In my experience, opinions on Valentine’s Day tend to range from vague discomfort to outright hatred, and it is always hardest for those who want a significant other but don’t have one.* I won’t waste your time by writing about how unfair this holiday is to the unpartnered – I’m sure you already know, whatever your relationship status. And I don’t want to make it worse by telling you all about how it’s far more important to love yourself, that you are the only one you can truly rely on in the end, and that no one else can make you happy. Firstly, because I’m sure you already know that. And secondly, because I don’t think it’s helpful. True, but not helpful.
Was that the sound of my audience collectively gasping in shock? Probably. And I’ll probably have my life coaching card revoked for saying it, but there it is. Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, I am not saying that you need a partner to be happy. Far from it! I firmly believe that it is vitally important that you love yourself and that you put yourself first (at least some of the time). And that is FAR more important in life than being in a relationship (which really is no guarantee of happiness).
But loving yourself is not the same as loving and being loved by someone else. And while I do agree that self-acceptance and self-love improve your capacity to give and receive love with others, I don’t agree with the popular advice that you have to love yourself before you love someone else, largely because it has not been true for me.
Personally, I met my husband while I was in the middle of a dark, scary depression. I wasn’t feeling very self-loving at all, but he was able to love me anyway, and I him, and his support was very helpful in getting myself out of that dark place.
That said, being in love did not make the depression go away. It did not, in and of itself, heal my wounded spirit. But neither did my wounded spirit make me incapable of a relationship.
It was my own hard work that pulled me out of that depression (over the course of years!), but his support helped. Was it necessary? No. But it sure helped. And that’s the problem – life and love and self-acceptance are all terribly complicated and messy, and I’m not sure that the usual advice acknowledges that.
So, in the wake of this Valentine’s Day, I urge you not to be too hard on yourself. Try to show yourself the support and affection you would hope to get from a lover – which includes allowing yourself to feel lonely or disappointed, if that is genuinely what you feel. Then you can treat yourself to some discount roses, or take a bubble bath, or do whatever feels most loving to you right at this moment.
*If you are single and happy, then rock on and feel free to ignore the rest of the post.