Valentine’s Day isn’t easy for some of us. Everywhere we look, there are hearts, flowers and chocolates. Or couples smooching and holding hands.
Some of us can ignore it. Some can dismiss it and deride it for its rampant commercialism. Others can use it as an opportunity to hang out with wonderful friends.
But some of us find it hard.
It reminds us of what we don’t have and of what we want, what we’ve waited a long time for.
I’ve done all of the above in the past. I’ve ignored Valentine’s Day and I’ve dismissed it. I’ve gone out and had fun with my girlfriends. And I’ve felt a pang of envy, bitterness, sadness or confusion. What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I met HIM yet?
If you’re feeling down today, I’d like to send you some love. Some virtual flowers, chocolates or bubble bath, whatever you prefer. And a virtual hug.
If you want to be in a relationship, I’d like to reassure you that it will happen, in time. I believe that. If you’re following this blog, you’re likely on your journey already, doing your personal development work, identifying your blocks and changing your patterns. Keep going. Keep digging deep. Keep being courageous.
In the meantime, while you’re still single, do what you can to love yourself. And I mean to really love yourself, to take good care of yourself, to treat yourself with love and kindness, to use gentle language about yourself rather than punishing words. It can make all the difference. It can help us build the foundations that we need for healthy relationships.
Seven years ago, I realised I wasn’t loving myself. I realised I was still harming myself, despite having been in recovery from an eating disorder for a number of years. I woke up on the first day of Lent (which is today) with a fierce determination to stop harming myself, to stop having negative thoughts about myself, my body, my appearance and my achievements. I woke up determined to stop judging and criticising myself.
I began writing my first ever blog post on a site I called Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self-Acceptance. I was 39 at the time. I declared on that blog my intention to abstain from negative thoughts and self-harming behaviours for 40 days, and to blog about my progress every day throughout Lent.
It was an incredible experience, in so many ways. I believe that 40-day period of abstinence (or near abstinence – I did my best, one day at a time) from negative thoughts helped me to form new, self-loving habits. It didn’t change everything. My self-harm goes back years. It has deep roots. But it helped. It really helped. It increased my awareness of how I was treating myself and speaking about myself.
And awareness, I believe, is the first step to change.
That blog also marked a turning point in my life and my career. I got incredible feedback. As I opened up and shared my vulnerabilities, others responded to me in amazing ways, sharing openly with me in comments or by email, being vulnerable too.
Then, 40 days later, I turned my Just As I Am blog into this blog as I turned 40 and I continued to write whatever was on my heart – my struggles with being single and not having children, my relationship difficulties, my desire to leave London and to change my career. And, eventually, I blogged about my successes too – my relationship, my engagement, my new home in Dorset and my flourishing work as a relationships coach.
This blog also inspired my book. It helped me build my confidence as a writer, connect with my audience and develop the material I wanted to share in my book. That book, which I’ve just re-released, has opened so many doors. I’ve been in Psychologies magazine, on Woman’s Hour, in the national newspapers and, this Monday evening, I spoke to some 70 people in London at a sold-out event with Psychologies magazine and NOW Live Events. I shared about loving ourselves, loving our lives and loving others to a wonderful audience and I received some amazing feedback. Thank you. (I will be repeating that talk on Feb 28: Love Yourself. Love Life. Find Love.)
I also shared my approach to love and the 10 steps in my book on Psychologies magazine’s Facebook page today, on Valentine’s Day. You can watch the recording of my live video here.
All this, all this change, all this wonderful progress, began with self-love. It all began with that decision to stop harming myself, to stop punishing myself, to stop treating myself with contempt. It began with that decision to try to accept myself wholeheartedly, just as I am.
So as Lent begins, is there anything you would like to give up? And I don’t mean chocolate or alcohol (but if you want to give those things up, there’s nothing wrong with that). I mean some negative behaviour or habit, some form of self-harm.
What would you like to let go of? How would you like to change your relationship with yourself? How can you love yourself rather than hurt or punish yourself?
I believe a deep level of self-love will help you form a healthy relationship with another, if that is your desire.
Remember, transformation is available to all of us and self-love is a wonderful place to start.
I would love you to join me at any of the following workshops, events or retreats: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
How to Fall in Love – Challenging Fears & Changing Patterns. Tuesday, March 27. 7-9 pm. London. Tickets.