Valentine’s Day comes with as much baggage as an entire herd of elephants on vacation. We all have preconceived notions concerning how we feel about Valentine’s Day and honestly, we don’t give ourselves much of a chance to change that opinion. This holiday has been pooh-poohed for its level of materialism and some call it a “Hallmark holiday” that has lost any true meaning. Poor St. Valentine with his sneaky arrow of love! For people who are single or who are in a damaging relationship, Valentine’s day can bring trepidation and anxiety as we worry about “how we will get through it” and we wallow over the fact that we are single/unhappily partnered/missing an ex partner/whatever else. Valentine’s Day does add a lot of pressure: pressure to single people to take a stance on their relationship status, pressure on newly dating couples to “make it special, even if the partners don’t know each other well yet”, and it puts pressure on longterm couples who are caught in the race of life and desperately try to make time to focus on this holiday and what it means for their relationship. It brings up anger and resentment for some of us. In others, it can spark what it was originally meant to convey: love and happiness. It’s our choice how we want to feel about Valentine’s Day and how it impacts us!
Whatever your history or feelings are about Valentine’s Day, I personally adore this holiday because not only is it an opportunity to show those we love how much we cherish them, but it is a perfect time to give ourselves generous helpings of self-love and acceptance that may have been evading us all year. You may say that it sounds cheesy to say this, and that it’s “an excuse for lonely souls to cling to on this day centered on couples”. The truth is, whether you are in a relationship or single, if you do not show yourself love and admire your personal qualities for the wonderfully unique things that they are, you will always be struggling to find inner peace. As a counselor and as a human being, I have experienced numerous occasions where this philosophy is proven to be absolutely true. There is the cliche “you won’t find love until you love yourself first”, which in part makes a lot of sense.
I believe we each enter into relationships for personal and varying reasons. As we are all unique individuals, we may be looking for certain qualities in a partner and we may have different ideas about what makes a relationship functional based on family and societal influences. But I would argue that every person in every relationship is looking for one thing in common: love. Well, two: and acceptance for who you are. We may be able to give endless heaps of pure love to a partner and find that it is reciprocated, however if we are not treating ourselves with that same kindness and respect as well, we may start to feel unbalanced and out of sync. We must feel we deserve the love that we receive in a healthy relationship, and (hate to tell you this) that acceptance does not come from anyone else but our own selves!
So in honor of Valentine’s Day, how about we all show our love to those dear and near to our hearts — romantic, friendly, familial (and pets). I think it’s a beautiful thing to have a day just to show love. And don’t forget to focus on the most essential and deep form of love (and also one of the most difficult to attain for some reason): love of ourselves. Give that negative voice in your mind the boot on Valentine’s Day and treat yourself with the same type of care that you would show to your mother/father/sister/best friend/partner. It’s amazing the power that self-love and acceptance can have on our lives and our relationships! 🙂