Valentine's Day is one of those charged holidays that often sets people up for disappointment, depression and conflict. If you're in a relationship, you likely expect your partner to show up in some romantic way. If this doesn't occur, you feel disappointed. If you're not in a relationship, you have to endure the onslaught of lovey-dovey images of partners exuding their perfect love. If you're fine with being single, this may not affect you at all, but if you're longing to be in a relationship, this will inevitably trigger pain.
I have a simple solution, and it's one of my favorite life skills which facilitates feeling loved whether or not you're in a relationship: Don't wait for someone else to make you feel loved; proactively do it yourself!
So when it comes to Valentine's Day, instead of waiting for your partner to show up with roses and a romantic card, write yourself a love letter. And, if you're single, instead of bemoaning the fact that nobody will show up at your doorstep with a love letter, write it yourself!
We tend to believe that love only counts if it comes from someone else. If you're feeling low, you want someone else to cheer you up by bringing flowers. But what happens when you buy yourself the flowers? Ah, you suddenly feel better! Susan Page explains this concept beautifully in her book, Why Talking is Not Enough:
"Suppose your partner never comments on your appearance, your cooking, your generosity, or whatever else you know you are good at. Your partner takes all your good qualities for granted and never thinks to mention them.
"The solution to this problem is amazingly simple: wait until the two of you are alone and then offer a self-affirming statement, something like this:
I changed the oil in both of the cars this weekend. It always feels good to keep up with that.
I feel so good about the way the party went. I loved the candles, and I thought the table looked beautiful.
I just love this dress on me. The color is so good, and it's slenderizing. Don't you think?"
Her examples apply to those in relationships, but they're equally applicable if you're not in a relationship. Her point – which I find utterly brilliant – is that so often we wait for others to give us the acknowledgement that we crave, when we're perfectly capable of giving it to ourselves! There's so much power in giving yourself the affirmation that you need instead of waiting for someone else to give it, and then harboring resentment when they don't.
We have the power to love and celebrate ourselves. In fact, until we learn to love and celebrate ourselves, there's a limit to how much love and celebration we can receive from others. You know you're lovable when you treat yourself in loving ways and truly see the essence of who you are. By essence I mean the unchangeable, intrinsic qualities that have nothing to do with externals (degrees, income, looks, partner, house, clothes, car, etc.).
So here's an assignment that is guaranteed to make you feel loved on Valentines' Day: Write yourself a love letter. Here's how:
If you're in a relationship, write yourself the love letter that you wish your partner would write to you. Be specific in terms of what you would like your partner to appreciate about you and how you would like your partner to see you both in practice and essential ways.
If you're not in a relationship, write yourself the love letter that you would love to receive from an imaginary sweetheart, a friend, or anyone else who truly sees you. Again, be specific about what you crave to hear about yourself. This doesn't have to be a romantic letter in any way. For many people who have a hard time seeing themselves through loving eyes because their inner critic is dominant, it can be helpful to imagine the most loving person you've ever known - a doting grandmother, a trusted teacher - sitting before you channeling this letter.
And if you want to throw in a candlelit bath with rose petals floating on top, it wouldn't hurt! Love yourself and you will feel loved. It's as simple as that.