How to Slay Your Next Valentine’s Day
How was your Valentine’s Day this year? Was it amazing? The best ever?
If so, congratulations - that’s awesome.
But if for some reason your V-day fell short of expectations, don’t fret, because you’re not alone. According to Forbes, “for a number of people, the commercially designated day of love can actually cause stress, anxiety, unhappiness and even depression.”
And, to be honest, I’ve historically not been the biggest fan of this holiday. However, over the years, I’ve learned some tricks to make it better - maybe even worth embracing. ;)
Before diving in and reviewing those tricks, let’s first take a step back and consider why Valentine’s Day can sometimes leave us feeling a bit deflated:
Maybe it’s just my personal experience talking, but I feel like the Valentine’s Day holiday can commonly leave something to be desired. And while that may ring of bitterness, I actually attribute it to something that the majority of us entertain at one time or another: expectations.
By virtue of Valentine’s Day existing as a “holiday” and the ever-increasing torrent of marketing and promotions leading up to it each year, Americans develop certain expectations surrounding V-day at an early age. Cards, flowers, chocolates, and restaurant reservations have all, over the years, managed to fossilize into social norms characterizing February 14th. And whether we expect to be spending Valentine’s Day alone with our pet or paired with a romantic partner living out our ideal fantasy, we often have an idea of what the day might bring us.
But the problem with expectations is they usually set us up for disappointment. Because things often don’t go according to plan. And when reality inevitably misaligns with our expectations, we experience discomfort (this can even be the case if our expectations are exceeded). In other words, expectations can be a recipe for disaster - especially when they arise in the context of a relationship.
By nature, we tend to engage in comparisons in an effort to figure out where we stand with respect to others - and there’s no exception when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Intentionally or not, we often compare our V-day experiences to those of past years, those of our friends or other couples, and to the ideal that’s been marketed to us (in movies, books, commercials, etc.).
The result? Our Valentine’s Day rarely seems to measure up - and we’re left feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled.
3. Wanting more
Valentine’s Day can have an undesirable effect on us each year. And that’s because the holiday (and, more specifically, the marketing around it) plays on our scarcity mindsets.
It draws us to want. It shows us things we might desire - like an idealized image of a fancy dinner with someone who loves us, or a beautiful arrangement of flowers from someone who cares about us - and makes us feel a sense of lacking if we don’t end up having those things. The marketing exploits and capitalizes on our human need for love and connection and manipulates our emotions accordingly.
And if we fall victim to this scarcity mindset trap, it makes us feel miserable. Because the grass is always greener on the other side. We’ll see our coworker who got a gorgeous piece of jewelry. Or the guy whose girlfriend made him an Instagram-worthy bacon bouquet. Or the friend who got engaged.
Before long, we begin to associate Valentine’s Day itself with a feeling of dissatisfaction - and regularly find ourselves feeling worse than we would have if the holiday had never existed.
If any of these problems I’ve highlighted resonate with you, you’re not an outlier. I’ve suffered from each one of these collective experiences at various points myself (even in spite of the fact that I’ve had some wonderful V-day celebrations).
But there’s hope. If you want to have a better Valentine’s Day next year than you did this year, (even if this year’s was perfect) - here’s how...and it’s short enough that I even could’ve printed it onto a tiny candy heart for you:
(a) Let go of your expectations - Stop buying in. (at least in the figurative sense)
Only you have the ability to determine whether all of the marketing and social norms that surround Valentine’s Day hold any sway over you. Don’t grant them that power. Instead -
if you’re single, develop enough self-love and security internally, and
if you’re with someone, develop enough satisfaction and security in your relationship
that you don’t need to look externally for any affirmation or validation.
As I mentioned earlier, we all tend to have certain expectations around Valentine’s Day - whether positive or negative in nature. It doesn’t matter where we got those expectations as much as it matters that we work to let go of them - because they won’t serve us.
(b) Let go of the impulse to compare.
Our expectations typically develop because we are hardwired to compare ourselves and our situations to others. But just because that’s our default impulse doesn’t mean that we’re powerless to it. We can choose to rise above that instinct and stop with the comparisons.
We can choose to create our own traditions or shirk the holiday altogether. We can volunteer or find ways to give. We can learn what makes our friends, colleagues, or acquaintances feel loved and opt to reach out and offer up kindness and connection to them on this date.
We can stop making ourselves our focal point and see what transpires.
(c) Let go of wanting more.
In many ways, we are programmed to continually want more. A new whatever. Or a *bigger* or *better* whatever.
Maybe that’s an American thing. Or maybe that’s a human thing.
But instead of being satisfied with the status quo, we find ourselves looking longingly ahead to what we want next. To how we might be able to improve our situation.
And while that can serve us in some ways (for instance, by keeping us driven and motivated and by helping us to achieve certain goals), unfortunately it also tends to make us perpetually discontented. Because, the thing is, there’s always more to want. And there always will be. That’ll be true regardless of whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year.
As long as we are looking externally for markers of validation and love, ultimately nothing that we get and no gestures of love we receive will ever be enough.
Counterintuitively, it’s letting go of wanting more that puts you on the path to satisfaction, satiation, and happiness. Because you realize and accept that you have enough. You become enough.
And once you’ve freed yourself from the trap of wanting, you can finally begin enjoying Valentine’s Day simply for what it is - a day we’ve chosen to set aside to express love for each other.