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 festive and fun-filled. But for others — or for at least some of us, some years — it can be like running a gauntlet of forced gaiety: an obstacle course full of mind-numbing obligations, challenges and, sometimes, loneliness.
Think about it — first comes Christmas with all its potential neurotic pitfalls. Stores begin putting up their colourful Christmas displays and we hear those bells starting to jingle. And like Pavlov’s dogs, we jump to those bells. Compulsive shoppers quickly blow their budgets, people-pleasers agonize over the perfect gifts to get so that everyone will be happy, gamblers obsess about that elusive big win that will allow them to provide the fantasy Christmas for their loved ones. Food addictions run rampant as junk food becomes even more plentiful and overeating abounds. And more than a few of us try to hide from it all by hugging the punch bowl and staying anesthetized till it’s over.
Are we having fun yet?
And then, just one short week later, we have New Year’s Eve – a particularly difficult time for people who are not in a satisfying personal relationship, or for those who may prefer to abstain from drinking to oblivion after their Christmas over-indulgence. If you’re not wearing a sparkly pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos, dancing the night away with a hunk in an Armani suit, swilling over-priced hooch out of Waterford crystal — or if you don’t have a fabulous babe to kiss at midnight…..well, I guess that puts you on the ‘B’ list of life.
At least, that’s what Madison Avenue wants you to think.
Although it’s true that some people do have that kind of experience on New Year’s Eve, many also feel very lonely on that night, wondering why they’ve missed the sailing of ‘The Love Boat’ yet again.
And just when you think it might be safe to peek your throbbing head out of the Holiday Foxhole, you look up to find every store display dripping pink lingerie, sex toys, chocolate kisses, and greeting cards in anticipation of February 14th — and now you’re dodging Cupid’s arrows!
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 whatsoever 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. If you’re not George Clooney with a hot Italian model, or Cameron Diaz on the arm of her latest professional sports hunk this Valentine’s — or if you haven’t found your ‘twin flame’, ‘soul mate’ or ‘other half’ to ‘complete you’…. well, Valentine’s Day is here to remind you that are clearly doing something terribly wrong, my friend!
Is this the stuff that real life is made of? Or is it more likely out of the pages of a Hollywood romcom — or maybe a con from the mind of Don Draper and his Mad Men? I’m exaggerating a bit here to make a point ~ but who among us hasn’t, at some time, felt ourselves reduced by romantic holiday hype?
FANTASY OR REALITY? YOU PICK…
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. And 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 our drug of choice.
If I sound a bit jaded, it is only because I have witnessed, both personally and professionally, the misery caused by advertising-fueled holiday expectations that are unrealistically high — or overly simplistic stories out of a Cinderella/Prince Charming myth. When we are encouraged to be anything but our authentic selves, when we mistakenly set the bar too high – usually by someone else’s standards – 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? And consistently — as opposed to just on ‘token’ days? Could we find ways to respect ourselves holistically and celebrate our love for ourselves at the same time that we deeply love and 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 non-caring 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.
THE GOOD NEWS: YOU ARE ‘THE ONE’ YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR…
The great news is that the way you see yourself can change. So what if, this Valentine’s Day, you did something completely 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. (And I’m not talking about sending yourself flowers to the office so that you can dupe your colleagues out of thinking you might be – heaven forbid – single!)
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 e-mail cherished friends and family members to let them know you love them.
Here are some ways 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. (ie: DON’T call up your ex-lover for a desperation date on Valentine’s!)
• Choose to volunteer with an organization that radiates love and care to our planet.
• Find a way to give of yourself to those less fortunate than you on that day ~ 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 that 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 and bask in some luscious self-love instead of neediness.
You can also exercise your right to ignore February 14th altogether. Many people, including those happily in love, choose to do just that.
Whether you’re 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.
So lather your lips with Tickle Me Pink gloss this Valentine’s Day, and leave yourself a sweet lipstick kiss on the bathroom mirror. And maybe leave it up there for a good long while — as a loving, light-hearted, year-round reminder of where true love really begins.