Loving Yourself – What does that have to do with Valentines Day?
By Suzanne M. Anderson, Counselor
Valentine’s Day is a time when we are reminded of our precious relationships. Some are reminded of the relationships for which they wish. I think as adults it may be no different than when we were kids counting the Valentines we received, or awaiting a Valentine from that special person that would make the day a success—as if somehow if we are loved enough, or by the right person, everything would be okay. And if the unthinkable happened and we didn’t receive the Valentines we expected—are we unlovable?
I was recently reading one of my daughter’s books. It was the story of a teenage girl hospitalized as a danger to herself, struggling with the value and meaning of her own life. She felt like she had a black hole of nothingness in her. I was struck when the counselor in the book put percentage figures to creating one’s own value and meaning. She said, “You can’t count on other people to fill up that black hole. It’s mostly up to you. Sure, family and friends contribute something—maybe they might fill ten percent or so, fifteen if you’re really lucky, and have a very supportive family, or are fortunate enough to have a network of terrific friends. …[but] the major work of filling what you call the ‘black hole’ is up to you.’ She goes on to say that filling the black hole is about answering the question, “Who are you?”
There are a million tempting, seemingly meaningful, ways to temporarily fill the black hole—putting our whole identity into being an employee, wife, mother, daughter, or exercising, working, and fulfilling our responsibilities. We might try less meaningful ways such as obsessive relationships, extensive beauty makeovers, bingeing, cutting, drinking and drugging.
The basic question remains, if we strip away our relationships, our belongings, and titles—all the ways we are valued and relevant in our communities/society—what is left? Without all the trappings of success all that remains is the “unadorned self.” Can we value and love ourselves without adornment?
When we have been able to get to that place of valuing our unadorned selves we will have filled the black hole 90% for ourselves, the rest will be valued, but not required. When that 10% is threatened or taken away, we will not be left empty and desperate—sad, yes—but not empty and desperate.
Can others value and love us without adornment?
Paradoxically, it is in this place of unadornment—being just ourselves—that we are most ready for real relationships. Think of all the times we meet people. What are all the first questions asked? Where do you live? What do you do? Where do your kids attend school? Where are you traveling for the school break? These questions—if we are honest with ourselves—are then filed into a mental hierarchy which tells us how we and the other person measure up. The challenge is to bring our wounds, our weaknesses, and our deficiencies into our relationships and to let ourselves be known just as we are, with nothing to prove. Of course, it is impossible to be open with our strengths, as well as our weaknesses, unless we have come to accept them in ourselves. It is also a challenge to know others just as they are.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, seek to know and accept yourself and so bring the gift of yourself to the friends and family who truly know you and love you no matter what. Remember, more important than those who love you is how you love yourself! Happy Valentines Day!