If you aren’t currently in a relationship—and especially if you’ve recently ended one—you might not be looking forward to Valentine’s Day. The lovey-dovey cards, heart-shaped candy boxes, sappy commercials, and made-for-TV movies can all feel like too much.
Having been married and divorced three times, I understand how difficult it can be to spend Valentine’s Day without the one you love, and I have some advice to help you survive the next few weeks without strangling Cupid.
Our culture has made Valentine’s Day couples-centric, but it doesn’t have to be. I use this time to consciously reset how I feel about love in general, and myself in particular. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that if we don’t know, respect, and appreciate ourselves, it’s unlikely that anyone else will, and we’ll continue to attract unfulfilling, dysfunctional relationships.
Here are 12 ways to show love to yourself—which is the first step toward attracting the relationships you need:
Identify all the things you love about yourself. Figure out exactly what you love about yourself. Is it your smile, your hair, your laugh, your shape, your intellect, or your talents? Allow yourself to not only acknowledge these things, but to bask in them.
Strengthen your existing relationships by celebrating other people you love. Make a mental list of the people who enhance your life: family, friends, mentors, colleagues, etc. Consider reaching out and making plans with some of them, or writing a “thank you for being in my life” email.
“De-friend” and distance yourself from people who are bringing you down. It’s amazing how far others can drag us down without our consciously realizing it. Especially at a time of year when you’re already feeling vulnerable, take a fresh look at your friend list and back away from people who act in a way that makes you feel worse about yourself. You don’t have to sever all ties—but don’t sacrifice your self-esteem, either.
Forgive your ex—and yourself. Allow yourself to process any anger and resentment you feel toward your ex—but eventually, try to let go of those negative emotions. You can’t fully love or be loved if you can’t forgive. As long as you’re living your life with bitterness and anger eating away at you, you’ll be a prisoner of the past. Learn the lessons you can, stop playing the blame game, and move forward.
Re-evaluate your daily life. Try to look at your daily routine through fresh eyes. What do you like about it? What don’t you like? What energizes you and what drags you down? What can you change to make yourself happier and feel better? Even “little” things like quitting the spinning class you dread and signing up for tai chi instead can make a big difference.
Plan a fun evening out (no chocolate and roses necessary). Reach out to friends who are also flying solo on Valentine’s Day and make arrangements to meet for drinks, go ice skating, or enjoy a potluck meal. One caveat: Consciously choose to stay positive, not to wallow in bitterness.
Give yourself a break. Be a rebel. Take a look at your to-do list and cross something off of it even though you haven’t actually completed that task. (Gasp!) Then do something nourishing instead. Get a massage, read a book, take a nap,—whatever! Just make sure you’re nurturing yourself.
Challenge yourself to be the voice of dissent. Saying what we really feel and being true to our opinions is a courageous act of self-love. This could be as simple as speaking up in a colleague’s defense at the water cooler, or telling your friends you don’t like the restaurant they’ve picked for dinner. So many of us fall into the trap of living our lives to please others while not making waves, and in the process, we become disconnected from our true selves.
Take yourself out on a date. After my second marriage ended, I made a special effort to discover life beyond being a wife. For me, a big part of that was exploring and enjoying the spectacular dining scene in Washington, D.C. Sounds simple, I know, but learning to enjoy a meal alone became a crucial survival tool that enabled me to reconnect with myself after a disappointing marriage.
Affirm a bright future. To help yourself stay focused on loving yourself, find a personal mantra and remind yourself of it frequently. It might have to do with moving on, finding someone new, or personal development. Don’t discount the power of the words you tell yourself. Positive or negative, they are powerful tools in focusing your intentions and shaping your attitude.
Clarify your vision of Mr. or Ms. Right. Is it possible that your past romances have failed because you’re looking for the wrong type of person? Are you hoping to find someone who mirrors your favorite movie character or someone who will solve all your problems? Do you tend to overlook flaws and incompatibilities when the other person is funny or flattering? This year, stop daydreaming about what you want in a relationship and get real about what you need.
Remind yourself that February 15th will be here soon. No matter how much you focus on showing yourself love and boosting your mood, you may still feel the “Singles’ Awareness Day” blues—and that’s okay! Nobody is immune to negative feelings, so when they hit, allow yourself to experience them for a few minutes. Then remind yourself that this too shall pass—and maybe turn the radio to a song that will make you smile and dance!
Even after experiencing infidelity and divorce, love is still the center of my existence on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year. My number-one goal and priority is to value, honor, and love myself. I encourage you to do the same!
About the Author:
Avalon Sequoia Brandt, Esq., is the author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces. She is a successful attorney in Baltimore, Maryland, who for 13 years has practiced complex civil litigation. From 1994 through 2001 she worked as a family law attorney in her firm, Wilson & Brandt, P.A.