From Fantasy to Reality on Valentine’s Day: Loving Yourself with Healthy Self-Care

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the fantasy-filled holiday that
comes right after we’ve managed to get ourselves
through another year of Christmas and New Year’s Eve!
Have you ever wondered whose bright idea it was to
have those three holidays in a row? For many people,
the 3-month period of December through February
can be the most difficult and depressing time of the
year, and this is especially true for those whose significant
relationships are problematic. For people with
addictive behaviours, as well as those who love them,
their most important relationships are also often the
most troublesome and rocky.

Think about it—first comes Christmas with all its potential
addictive pitfalls. It begins right after Halloween
when TV ads try to sell us the concept of the perfectly
happy family, stores begin putting up their colourful
Christmas displays, and we hear those bells start to jin-

gle. Compulsive shoppers spend far over their budgets,
people-pleasers agonize over the right gifts to get
so that everyone will be happy with them, gamblers
worry about that elusive big win that will allow them to
provide the fantasy Christmas for their loved ones, to
make up for the grief they may have caused them over
the rest of the year. Food addictions run rampant as
junk food becomes even more plentiful and overeating
abounds. And people with substance abuse issues try
to hide from it all by getting high or drunk.

Are we having fun yet?
And then, just one week later, we have New Year’s
Eve—a particularly difficult time for people who are
not in a satisfying personal relationship or who may be
in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. At this time
of year, all the advertisements tell us that we are supposed
to be:
• having tons of fun with our huge circle of friends,
• drinking every alcoholic beverage imaginable, from

beer to vodka to Bailey’s to Grand Marnier,
• partying the night away with our beloved significant
Although it is true that some people do have that kind
of experience on New Year’s Eve, many also feel very
lonely on that night, wondering what is wrong with
them if they don’t have that “special someone” to
spend it with.
And now we come to Valentine’s Day, the third in the
trilogy of difficult holidays for so many people. The
fantasy involved in Valentine’s Day has now reached
epic proportions: We are all supposed to be wildly in
love with a “perfect” (read: physically beautiful with lots
of hair on his head and no cellulite on her hips) person
who will shower us with diamonds and expensive
chocolates while gazing soulfully and lovingly into our
eyes. In that same dream-state, we become the perfect
person for him or her as well, unable to do anything
wrong in their estimation. Life is beautiful!

In my opinion, what the media is selling us, and what
too many of us are still buying, is “fantasy.” As a direct
result of the emotional distress people feel at these
times of the year, it is no wonder that fantasy often
feels like the best option. Because the use of fantasy
works quite well to fend off pain and discomfort in the
short run, this method of coping with life can easily become
the favourite addictive behaviour of those who
do not wish to see reality as it is.
If I sound a bit jaded, it is only because I have witnessed,
both personally and professionally, the misery
caused by expectations that are unrealistically high.
When we are encouraged to be anything but our
authentic selves, when we mistakenly set the bar too
high for our actual, real lives, disappointment and unhappiness
generally follow. And when fantasy is what
is needed in order for us to feel worthy of being loved,
something is wrong with this picture.
Loving others is a wonderful part of the human experience.
It is a tribute to ourselves that we set aside
several days each year specifically to show our loved
ones how we feel about them. But what if we chose
to do this in a more genuine way? Could we find ways
to respect ourselves holistically and celebrate our love
for ourselves at the same time that we deeply honour
The truth is that the way you treat yourself is the very
foundation of the love relationships you will allow
yourself to have. If you do not like yourself, if you are
disrespectful with yourself because you feel you don’t
deserve better treatment, that is also exactly what you
will attract to yourself—other people who also see you
that way.
It is simply not true that you have to wait another minute
to begin feeling love for yourself. We are all worthy
of being loved. But until you choose to love yourself,
you will probably feel like a “nobody,” a fate that no
human being—including you—deserves.

The great news is that the way you see yourself can
change. There is a wonderfully simple saying for how
that can happen: “Bring the body, the mind will follow.”
So what if, this Valentine’s Day, you did something
absolutely fabulous for yourself, whether you have a
significant other to share the meaning of the day with
or not? Maybe it would be something that costs money,
like buying yourself flowers or a box of chocolates
or taking yourself to the spa for a few hours to celebrate
how absolutely amazing you are. Maybe it could
be something that doesn’t financially cost much at all,
such as going for a walk in the fresh air or taking the
time to call or email cherished friends and family members
to let them know you love them.
The following are some things you can do to have a
different kind of Valentine’s Day:
• Plan in advance to spend time with people who
help you feel good about yourself, rather than with
those who are a drain on your energy and your
• Choose to volunteer with an organization that radiates
love to our planet. Find a way to give of yourself to those less fortunate
than you on that day—for example, maybe
your local hospital has babies who need someone
to hold them for a little while, or perhaps animals at
a local shelter would love to have a visit from you.
• Rather than remaining “asleep” by continuing to
believe one of the most dysfunctional messages
our society imparts on Valentine’s Day—”You’re
nobody till somebody loves you”—you can instead
choose to make an awake, conscious decision to
take care of yourself holistically on February 14th,
while holding your head high and feeling proud of
yourself. What a concept!
Whether you are in a healthy significant relationship
with another person at this time or you’re not is in no
way a reflection on your inner worth or your ability to
love. And remember, you are always in the most important
relationship of your life, 24-7—the one that you
have with yourself. It’s very possible that you actually
deserve far more than you’ve been giving yourself!
How will YOU choose to take good care of yourself on
Valentine’s Day this year?