Ah, Valentine’s Day, the fantasy-filled holiday that comes right after we’ve managed to get ourselves through another year of Christmas and New Year’s Eve!
Have you ever wondered whose bright idea it was to have those three holidays in a row? For many people, the 3-month period of December through February can be the most difficult and depressing time of the year, and this is especially true for those whose significant relationships are problematic. For people with addictive behaviours, as well as those who love them, their most important relationships are also often the most troublesome and rocky.
Think about it—first comes Christmas with all its potential addictive pitfalls. It begins right after Halloween when TV ads try to sell us the concept of the perfectly happy family, stores begin putting up their colourful Christmas displays, and we hear those bells start to jingle. Compulsive shoppers spend far over their budgets, people-pleasers agonize over the right gifts to get so that everyone will be happy with them, gamblers worry about that elusive big win that will allow them to provide the fantasy Christmas for their loved ones, to make up for the grief they may have caused them over the rest of the year. Food addictions run rampant as junk food becomes even more plentiful and overeating abounds. And people with substance abuse issues try to hide from it all by getting high or drunk.
Are we having fun yet?
And then, just one week later, we have New Year’s Eve—a particularly difficult time for people who are not in a satisfying personal relationship or who may be in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. At this time of year, all the advertisements tell us that we are supposed to be:
• having tons of fun with our huge circle of friends,
• drinking every alcoholic beverage imaginable, from beer to vodka to Bailey’s to Grand Marnier,
• partying the night away with our beloved significant other.
Although it is true that some people do have that kind of experience on New Year’s Eve, many also feel very lonely on that night, wondering what is wrong with them if they don’t have that “special someone” to spend it with.
And now we come to Valentine’s Day, the third in the trilogy of difficult holidays for so many people. The fantasy involved in Valentine’s Day has now reached epic proportions: We are all supposed to be wildly in love with a “perfect” (read: physically beautiful with lots of hair on his head and no cellulite on her hips) person who will shower us with diamonds and expensive chocolates while gazing soulfully and lovingly into our eyes. In that same dream-state, we become the perfect person for him or her as well, unable to do anything wrong in their estimation. Life is beautiful!
FANTASY OR REALITY? IT’S YOUR CHOICE!
In my opinion, what the media is selling us, and what too many of us are still buying, is “fantasy.” As a direct result of the emotional distress people feel at these times of the year, it is no wonder that fantasy often feels like the best option. Because the use of fantasy works quite well to fend off pain and discomfort in the short run, this method of coping with life can easily become the favourite addictive behaviour of those who do not wish to see reality as it is.
If I sound a bit jaded, it is only because I have witnessed, both personally and professionally, the misery caused by expectations that are unrealistically high. When we are encouraged to be anything but our authentic selves, when we mistakenly set the bar too high for our actual, real lives, disappointment and unhappiness generally follow. And when fantasy is what is needed in order for us to feel worthy of being loved, something is wrong with this picture.
Loving others is a wonderful part of the human experience. It is a tribute to ourselves that we set aside several days each year specifically to show our loved ones how we feel about them. But what if we chose to do this in a more genuine way? Could we find ways to respect ourselves holistically and celebrate our love for ourselves at the same time that we deeply honour others?
The truth is that the way you treat yourself is the very foundation of the love relationships you will allow yourself to have. If you do not like yourself, if you are disrespectful with yourself because you feel you don’t deserve better treatment, that is also exactly what you will attract to yourself—other people who also see you that way.
It is simply not true that you have to wait another minute to begin feeling love for yourself. We are all worthy of being loved. But until you choose to love yourself, you will probably feel like a “nobody,” a fate that no human being—including you—deserves.
AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS…
The great news is that the way you see yourself can change. In 12-Step programs, there is a wonderfully simple saying for how that can happen: “Bring the body, the mind will follow.” So what if, this Valentine’s Day, you did something absolutely fabulous for yourself, whether you have a significant other to share the meaning of the day with or not? Maybe it would be something that costs money, like buying yourself flowers or a box of chocolates or taking yourself to the spa for a few hours to celebrate how absolutely amazing you are. Maybe it could be something that doesn’t financially cost much at all, such as going for a walk in the fresh air or taking the time to call or email cherished friends and family members to let them know you love them.
The following are some things you can do to have a different kind of Valentine’s Day:
• Plan in advance to spend time with people who help you feel good about yourself, rather than with those who are a drain on your energy and your self-esteem.
• Choose to volunteer with an organization that radiates love to our planet.
• Find a way to give of yourself to those less fortunate than you on that day—for example, maybe your local hospital has babies who need someone to hold them for a little while, or perhaps there are animals at a local shelter would love to have a visit from you.
• Rather than remaining “asleep” by continuing to believe one of the most dysfunctional messages our society imparts on Valentine’s Day—”You’re nobody till somebody loves you”—you can instead choose to make an awake, conscious decision to take care of yourself holistically on February 14th, while holding your head high and feeling proud of yourself. What a concept!
Whether you are in a healthy significant relationship with another person at this time or you’re not is in no way a reflection on your inner worth or your ability to love. And remember, you are always in the most important relationship of your life, 24-7—the one that you have with yourself. It’s very possible that you actually deserve far more than you’ve been giving yourself!
How will YOU choose to take good care of yourself on Valentine’s Day this year?