How To Get Ready For Valentine's Day
Disclaimer: my brain feels like quicksand today and I'm having to force myself to pull words out of the brain fog so please excuse me if anything is unclear. I'm just not at my best right now and focusing on the words is challenging.
In the six days leading up to Valentine's Day on February 14th, I want to help you get ready for the arrival of this day that's been designated as the day of love.
But there's a twist. Instead of focusing on someone else, I want these six days of preparation to focus on you.
Yes, you. The most important person in your life and the one we tend to neglect, undervalue, and overlook too much of the time.
Why does this fall under the category of "Personal Passions"? Well, one of the subjects that I feel strongly about is learning to question and dismantle much of what we've been conditioned to think and believe based on the society we grew up in.
My journey with chronic disease, being a chronically ill individual, and aging have all provoked reflections about Valentine's Day, love, and relationships and changed my views in many ways.
If you celebrate Valentine's Day and the way that you celebrate it brings you true joy and inner peace, I'm happy for you and I support you in your choice. I hope that while you celebrate those that you love, you also take time to celebrate and show special attention to yourself.
The dark side of Valentine's Day...
However, for many others, Valentine's Day can evoke an entirely different set of emotions and thoughts that weigh more heavily on the negative end of the scale.
- It is undeniably a day that is heavily influenced by commercialism and materialism.
- Our capitalist society has effectively equated monetary spending to the amount of love that someone has for you or the amount of love you have for someone.
- This day is stereotypically the day of romantic love, leaving many people feeling lonely, isolated, neglected, rejected, unlovable, or depressed because they don't have that "special someone" to go on a dinner date with or have sex with.
- In a heteronormative sense, there still seems to be an unreasonable amount of pressure on males to plan something special for this day and shower their female partners with gifts (that somehow determine or insinuate the level of love they have for their female counterpart).
- It's another one of those days when expectations are high, making the experiencing of disappointment a likely outcome if those expectations aren't met.
What do I think of Valentine's Day?
In brief, I'm all for injecting celebration, magic, meaning, and specialness into the ordinary and sometimes mundane routine of daily life. However, I would like to encourage more reflection, consciousness, and self-awareness when it comes to celebrating traditions we've been sold, that we may not necessarily have taken the time to pause and analyze before. I want to see us doing more of what feels authentic to our truest selves and letting go of having the way we live our lives be dictated by external forces that pressure or guilt us into doing certain things.
From the perspective of a chronically ill person, I also hope that trying these exercises will help you recognize some of the beautiful things about you and things that you still have to be grateful for. Chronic illness can often obscure the ability to still see that.
I'd also highly encourage you to read a few of my other Valentine's Day related blog posts for more insight into how I feel: Part 1 of a journal entry from 2018 and Part 2 that's a Valentine's Day letter to myself.
So let's jump into this Six Day Challenge leading up to Valentine's Day:
Every day for the next week, I'm going to introduce on my social media accounts one challenge for you to complete (and I'll just list all of them below in this blog post if you want to look ahead). This is about turning the focus inward and using Valentine's Day as an opportunity to reflect and dive deeper into cultivating self-love.
Day 1 // Saturday February 8 // Self Reflection
Answer some self-reflection questions to better understand what you really think about Valentine's Day and how you can cultivate a healthier relationship with this day.
This can be a mental exercise where you just think about your answers or, and I personally prefer this, you can write them down. Writing out your thoughts on paper and being able to look at them and re-visit them is a powerful tool for healing, reaching a deeper understanding of yourself, coming to epiphanies, and reducing your mental load.
- Where did your idea of what Valentine's Day "should" look like come from?
- Why are you celebrating it in the way that you are?
- What unspoken expectations do you have about this day? For example, just from growing up with the TV commercials, TV shows, and movies that I did and also now from what I see on social media, I'm being fed this idea that V-Day should look like my husband buying me flowers, writing me a loving message in a card, holding my hand, taking me out for a romantic dinner, setting up the bedroom with candlelight for sexy time, and making sure to get a cute photo of us to post on Instagram. That's definitely not going to happen but it's one of the stereotypes that has been reinforced with repetitive messaging.
- Are these expectations or beliefs reasonable or logical? Do they serve your wellbeing?
- Why are you giving this day the power to make you feel terrible about yourself or someone else? For instance, if you hate this day because you're single and you dislike how it makes you feel unworthy or lonely and so to protest against it, you boycott it and feel resentment or bitterness, think about how you deserve to feel or how you want to feel. What can you do to let go of what makes you feel bad in order to make room for feeling at peace, content, uplifted, happy, grateful?
- What do you want this day to look like for you so that you feel as good as possible?
Day 2 // Sunday February 9 // Self-Forgiveness
Write yourself a note of apology.
It doesn't have to be long. It could be as simple as "Dear stomach, I'm sorry for all the times that I looked at you in the mirror with disgust and wished you had less fat or didn't have stretch marks." Really try to be deeply present in this act and how you feel, as if you were apologizing to and asking forgiveness from one of your closest friends.
We're so often told now that we need to love ourselves. But what does that mean? How do we go from having spent a lifetime of negative self-talk, harbouring self-deprecating beliefs, and experiencing feelings of self-loathing to suddenly loving ourselves? You can't just flip a switch. That's ridiculous and unrealistic.
I believe one of the first steps is cultivating inner dialogue where we acknowledge how hurtful we've been to ourselves, ask forgiveness, and extend ourselves gentle compassion.
One thing I've done that's made this exercise even more powerful is to sit or stand in front of the mirror and watch my reflection as I say "I'm sorry" for specific things that I've hated about myself.
Day 3 // Monday February 10 // Body Love
Write down 5 things that you love about your body.
We need to give ourselves permission to feel good about ourselves. We need to train ourselves to feel free to acknowledge what we like about our bodies.
For example: I love how my skin can allow me to experience the sensation of pleasure when it's touched in certain ways, like from a really soft bedsheet or the hands of a masseuse during a massage (I challenged myself to pick this example of my skin because with Central Sensitivity Syndromes, my skin is a source of great pain. Touch hurts; when you live with chronic pain, you almost learn to experience some kinds of pain - like the touch from a massage - as pleasurable and then there are those rare moments when there is a blissful absence of pain in one particular spot on your skin and you can feel good from the touch. Becoming mindful of that has had a positive impact on my life.
Day 4 // Tuesday February 11 // Spark Joy
With conscious intention, choose something to wear today that sparks joy in you, that makes you feel good, that you feel confident, comfortable, or glowing in.
Even if you're like me, and maybe especially if you're like me (aka a spoonie living on her own at home who is predominantly housebound), follow through with challenge and wear something special. I live in sweats, sweaters, hoodies, oversized comfy clothing and pjs all the time so I'm going to challenge myself to wear something I normally don't wear when it's just me at home to make myself feel special.
Day 5 // Wednesday February 12 // Self-Affirmation
Write down 3 ways that you are a good person
It's funny how being forced to think about this can stump us. When it takes us a long time to think of good things about ourselves, it doesn't mean that we're not a good person but I believe it shows how out of practice we are at recognizing the good things about ourselves or the good things we've done. How can we love ourselves if we don't see the good in ourselves?
Day 6 // Thursday February 13 // Recognition & Gratitude
Reflect back and think about what you've done well in the last week. Write these specific examples down to make it an even more powerful exercise.
I don't want you to focus on the outcome of your actions but on the effort you made to do something to the best of your ability.
This is especially important if you are someone with a chronic illness because we know that for all our good intentions, willpower, and effort, there are just something things that we can't complete doing because our bodies and a flare-up in symptoms prevent us from accomplishing the task.
But it's not about whether something was completed or not. The thing to acknowledge is that given your circumstances, you tried. You gave it your best effort. And that is something you did well.
You did it!
You've now completed your 6 days of preparation for Valentine's Day! It's been a mini journey of pouring some intentional love and kindness back into yourself and I hope it's helped you discover things about yourself that you can feel good about. I hope it's deepened your self-awareness and that the things you learned will bring you more inner peace moving forward.
This is your bonus exercise to complete on Valentine's Day itself:
Day 7 // Friday February 14 // Treat Yourself + Love Note
Be the person to treat yourself to something special today and, if you want to go the extra step, write yourself a little love note.
You know yourself better than anyone else in this world so you alone are in the unique position to do something special for yourself that you know will be meaningful to you or that will uplift you with happiness.
If you love fresh flowers, buy some for yourself. Why does someone else need to do it for you in order for it to feel acceptable?
Buy yourself that chocolate almond croissant you love on your way to work.
Be the one to make yourself a special breakfast.
Carve time out in your day to go for a walk into nature and feel how good it is to be present with yourself.
The options are endless and if you need more ideas or genuinely don't know how to even begin writing a love note to yourself, feel free to reach out to me for some help! As someone who has spent a lifetime immersed in very negative self-talk, I'm proud of the way that I've been able to develop a much more compassionate inner dialogue, and that's taken experimenting with quite a few different techniques, including writing letters to myself.
I want to send you love and warmth and support on this Valentine's Day. Remember: you do not need to be in the presence of another person to enjoy yourself or in this case, to celebrate Valentine's Day.
I will be spending my February the 14th as I typically do, in my home, just by myself. I promise you that I will take some time to invest love and care into myself. If my energy is decent, I'd love to make myself a special breakfast of pancakes and sit down at my dining table, fully present, to enjoy that meal with a cup of tea. I'll probably do some writing, taking the time to acknowledge some things about me that are worth loving and that I appreciate about myself.
This whole journey of learning to love oneself is never-ending. It's a process steeped with many learning opportunities, setbacks, and sparks of revelation. It's challenging but so very worth it.
If you are spending this day on your own, please read my post Never Alone. I think it's a valuable perspective to consider.
With love and light,