As we approach what seems to be a superficial holiday, it can become very apparent to some that this time marked by the media plastering images of love and tangible tokens of appreciation, can also be met with triggered thoughts and anxiety. According to the all too convenient Google, “Valentine’s Day is a festival to celebrate romantic love, friendship, and admiration”. Now, on the surface, the idea sounds nice but then what happens when this nationally identified holiday yields very opposite effects on some? What happens when for some, the holiday is marked by isolation, comparison, and sadness instead of connection, gratitude, and happiness?
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably become accustomed to giving, receiving, or some combination of the sort on Valentine’s Day. Almost even before we have an opportunity to put our Christmas trees up, the stores are shoving displays of pink and red down our throats. Now, obviously, this is on brand for America to market “money making” occasions to continue pumping money into the economy but on a more intimate level, for some, this time is marked by anxiety, depression, and feelings of being forced to “perform”. Some people don’t live lives that reflect receiving elaborate balloon set ups and expensive jewelry gifts all because the calendar reads February 14th. Despite that not being a lot of people’s realities, it’s not normalized as much sadly.
For some, Valentine's Day can be very triggering. It could possibly serve as a reminder of how social media “unready” you are. How not as aesthetically pleasing your “holiday” may pan out to be. Some people struggle with giving and receiving self-love that it can seem an insurmountable task to engage in that same level of love with anyone else. With the holiday fastly approaching, being bogged down with the reminder of that reality can be very difficult to hide behind. For those of you who are not standing on the precipice of being surprised with all your favorite things in a performance of love personified and materialized, here are some ways in which you can shift the narrative and the meaning of Valentine’s Day for you with nobody else in mind.
1. Redefine the holiday to fit your narrative. As a millennial, one thing I have recognized is the importance of shifting the narrative. This can be applicable in many areas of life, areas in which society tells us this way or that way is “normal” and “acceptable”. Break away from perpetuated narratives and settle into ones that work best for you and your lifestyle. Valentine’s Day for you will not have the same meaning it has for me, and her, and for him. Make the intentional decision to recreate your ideal Valentines Day outside the control of anyone else. If you want to buy yourself a token of appreciation and love, do that for you. Show yourself that you need not fit in this mold of what one specific holiday is supposed to be. Valentine’s Day for you can be taking yourself out to your favorite coffee shop before work and binge-watching Hallmark movies well into the night because that makes you happy and is a message of self-care and love to yourself.
2. Show yourself the love and regard desired from others. I cannot stress this one enough. I am always encouraging my clients to regard themselves in the ways they expect and hopefully eventually, require other people to treat them. There is a contradiction to the essence of you to expect people to treat you any different than you treat yourself. If people notice that you show yourself love, however that may look on you, they will pick up on a standard that you have set for yourself. They will inadvertently understand that you see yourself worthy to be held in a certain regard so anyone wishing to enter into your space, should come with nothing less than. Instead of expecting someone to post you on their social media, post yourself. Instead of expecting someone to buy you a tangible token of appreciation, buy it yourself. Instead of expecting someone else to show you love and admiration, do that for yourself and know that anything else someone outside of you adds, is the bonus, not the standard.
3. Become empowered, not ashamed. Everything on social media is not what it appears to be. Understand that most people will show you what they want you to see, not allowing you to be privy to the entire picture that may also include happiness and ease, may also include conflict, disappointment, and struggle. Bring to your awareness that some of the things you may have struggled with or even continue to struggle with, are not exclusive to you. Others may experience similar sets of circumstances, but they may choose to portray it to the rest of the world differently. That is okay! Take back your narrative and own it for what it is. Take it as an opportunity to bask in your process (life), and no one else’s. Your story is your own and comparison can be the thief of progress. Become empowered to know that you are unique and whatever you create your life to be, it is beautiful because you recognize how much of a 1 of 1 you are. Don’t allow this holiday to steal your perception of your identity. Don’t allow it to be a tool of measurement of your worth because that is what you define, nobody else, and certainly not a holiday.
Chelsea Glover-Jordan, LCSW-c, LICSW