For a majority of people I know, Valentine’s Day is like licorice: either you love it or it makes you nauseous.
I fall into the first category, but I also understand the reasoning behind why some people have an aversion to the holiday. Especially with the presence of social media, the whole thing can turn into one big show designed to flaunt the extravagant things you did or the expensive gifts you got. And let’s be honest here, for some people, the only intent behind all those Instagram Valentine posts is to show off the fact that they have a partner, without saying it in so many words.
At the core of it, though, Valentine’s Day is about love, and love is about more than just the romantic kind. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s just how much we all need human connection. This is why I’m calling for everybody to celebrate the holiday this year, regardless of whether you’re dating, single, married, divorced, or otherwise.
This past year, we’ve all been a little devoid of love. Let’s turn Valentine’s Day 2021 into a chance to compensate for that fact.
I think we all need a bit of extra TLC now more than ever.
1. Do Something That Makes Your Own Soul Happy
If you don’t practice love and compassion for yourself, you’re ultimately going to be limited in how much love and compassion you’re able to give others. And I say practice because that’s exactly what it is; self-love is not something that you either have or don’t. Just like a muscle, we have to train it every day. And it waxes and wanes. But the more often we refocus on being kind to ourselves, the easier it gets for it to become second-nature.
I, like a lot of people, tend to be my own worst critic. No one has ever been as mean to me as I am to myself. I’m always so focused on pushing myself to be better in order to get to where I want to go that I forget to pat myself on the back and acknowledge how far I’ve come already.
Here’s the thing: the relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you’re ever going to have. Everything else stems from that. There will be many situations in life that you’re not going to have control over, but you’re always going to have the choice to decide your own thoughts and feelings. Even if everything else is gone, you will always have you. You will always have the option of choosing to be your own best friend, of choosing to be your #1 supporter, and rooting for yourself.
This Valentine’s Day, decide that you’re going to talk to yourself the way you would talk to the person you’re most in love with in the world. Give yourself permission to tell the inner critic to shut the eff up because you’re a badass and deserve to treat yourself to something that makes your soul happy.
It’s okay if you’re not productive on this one day. It’s okay if you don’t cross out every task on your to-do list. What’s something that warms your insides and makes your soul feel as light as a feather? Maybe something you haven’t done in a while. For me, one of those things is dancing in a nightclub (not gonna lie, since that’s not possible, I’ll probably be having a dance party in my living room).
Whatever it is, spoil yourself with it. Heck, spend all of Valentine’s Day only doing things you love if you want (as long as it doesn’t actually cause any harm). Just for one day, lay aside thoughts of all the ways in which you’re not yet good enough, of any past mistakes you might’ve made and all the things you wish were different about yourself. Give yourself the gift of love.
Motivational speaker Lisa Nichols says: “Someone’s going to cross your path tomorrow, next week, next year, and they need the love you have. But in order for them to get your love, you need to have filled your cup up and be in overflow because you can’t love them from your cup — you’ve got to always love them from your saucer.”
So start with yourself. Start with Valentine’s Day. And when Valentine’s Day has come and gone, continue to recall what having self-compassion felt like and let it bleed into all the days that come after. You won’t be in love with yourself fully and unconditionally overnight, but change often happens in small degrees. It’s those little moments of kindness towards ourselves when we normally would’ve brought ourselves down, that ultimately stack up and build our sense of self-love.
2. Spend A Day In Nature
When we think about relationships, we rarely think about the relationship we have with the ground we stand on. I’m not a religious person by any means, but I can’t deny the wonder and awe that overtakes me when I look at a cotton-candy sunset or at the sunlight scattering through the branches of a tree. There’s a magnificence in nature. Some might disagree with me, but I’m gonna get a little woo-woo here and call it love.
There’s an Oscar Wilde quote that I always think about and it goes, “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” When I get outside and spend time in nature, it quite literally feels like something is healing inside of me. In fact, it reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m hugged by someone I love. Like a warm, fuzzy blanket of comfort and peace that wraps around you.
I think this is a form of love. Love of the universe and all its various ways which we do and don’t understand. Reverence for the bigness of it all. Wonder at the fact that we’re here at all.
One of the easiest ways to feel connected to life and to remember the fact that we’re all witness to the brilliance of it, is to immerse ourselves in nature. I promise you, afterward, your heart will be like a sponge that has soaked up a bunch of liquid and doubled in size. It’s not a bad thing to feel on a day dedicated to the celebration of love.
3. Plan a Dinner Date With Your Parents
How often do we verbalize how much we appreciate all that our parents have done for us? How much quality time do we actually spend with them, giving them the same kind of affection and care that they’ve been unconditionally giving us our whole lives?
It’s so easy to take their presence for granted — especially us millennials tend to get caught up in chasing thrills and wild rides and we sometimes forget to take a step back and say thanks to the two people who brought us into this world.
Treating your parents to a dinner date is a simple gesture that means a lot. It could be at an outdoor restaurant, a picnic, or even a Zoom date. The important thing is to get curious — what kind of things would you ask them and talk to them about if they weren’t your parents? As their children, we can forget that they’re their own multi-faceted people with stories they’ve never told, opinions they might not have voiced, or emotions or fears they might not have outwardly expressed. So we don’t ask the deeper questions and we miss out on what could potentially be a greater connection. I’d be willing to bet there’s actually quite a fair amount to be mined underneath the surface.
This Valentine’s Day could be a great opportunity to reconnect and show your appreciation for the unbreakable bond that you share with your parents. Because a lot of the relationships in our lives are tentative, but the inherent link we have to our parents is one that will always remain, regardless of the kind of relationship we may have with them.
Despite all the shortcomings they may have had (no parent is perfect) we should never lose sight of the fact that, if nothing else, they quite literally gave us the gift of life. And that is worth everything.
4. Lend a Helping Hand
The pandemic showed us how connected we, as inhabitants of the same planet, really are. Even to the people who are not in our immediate social circle. When you think about it, it’s actually crazy how significant the implications of just one person’s actions could potentially be — a pandemic has made us see that clearly. So shouldn’t we do our part to contribute to the well-being of our fellow inhabitants?
Right now it might be a bit hard to volunteer in person, but there are also virtual options to try out. And you don’t necessarily have to volunteer. Giving back could be as simple as lending a hand to anyone around you that you know is in need. Offering a blanket to a homeless man who is shivering out in the cold. Buying a meal for someone who doesn’t have the money to pay for food. Or donating your old winter clothes.
Giving back is one of the best ways to spread love. Because then not only is the love imparted to someone else and creates human connection, but it also grows within yourself. Love for another person who might be less fortunate than you; love for yourself, for being the kind of individual that cares; gratitude for all the things you might take for granted but, really, are big blessings.
Paulo Coelho said that “happiness is something that multiplies when it is divided.”
I think the same is true of love.
It’s been a weird year. We’ve all felt disconnected and lonely. Unloved. That’s why I think it’s especially important to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Let’s show our loved ones just how much they mean to us and how much we value their existence. Let’s take some time to appreciate the beauty of the world we live in, even with its occasional ridiculousness and madness. Let’s remember not to take anything for granted and to spread some joy to the ones who are perhaps not as lucky as we have been. But before all that, let’s fill our own cups so that the love inside of us can overflow into the saucer because
We can’t love from our cup; we have to love from our overflow.