In my therapy practice, I’ve often noticed an increase in stress, anxiety, or depressed mood as we get closer to Valentine’s Day. People who are not in committed relationships report feeling more vulnerable or insecure, as they process the reality that no one will be giving them flowers, candy, or a sentimental card. It’s important to not minimize the challenges that can accompany the lack of a loving attachment on Valentine’s Day. And yet, I would like to dispel the idea that you need someone else to offer you loving words or special gifts in order to feel valuable, loveable, or cherished.
Since the media and our culture seem determined to shine a spotlight on the notion of love in February, we can use it as an opportunity to help our clients reconnect with feelings of self-love and self-worth. Some clients will need reassurance that this will not make them egotistical or narcissistic. Healthy self-love is quiet and solid, and always takes into consideration the needs and feelings of others as well. We can also help our clients understand the distinction between internal and external validation, and the ultimate power that comes from loving self-talk, acts of self-compassion and healthy self-care. I emphasize the notion of “healthy” self-care because many clients engage in behaviors that merely create a state of numbing or dissociation. Genuine self-care provides comfort, soothing, strengthens boundaries, or enhances an assertive voice. And most importantly, these acts of self-care don’t land clients in guilt or shame.
The good news is there are many ways to “be your own best valentine.” And when you intentionally choose to be kind to yourself, it dramatically decreases disappointment and increases actually getting your needs met. In the end, your wisest part knows the words and the gestures that would make you happiest. No matter how generous other people may be with their gifts and loving words, the truth is, your sense of self-esteem is most powerfully reinforced by the non-critical and tender words you tell yourself, and the loving gestures you do for yourself. This February, help our clients to be their own valentine, and remind them to keep that positive, self-affirming behavior going all year round!
Here are suggestions to offer your clients – and do for yourself as well!
- Pick out a beautiful card, write a loving note and mail it to yourself!
- Buy yourself a bouquet of your favorite flowers.
- Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure.
- Give yourself a hand massage with soothing lotion.
- Go on-line and buy yourself a gift basket with goodies or spa products.
- Give yourself extra time to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or tea.
- Leave yourself a voice message of encouragement- play it several times a day.
- Set a new boundary to enhance a sense of safety or increase assertiveness.
- Look in the mirror, say three things you are proud of about yourself, repeat a few times a day.
- Download that song you love and play it while taking a walk.
- Choose to get extra sleep when you need it.