Monday, February 10, 2014

Loving on You - A Valentine's Day Message for My Singles

It's that time of year again. The time most either love or hate. When jewelry store commercials are in abundance and you can't walk into your local convenience store without tripping over boxes of candy, bow-tie wearing teddy bears, and jumbo cards that scream, "I LOVE YOU." And that usually creates tons of emotions and expectations of not only what to expect but also what to give. Some even create inauthentic relationships in anticipation of being appreciated on that day and others find clever ways to exit relationships for fear of failing miserably in the "delivery" department or sending the wrong message. And if you're in a "single" phase of life, forget about it! Cue the bemoaning and complaining.

I, on the other hand, have loved the day for as long as I could remember. Not because it was designed for "romantic" love but because it was about "sharing and showing love" in general. As far back as I can remember, my parents gave their children Valentine's cards and candy, and we did the same amongst each other (you can only imagine how much candy there was in the house after the 14th with six kids!) And that general love for others carried over even in school when--Charlie Brown-style--we'd share cards with every classmate (not just that one person you thought was super cute).

However, as we've grown older, that "carefree" expression of love has seemed to become a bit heavier, and a bit more contrived and convoluted around this time of year. Face it: the day for most has become nothing more than a tangible measurement of how much we love and are being loved, whether it's a fair measurement or not. But I was recently reminded of something even more important we need to think about as this day approaches: Do we love ourselves--and love ON ourselves--as much as we expect others to? And are we showing ourselves a continuous expression of that love beyond just one day?

I was recently out to brunch with some beautiful, intelligent, successful women. And we didn't waste one minute complimenting each other on everything from our hair to our clothes; congratulating each other on our recent accomplishments; imparting support regarding upcoming ventures. But a few clicks of our Iphone cameras later to capture the occasion and the criticism began...of ourselves. "Ugh. I need to lose weight...what is up with my hair...what was I thinking wearing this outfit." And that opened the door to other criticisms: "I'm not doing enough with my talents...I just feel so lazy these days." Of course, our gripes were negated by positive reinforcement; that reinforcement that, oddly, we are so quick to give another but not so quick to give ourselves. That self love. Seemingly such a little thing but, in fact, a huge thing. And that's where it must begin. Today.

Whether it's speaking more kindly to yourself; treating yourself to those diamond earrings or that sports watch you've always wanted (but have been secretly waiting for someone else to buy you); indulging in that full spa day you've been waiting for a special occasion to engage in; taking that long weekend getaway you've been stacking up novels for; or even simply buying that box of chocolate-covered strawberries, popping that Cabernet, and catching up on must-see movies, do it. And be bold enough to do it on the 14th of February. And then do it every chance you get. Take the focus of what others are doing for you and take inventory of how well you're treating yourself.

When you love on yourself real good, the anticipation of others doing so is lessened and your standards for how you want to be loved take more shape. And if you've already mastered loving on yourself real good, use the 14th to unselfishly love on somebody else that day. Send roses to the elderly neighbor that no one visits or put a box of candy in the break room at work for everyone to enjoy or just call up your aunt that loves to talk and let her have your ear for as long as she wants.

In other words, make the day about "love" in general and not just about how you're being loved by others. Don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong or so sweet as someone taking time to shower that love on you. But if you're waiting for it, you're missing a ton of opportunities to give it to yourself. And when you start with self, that love and joy has no choice but to spread and be returned to you in due time.

Happy Valentine's YEAR, everyone!