Take a second to think about the love stories you're told through movies, books, or even Instagram.

Do stories like Jack & Rose from Titanic, Lara Jean & Peter Kavinsky from To All the Boys I've Loved Before, or even Chrissy Teigen & John Legend pop in your head?

We're typically fed love stories that involve two people (often, with a lack of diversity)—but there’s a whole world of untold love stories about another incredibly important relationship: the one with ourselves.

The power of self-love is greater than any other relationship—after all, you’re there for you, through thick and thin, no matter what. But it's not always an easy relationship. It takes practice, patience, compassion, and lots of learning and relearning.

The power of self-love is greater than any other relationship— after all, you’re there for you, through thick and thin, no matter what.

To celebrate that special relationship, this Valentine’s Day we asked you—the Shine community—to share your Self-Love Stories. These are the stories of when you first realized practicing self-love was important.

More than 600 inspiring stories poured in from around the world, and some (OK, many) even brought us to tears. We're so grateful to everyone who shared their experience with us.

We gathered 52 moving, insightful stories that will change the way you think about self-love and how it plays a role in your life. Let these stories inspire you to begin—or continue—your self-love journey.

Trigger warning: Some of these stories discuss grief, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide.

“I realized how important self-love is while working on my Ph.D. Up to that point, I’d been unknowingly basing my self-love on achievement. As I hit roadblocks in my challenging graduate program, I noticed my self-love wavering and waning (I’d get frustrated with myself, I felt the need to prove myself to others, I placed my joy and value in external things). I knew deep down that this wasn’t healthy. I visited a therapist (highly recommend!) to get to the bottom of it and that was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Nicole F., 34, Louisiana, U.S.

“After I realized that nobody is going to make me happy. It’s up to me to make myself happy. I feel that it starts within.”

Valeria P., 30, Illinois, U.S.

“My mother often tells me stories of my maternal grandmother, who passed away before I was born. Those stories are often about a women who worked as a maid and cafeteria manager, while raising six children. Who would come home so tired, she would fall asleep the moment she sat down. Who died of a heart attack while she was at work because she was under so much stress and overworked. Who never got to meet her granddaughter because she literally worked herself to death.

Her life is the biggest lesson for me, and hopefully others, to slow down and take care of myself. No job, no family obligations, no responsibility or commitment is worth neglecting yourself and your health for. I practice self-love to honor myself and to honor the legacy of my grandmother, who never knew she had the option to do the same.”

Sarita S., 27, Georgia, U.S.

“After years of living alone, experiencing wins and setbacks at work, finding love, losing love, and eventually meeting ‘the one,’ I’ve realized something profound about self-love: I’ve accepted that no matter how good or bad things around me are going, the most important factor influencing how I feel is me.

My confidence, my energy, my perception of my health and physical attractiveness is all a product of my inner voice, and the version of the story I narrate. Yes—people can say or do things that influence how you perceive yourself, but ultimately, my relationship with myself, my acceptance of my gifts and faults, is what drives my perception of self worth. The nicer I am to myself, the more I surround myself with thoughts, people, and beliefs that promote a positive self—and the better I feel. Like all relationships, the one I’m in with myself requires patience, kindness, and faithfulness in order to flourish.”

Shannon S., 35, Wisconsin, U.S.

“I read You Are a Badass and Stop Being Mean to Yourself. We fail to realize that instead of being our own worst critic, why don’t we try being our best friend instead? Root for yourself.

Jessica C., 26, New Jersey, U.S.

“When an ex learned I was dating my current boyfriend, he sent an email warning that I was ‘broken’ and ‘a lot to deal with.’ I suffer from PTSD, and that ex had supported me through nights filled with flashbacks and weeks ruled by my depression. We broke up because of distance, not my mental health. To learn that perhaps someone who I believed loved me only loved parts of me destroyed my self confidence. I never had a ‘eureka!’ lightbulb moment, but, somewhere along my journey of processing that email, I realized the ‘broken’ parts of me did not define me and did not dictate my worthiness of receiving love—even love for myself.

Olivia D., 25, Kentucky, U.S.

“When I started touring colleges. It kinda hit me that I would be at a place where I would have to stand on my own feet. Self-love brings confidence. Of course around that time, I lost some friends, too. So I learned to be comfortable with my own energy kind of early.”

Ang B., 18, Texas, U.S.

“I love and adore Beyoncé. Her music is an anthem for self-empowerment, independence, accepting love from others, and, most importantly, having confidence in yourself and loving yourself. Listening to Beyoncé always puts me in the best mood and has helped me take stock of myself and who I am and the friends that I keep around me.”

Serena J., 26, Texas, U.S.

“I realized the importance of self-love while struggling with watching a loved one fall prey to alcoholism. His vicious words intended to tear me apart, and so often they did. I realized the need to love myself first. I needed to grow strong and learn to acknowledge every single piece that made me me—and love both the positive and negative aspects of those pieces.

I decided to fight back and stand up for myself and demand respect, but needed the foundation of knowing my self-worth before beginning that fight. I may continue to lose battles, but I am now strong enough to believe that I will win the war. Roar back.”

Keri J., 34, New York, U.S.

“I learned to love myself when I came to the realization (sadly only a year ago) that no matter what happens in life the only person that will be there always is me. So I had to get to know her, and, to be honest, I’m still getting to know her (me). But thus far she’s a pretty cool human.”

Danielle R., 17, Canada

“I've realized how important it is when I noticed how hateful my comments towards myself were. How my advice to someone else on a similar issue was so different from the way I talked to myself. I realized I don't treat myself like a friend would, instead I'm my own bully—and that sparked a call for action.”

Justyna, 19, Poland

“I always heard about self-love, but honestly never knew its meaning until my experience was shattered. I had to work through the death of my fiancé, grandmother, step-mom, and best friend.

Through great research I was able to understand what self-love is. Self-love includes mind, body, and spirit. I use rose water baths, watching the tv show The Masked Singer, reading, creating visions boards, eating a cup of ice cream, yoga, finger painting with the toddlers, walking in the park, or simply eating Chinese food with my teenager. Doing the actions you love is a part of self-love. Through self- love, I am able to heal properly.”

Marlene, 33, Florida, U.S.

“When I started to go to the therapy and could get to know myself better and understand the causes of my qualities, defaults and insecurities, I began to treat myself gently and with love.

Aline N., 23, Brazil

“I was working for a very demanding, volatile billionaire boss and originally thought that the high profile gig was my dream job going into it. I quickly realized I was driving myself into the ground and burning the candle at both ends trying to make him happy. He expected me to be at his beck and call 24/7 and I was, working nights, weekends, and every other minute in between. There was no personal time. I realized I was only existing to keep his little nucleus alive and that really got to me, making me depressed, unmotivated, and giving me severe anxiety.

I was fortunate enough to negotiate a severance and I am now taking steps towards becoming my own boss.

Jessalynn H., 34, Massachusetts, U.S.

“When I was a teenager, I finally was given my own room. There I could decorate, arrange furniture, play music to please myself, and escape from whatever chaos was present in the rest of the house and with my family. I had a favorite picture on my wall and every year on my birthday I would write myself a letter and hide it behind that picture, until my next birthday. It was like opening a special present to myself. I could see how I had grown over the past year and how many goals I had achieved. I learned that it was OK to take care of me and that I would be a better daughter, sister, friend because of it.

Jean S., 73, California, U.S.

“After realizing I was putting more focus into work, friends, and everyday tasks/worries than I did on myself. I was rushing through my ‘me time’ without fully enjoying it.”

Emily K., 27, Virgina, U.S.

“I’ve lost jobs, places to live, friends and family members, but I always thought I could power through. One day, though, I hit a wall and I just couldn’t get over it. I was sad, tired, angry, frustrated, mean to myself, and then I stopped reading, writing, and lost interest in all of the things that used to bring me joy.

I have a friend who was trying to help me feel better because, after a particularly bad day, I had decided to take time off work to get help and spend some time figuring out why I was crying and not sleeping well and just generally miserable. I’ve never taken time off and it felt strange. I told her I had submitted paperwork to my boss and I had no idea what I was doing.

She texted me back: ‘It is uncharted territory but you know what you are doing. You are going to take care of yourself.’

I replied that it felt more like I was giving up.

She texted: ‘You’re not giving up, you’re starting to fight. You are fighting for your wellbeing.’

I took a screenshot of the thread and it is now the wallpaper for the lock screen on my phone so I remember that no matter what it looks or feels like, I’m fighting for my wellbeing.

Jenn R., 47, New Hampshire, U.S.

“I have been battling with depression for many years and barely caring for myself. I finally made an appointment with the dentist to help start my journey to self-love. Seeing and hearing that my teeth were in such bad shape was one of many moments that I realized I was not caring nor loving myself the way I was before depression kicked in.”

Misty B., 37, California, U.S.

“Years ago, my ex and I decided to end our relationship. It was tough, but, being an independent woman, it just had to stop. The relationship took a toll on me. I don’t know how I survived it honestly. But God, family, and friends made me realize, if anybody’s worthy of all the love in the world, it’s me. I have given so much that I don’t deserve to even give up my life for some guy.”

J, 25, Oman

“I realized self-love was important when I fell ill. I didn’t realize stress could add to a person falling ill when everything else (food, workout, relationships) seemed to be in place. I realized that I’ve got to love myself first before I could give it out to anyone else.”

Sneha J., 28, Thailand

“I realized the importance of self-love after a busy, stressful week left me burnt out. I’m still learning not to push myself too far.”

Anna V., 14, Maryland, U.S.

“I learned the importance of self-love after I woke up one day and, completely caught off guard, I got laid off. After over-extending and giving all of myself to the job for years, I had a rude awakening to how little your work can love you back, regardless of how much love, time, and dedication you give to it. Panic attacks gave way to anxiety which soon spiraled into a full-blown depressive episode, and slowly my therapist taught me the importance of listening to my needs, putting myself first, treating my body and mind with kindness, and speaking affirmations to myself at all times. After all, sometimes I’m the only one who will do it for me!

Lindsay H., 36, Oregon, U.S.

“Being diagnosed with HIV made me realize I was still capable of giving and receiving love.

Robert D., 26, California, U.S.

“My anxiety started getting really out of control. I was losing friends, I wasn’t myself, and I wasn’t happy. There was a day that I couldn’t take it anymore so I went home and drew myself a bath and just cried—but when I got out, I felt so much better. I decided I needed to start taking more baths to help me relax. I didn’t realize I was doing self-love until a few weeks later and then I decided to make it a weekly routine and to add in extra time if need be.”

Maegan S., 20, Kansas, U.S.

“After a five-year relationship ended suddenly, I was lost in depression and anxiety for years. I didn’t invest in myself and just tried to get by. Eventually, I opened up to my family about how broken I was and they encouraged me to start therapy. That was the beginning of a long journey to self-love.

Molly B., 31, Missouri, U.S.

“I have multiple sclerosis. I recently had a pretty big scare. I was told I had PML (Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), which is a deadly infection of the brain. It's caused from taking the medications to help delay disease progression. Sitting in my house for a month (no mobility at the time) and thinking that I was going to be dead in six months really opened my eyes. In the end, yes, friends and family are there for you, but that can only go so far. True love and acceptance needs to be found from within you and you alone.

Madison S., 24, Colorado, U.S.

“When I was all alone in living in Spain and had to love myself or be lost.

Grace W., 25, Oklahoma, U.S.

“As I got older, I found myself comparing myself more and more to others and focusing on my ‘imperfections.’ I realized self-love is an exercise and something I have to work on every day. It has improved my quality of life, but like I said it’s an exercise and it’s not always easy.”

Yari T., 27, Florida, U.S.

“There was never one ‘aha’ moment for me; instead, there was a year of difficulties. I bought my first home, had said home broke into, was promoted at work, graduated with my Masters of Library Science, and contracted mono—again. I was diving full force into everything, traveling at the speed of light to be the best I could be at home and at work. I started to fall apart emotionally and physically, and I decided I wasn’t doing it anymore. I didn’t want to set a precedent that I would have to fit my family or future children into. I wanted to do things for me.

Lauri D., 29, Texas, U.S.

“When I noticed that I kept hitting the same roadblocks in life. I realized that it's me that needs to adjust. I need to love and respect myself more to get what I want out of life.

Sabrina M., 39, North Carolina, U.S.

“As an artist and writer, I saw that I felt and wrote too much about self-loathing. It was as I finished the first draft on my fictional account of a mentally ill mother and her daughter that I realized my well being depended on loving myself. That was around 2009. Reading Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey nailed it for me: ‘Determined to save the only life you could save.’”

Mary A., Minnesota, U.S.

“I realized the importance of self-love while trying to stay positive in my worst days. I am the kind of person who overthinks even the smallest issues. I have so many ideas and thoughts inside my head that, by the end of the day, I get nothing done.

On vacation, I copied my sister’s morning and nighttime skin routine. I started feeling much calmer and composed. I realized I am eternally happy doing this and woke up feeling positive. And I eventually figured out that I was not giving time to myself. Not giving time to my thoughts, my mind, my body, and most of all me—myself. And as I start making routines for self-love these days, I am evolving as a new me.”

Manisha Rokaya, 23, Bangladesh

“I’ve gotten many reminders throughout life. I grew up with my father’s words, ‘Don’t let anyone steal your joy,’ ringing in my mind. However, it took a major life experience for me to thoughtfully hold myself accountable for appreciating myself. I’ve suffered sudden sensorineural hearing loss twice—the second time being Christmas Eve 2016. It was almost like deja vu, 20 years after the first experience. Only this time it rendered me profoundly deaf.

There were many facets of dealing with this new world and way of life, but the biggest obstacle to tackle was inside. Ever the ambitious, growth-oriented individual, never stopping to catch their breath in between tasks or praise themself, it was the first moment in my life where I truly paused.

And told myself that I loved her.

I knew that I would be OK despite. And not because of one specific external factor, but because of who I’ve grown into and the world that I’d so diligently built for myself...the relationships I’ve honed, the investments I’ve made, the standard I’ve set.

I thanked myself for the first time in...ever. And vowed to continue those trends unapologetically.”

Syreeta C., 29, Maryland, U.S.

“I started to realize how important it was as I started to develop more mature friendships. I realized that the only friends worth having were people that I could be my complete and whole self around without holding back or feeling bad about myself.

This idea recently extended into other parts of my life when I realized this same concept applies to careers. You shouldn’t have to change yourself, feel uncomfortable, or feel discouraged just to fit into a job! You deserve to be doing something that fulfills you and that you can thrive in! So I realized that I might as well love my entire self and surround myself with people and experiences that allow me to do that, because I can’t change who I am, so might as well embrace it.”

C, 22, Michigan, U.S.

“After my last breakup, I realized that I wasn’t giving myself the love I know I deserved. I was waiting for someone else to love me and validate me. At the end of the day, I’ll always have my own back so I might as well accept the fact that no one will love you unless you love yourself first.”

Yasmin E., 25, New York, U.S.

“It was a whole package of reading books, Shine posts, listening to podcasts, etc. that showed me that I had to slow down and look into myself. I discovered that I took way more care of others than I did myself.

Karla L., 35, Mexico

“After trying meditation for the first time during one of my busiest semesters of undergrad, I realized the importance of stopping to take a moment to check in with myself.Self-care through meditation and mindfulness for me is a reflection of self-love.

Chloe H., 23, Massachusetts, U.S.

“I almost died from a brain tumor. They brought me back to life and I worked to walk and talk. I lost everything, but let me tell you when you love yourself enough you find that you can do anything.

Lynda R., 67, California, U.S.

“Honestly, it wasn't any kind of dramatic realization. Many weeks, months, years of therapy and self-help books and TED talks kind of accumulated in my consciousness to teach me the importance of self-love. One of the big realizations I had though was that I have a lot of people who love me, people I love and respect, and when I don't love myself, it's an insult to their judgment.

When I have trouble loving myself for my own sake, I remember that and try to love myself for the sake of those who love me.

Puck M., 28, Massachusetts, U.S.

“After going through a big disappointment in life that brought me to the verge of collapsing physically and mentally, I understood that everything can be overcome if you manage to put yourself first from time to time.

Gabi S., 31, Romania.

“I realized the importance of self-love when I was recovering from my eating disorder and self-harm. I spent most of my life hating everything about me and abusing my body because I thought I didn’t deserve to be happy. I began following self-love and body positivity pages and saw all of these amazing, beautiful, happy women of all shapes and sizes loving themselves, and I wanted nothing more than to feel the same way.”

Whitney H., 20, Texas, U.S.

“The importance of self-love really emphasized its value to me after a four-year relationship undervaluing my goals and aspirations. I, in the past, often acknowledged my friends and families achievements by undervaluing mine. My perspective in prioritizing myself was so distorted I viewed my accomplishments as ‘menial’ and constantly compare myself to others. I’m now learning that isn’t true self-love.

Loving myself makes everyone around me more valuable because I recognize the worth of my own efforts, trials, achievements, and appreciate my efforts to fight for myself and be a better whole being. I’m no longer divided by comparisons because I always choose me.”

Asiya A., 24, Arizona, U.S

. “It came gradually. Realizing there’s no one more important of deserving my love than me, in the first place. I am my person, my body, my soul. Shine helped me with realizing the importance.”

Rae H., 31, Netherlands

“When my dad passed away and I didn’t like being hard on myself anymore. Life is short and I had a reality check that moved me to my core.

María P., 24, Guatemala

“After being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I felt incredibly alone. No one else I knew had it so I felt I couldn’t relate to anyone and no one could relate to me. After going through group therapy and talking about acceptance, I learned that accepting myself for everything I am is the only way to improve my emotional state. I may not love myself every day, but I feel like I can accept my flaws and learn from my mistakes.”

Becca M., 20, Iowa, U.S.

“After having a kidney transplant I had to radically change my life. That meant leaving a career that I felt defined me and accepting that I had to rework my life and depend on others for the first time. I was lost and terrified. One day my therapist asked me what I was doing for myself. I was stumped! I realized that I wasn’t doing anything for me.

From that day forward I began to carve out moments that gave me pleasure. I started with baby steps. A manicure. A walk with my dog. Getting lost in a great book. I’ve now reached a point where I’m taking action to explore a life that I’ve always wanted to live and never felt worthy or free enough to have. I’m so grateful for the simple question that was asked of me 5 years ago. It’s started me on an entire journey of my own making.”

Melissa G., 50, Florida, U.S.

“While looking at photos of other people on social media, I started to notice the negative thoughts creep into my mind, the comparison game, and my self-esteem lowering by the second. I recognized then I needed to do something.”

Alexandra Z., 28, Minnesota, U.S.

“Somewhere in between the death of my grandfather and my first mental health scare, I realized that I needed to live my own story instead of what I or others thought it should be.”

Camille T., 28, Canada

“After a challenging and big event in my life. I had to handle a huge amount of work during one project, with a big level of responsibility and a lot of obstacles that just kept coming...and I did everything, but hated it. I left my job, I felt miserable, nevertheless everyone said I was great. It probably was a burnout. But I know I needed to love myself more, and love what I do—and how I do things. This is when I decided to make myself a priority and started dedicating more time to myself to truly understand what self-love is.”

Anna K., 26, Italy

“I’ve had a lot of mental illness in my life, and when I was younger I always did a thousand things all at once and didn’t realize I also needed me-time for some rest and reflection. When you struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, you are forced to take it easy, and find the little things that make you calm and happy.

Ellen T., 22, Sweden

“I realized self-love was important when my self-esteem was down and I just saw the negative parts about myself. I listened to some music, looked in the mirror, and said ‘You are smart, kind, important, enough’. Now, I always do that when I’m feeling down.”

Mallu L., 13, Brazil

“I realized how important self-love is a long time ago, but it took me a long time to actually learn how to love myself. I spent last summer helping my parents care for my mentally ill sister. I was on suicide watch whenever my parents weren’t able to be with her. One night, she came into my room and told me her plan, and that she was feeling the impulse to carry it out.

I was so overwhelmed, but I talked her through it and just wept after she went back to bed. I remember talking to my therapist about it and realizing that I am not equipped to prevent my sister from committing suicide. I realized that no one can really teach you how to love yourself, it has to come from within, and it is so mething that I need to master before I can even begin to guide sister to the path of self-love.”

Hayley H., 21, Minnesota, U.S.

If you're not sure where to get support and/or need immediate help, you can text Crisis Text Line directly at 741741—it’s available 24/7, it’s confidential, and it’s free.

Responses were edited and condensed for clarity.

Read next: 13 Powerful Quotes From Black Women About Self-Love