For many of us who are 40 and over, our take on Valentine’s Day has changed considerably since we were kids. When we were in elementary school, the class celebrated Valentine’s Day together. Mini Valentine’s Day cards were addressed to every classmate, and we would drop the cards off at each other’s desks along with Sweetheart Heart Candies that were etched with sentiments like “Be Mine” and “XOXO.”
In the years that have followed, we’ve been convinced by societal and commercial influence — we get it Hallmark, Kay Jewelers and FTD! — to see Valentine’s Day as a romantic occasion involving love and heart-themed gift exchanges and elaborate dining plans.
When mid-February rolls around, these traditions can bring with them subtle, and not so subtle, pressure to feel like you should either be dating someone or in a committed relationship. If you’re not, the inference is that you’re outside the norm. For women who are uncoupled, this notion can bring about self-doubt that there’s something wrong with them. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There’s No Relationship Deadline
If you greet February 14th with enthusiastic anticipation, that’s wonderful. If the holiday brings on an entirely different reaction for you, don’t let Valentine’s Day get you down.
Maybe you want to be in a loving relationship and haven’t met that lucky person yet. Maybe you’re thriving as an independent woman and have no interest in being partnered. Whatever it is you want for yourself, there’s no Valentine’s Day relationship deadline. Let’s call the perspective that says otherwise for what it is.….wrong!
Your worth isn’t determined by whether or not you have a romantic partner by your side, ever. It’s time that society completely rejects this outdated notion. Don’t give it oxygen.
Negative self-talk about being “less than” because you don’t have a significant other is a counter-productive waste of your valuable time. Squash the internal conversation before it gets started. Kick any self-judgment to the curb. You can redefine Valentine’s Day.
Instead, talk to yourself in the same positive and encouraging way you speak to your closest girlfriends. Know that you’re enough, whether you’ve got a date on February 14th or not.
It’s the People
One of the many lessons of the pandemic is that life-affirming love isn’t limited to a romantic partner. It’s the people who care about us and support us, and who we do the same for, who bestow meaning into our lives. It’s their love that feeds our souls and helps us through the tough times. This love comes from family members, friends, and even our pets.
Female friends play an essential role in many of our lives. How fortunate it is that Galentine’s Day was created explicitly to celebrate friendships with the girlfriends we cherish! Make plans to spend quality time with your besties on February 13th. If you’re a football fan, you could host an in person or virtual breakfast or lunch before the Super Bowl kicks off. Meeting for drinks, having a picnic, going for a hike or ice skating are other fun ideas.
How about taking time this month to call, send Valentine’s cards or write thank you notes to the people who have helped you become the person you are?
Be Your Own Valentine
Whatever your relationship goal may be, the love that’s always worthy of celebrating, and too often doesn’t get enough attention, is self-love. After all, the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. Cultivating self-love doesn’t involve being egotistical or narcissistic. Rather, it’s accepting and appreciating your authentic being unconditionally with all its wonder and its flaws. It’s wrapping yourself in a compassionate hug.
Self-care helps you foster self-love. Acts of self-care are proof positive that you deserve to be cared for and valued. Make this Valentine’s Day (or the whole month of February) a celebration of YOU by focusing on your own mental and physical well-being.
Start off by being kind to yourself. Enjoy a break from the hours that you spend taking care of others. Take time to rest. You deserve it. Write a Valentine’s Day card to yourself. Pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read. Explore the outdoors. Stretch. Pamper yourself with a trip to the nail salon, a spa or a yoga class. Do something that brings a smile to your face.
At its essence, Valentine’s Day reminds us to acknowledge and treasure the love that graces our lives from multiple sources. Given the fast-paced world we live in, there’s reason to appreciate a day that encourages us to pause and extend gratitude to the people who’ve entrusted us with the gift of their friendship and love. Most importantly, this includes honoring and nurturing the love you have for yourself and not letting Valentine’s Day get you down.