to take time for myself. It’s being clear about my boundaries and this is a big one for me, I am really learning how nessessary that is.

How often do you practice self-care: I try to make time for myself and take time every day to practice self-adornment, which includes oiling and pinning up my hair, rubbing lotions and creams on my skin, doing gentle stretches for my body and always, if nothing else, applying a red lipstick.

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Kayla Rocca

Ama Scriver

Amanda (Ama) Scriver

34, freelance journalist

What does self-love mean to you: To me, self-love is about connecting with yourself mentally, emotionally and for some, spiritually, and in return, being able to return that love and kindness to others. It’s about learning your own boundaries, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and trusting yourself.

When did you start loving yourself: In 2009, I was enrolled in Weight Watchers. I recorded every meal and exercise session but noticed I would never lose weight, and it was just demoralizing. I wanted to love my body, regardless of size and I needed other people to accept that too. I found my solace in online communities where I could connect with others like myself. One day, I came across the blog Fuck Yeah, Fat Positive, and for the first time, I saw folks like myself who were fat, happy and spreading messages that were honest and positive.

What does self-care look like for you: I have been seeing my therapist for two years now, and it has honestly been one of the best self-care decisions I ever made. Beyond therapy, I like being in water, watching trashy reality television and karaoke.

How often do you practice self-care: I visit my therapist once a week, and I try to hit the gym twice a week, usually once with a pal and once on my own. Luckily, I have two friends with pools in their condos, so I try to go swimming whenever I can.

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Catherine Hernandez

Catherine Hernandez

40, writer

What does self-love mean to you: As a brown queer femme, self-care is a radical action against a world that seeks to shut me down. Taking care of myself and taking up space as a femme is daring and necessary. When we eat to satiate ourselves, we tell others we are worthy of sustenance. When we distill our social circle to those who respect us, we tell others how we want to be treated. When we allow our bodies pleasure, we tell others that our joy has a place in this world.

My mother suddenly died in November, so for me, at this painful time on my life, self-love is my job. It is actual work I have to do every day to ensure I grow into this new motherless version of myself in the healthiest way possible.

When did you start loving yourself: Just before my 40th birthday. In a society that often thinks that queer folks are sinful and disgusting, we have to re-parent ourselves into being. I finally took the time to do exactly that a few months before my 40th birthday. I began manifestation rituals of meditating on how proud I was of myself just being who I was. It was extraordinarily powerful.

What does self-care look like for you: I have chronic illnesses, and now waves of depression since losing my mother so self-care is quite rigorous for me. I do yoga in the morning and at night, even if it means just 15 minutes. I try and practice self acupressure at least once a day, or I ask my partner to do it on me. I try and journal once a day. I keep track of my food and water intake to ensure I’m eating well despite mourning. I try and outsource my self-care by investing in massages, acupuncture, counselling and pedicures when I can afford it.

When I am deep in sadness over my mother, I have to let me body and my heart be as miserable as it wants to be. I don’t fight it. During those times, I allow myself as much stillness as life will let me have. I cry as much as I want to, whenever and wherever I want to. I pray and I speak to my mom every day.

How often do you practice self-care: Every day, be it active self-care or complete stillness.

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Tanja-Tiziana

Andrea Scott

Andrea Scott

46, playwright and producer

What does self-love mean to you: It means not comparing myself in any way to the people around me. We have a bad habit of looking around us to see how we’re doing in relation to our peers, but we are all on our own personal journeys and we need to honour that instead of quantifying it based on outside metrics.

When did you start loving yourself: On August 16, 2012. I was sitting in the front row of a performance of Terminus at Factory Theatre during SummerWorks when I was overcome by nausea and fainted. The theatre had to be evacuated and paramedics had to put me on a gurney and roll me into an ambulance. I was ultimately diagnosed with a heart condition that kickstarted me to love myself, value my time on earth and to do what I really wanted to do, which was be a professional writer. I think of that night as when I was reborn, and honestly, started living.

What does self-care look like for you: It means making time for myself in spite of all the external demands of my career. Saying no to opportunities has been a problem for me because I am always looking for ways to help other people be happy in their lives. Unfortunately, that has meant sacrificing time that I could have spent on myself.

Now I say no to events and certain opportunities with the confidence that there will be another chance. Social media is a tool that I use for fun and to keep in contact with friends, but sometimes it’s good to just close the laptop, mute the phone and go for a walk.

How often do you practice self-care: I go to the gym five mornings and I love it. I give myself an hour at the gym followed by a coffee with a really good book in the shop upstairs. Reading a book for pleasure, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, feels like luxury me-time. I’ve also decided that a writing retreat out of the city once a year is necessary for me to recharge mentally. This year, I’m hoping to go to Nova Scotia.

michelled@nowtoronto.com | @michdas

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