IMG_3231Where there is expectation there’s a setup for disappointment, which is why holidays like Valentine’s Day so often include tears. For whether you’re single or partnered, it’s almost impossible to escape the expectation that on this one day your partner is supposed to wow and dazzle you with expressions of love and romance or, if you’re single, it’s difficult to escape falling into the belief that there’s something wrong with you.

Inspired by a woman’s suggestion in my workout class, I realized that there’s an ideal antidote to this setup that allows everyone to utilize this holiday as an opportunity to find empowerment and love without waiting for anyone else to give it to them: Write yourself a love letter!

If you have trouble getting into the mood, imagine that the most loving person in the world is standing beside you, reflecting what she or he sees. Let this person share about your essential qualities and specific ways that she or he appreciates you. Don’t be shy or bashful. Self-love is the antidote to anxiety and is at the heart of creating a fullness inside that will naturally overflow onto others. In other words, the love you bask in for yourself is a gift that you give to others around you, so if you feel selfish for doing this exercise, remember that you’re not just doing it for yourself.

And if you need a little more inspiration, you may want to read this post.

As we learn best by example, I’m going to share a letter that I wrote. The recipient is a composite of several of my clients, all fabulous women in the 30s and 40s who are single and, while very much hoping to be in partnership, also committed to learning about what it means to cultivate a loving relationship to themselves.

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Dear Self,

I love you. I love how devoted you are to your healing and your growth. I love that you committed to looking at your painful and wounded places inside, that you’re in therapy and that you’ve been journaling almost every day. I love how devoted you are to your health and to your spirituality. I love that, even when you don’t always love yourself, you’re committed to learning more and more about what that means.

I love that you make time to be, to sit with the quiet places inside and bring attention to your heart. I cherish your relationship to being. This is a lost art in our culture and you’re one of the few people I know who dedicates time and attention every day to sitting in stillness and silence. I love that about you, and I’ve learned so much by witnessing the way in which you bring the quality of being into your life.

You’re a very special person, Self. You bring light to the people at work that you come into contact with. I know you don’t always love your job, but I want you to know that you’re making a difference in the world. People make a difference in all kinds of ways, and you make a difference by greeting people with a warm smile and being completely present for them when they’re sharing tidbits about their lives.

You’re also a good friend. I love that you make time for your friends and are available for them when they need you. It’s clear that people trust you with their problems and that they know that you won’t judge them. You’ve always been a good friend, but you’ve been an especially good friend this year as you’ve turned to face difficult parts of yourself and grown more compassion for others.

You’re such a smart, curious, inquisitive, funny person. When I see you as a young child, I see a ball of sweetness and light. I love your softness and also your strength. I love that you know how to cry deeply and also your wry sense of humor. I delight in you, as do so many others. The world needs more of YOU!

I love you, self. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Go ahead. Give it a try! You’ll be amazed by how loved you feel.

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