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“Ever After” : Lessons in Love from Candy Hearts

“Ever After.” “Love Me.” “True Love.” “Sweet Talk.” “Date Night.”

Full disclosure: I cannot stand candy hearts.They feel like chalk, they taste like chalk and the messages written on them teeter on the edge of being appropriate, and being just downright weird depending on who is gifting them to you. But yet, these tiny little hearts have become a huge money-maker in the Valentine’s Day industry, with estimations given that somewhere between 10-14 million pounds of conversation hearts are produced and consumed each year.

For many, the Valentine’s Day season is viewed as a made-up, corporate holiday geared at selling merchandise to masses of people who are currently in relationships, while simultaneously making single people feel left out and more aware than usual of their singleness. But yet, they continue to buy right in, scooping up those candy hearts by the boxful before hitting the red and pink gift wrapped chocolates, and supervising while their children scan the shelves of Valentine’s cards in order to find the perfect greetings for their classmates. And I used to be one of them, buying right into the joy, or lack, of love this time of year.

But what if we viewed Valentine’s Day through a different lens? What if the actual meaning of Valentine’s Day (which has certainly not intentionally been perpetuated by Hallmark) is to make sure we’re taking the time to love ourselves? And what if we’ve been interpreting those messages on those terrible tasting candy hearts all wrong? What if those messages are meant for us and not for someone else? This is where my mindset has been directed in recent years, and let me tell you, regardless of whether or not this season is being celebrated with a partner – thinking this way just feels so much better!

This year, whether you’re single, talking to someone (which, side note, is the absolute worst phase of a relationship, right?!?), hooking up, committed, married or somewhere in between, I challenge you to shift your focus, and make your Valentine’s priority falling more deeply in love with yourself. This year, the writing on those candy hearts is meant for us to internalize, to understand our worth, and to celebrate who we are as complete, loving people.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – thanks, great idea, but isn’t it someone else’s job to love me? And beyond that, I have no idea where I would even get started in loving myself.  

The answers are simple – no, it’s really not anyone else’s job to love you – it’s yours (but of course if you do have people in your life who endlessly love you, that’s a super nice bonus!) And I’m going to help you take the first steps toward getting to know yourself on a much deeper level and finding love along the way, using the phrases from some of the most popular conversation hearts to guide us:

“Love Me” = Love does not exist in a vacuum

If you’ve linked the idea of finding love solely to finding a romantic relationship, I’m sorry to say, but you’re going about your search in the wrong way. It’s an easy mistake to make – the media that we consume, from movies to television shows to books and everything in between, has convinced us that if we’re single, we don’t have love in our lives, and if we’re attached, the love we feel comes only from our partner’s desire for us.  

Truthfully, love really doesn’t have all that much to do with a romantic relationship, since what we’re likely seeking with a partner, at least (and especially) at first, is tied to validation of who we are. Love and validation are not synonymous. Love, in its purest form, lives within each of us. It’s our job to recognize the presence of love so that we can experience it every day, harness it, and feel it in action.  

Find an activity that you truly enjoy, and that makes you feel most like yourself, and treat yourself to a day of loving self-care! Go to the beach, the spa, or just pick up a good book while you sip a hot cup of tea. Take the time to put love into practice and you’ll be able to remind yourself of the ways that love exists independent of other people, remembering just how it feels to find love on your own terms.

“True Love” = Love leads to positivity

When we align ourselves with the truest internal sense of love, we look at the world with a much more positive focus. This means that regardless of whether or not you’re currently in love with someone else, if you’re content with where you currently are, or if you’re waiting on and hoping for a major change in your life, turning your attention to the presence of joy within you will allow you to just be happier. And really, who doesn’t want more happiness in their life?

Practice positivity in your own life by thinking positive thoughts about yourself and others, even if you have to fake it for a while (we’ve all been there). Our minds are easily trainable and pliable in the direction of most of our thoughts. So, the more positivity you can feed your mind, the more easily happiness will become your default mindset regardless of the perceived lack upon which you may have previously relied so heavily.

“Sweet Talk” = Loving yourself allows you to explore your feelings

No matter where you are in life, your feelings are valid, and hold great meaning. Sometimes we lose sight of this truth, and need to allow ourselves the time and space to explore how we truly feel. When we focus on love and truly desire for our personal love to lead to what we deeply want, we give ourselves permission to assess how we feel without judgment, visualize how we want to feel, and seek creative solutions to make those dreams a reality.

Spend some time journaling about your emotional state – where you’re at right now, and where you want to go. Then perform one small act of kindness for yourself each day that you know will lead you to the emotional space you ultimately want to occupy.

“Date Night” = Love leads to service

The more deeply we love ourselves, the more capable we become to serve and love others. But sometimes, when we need a pick-me-up, we need to work this idea in reverse – loving others leads to an increased ability to love ourselves.

If you’ve been feeling low about your loving feelings for yourself, find a way to be of service to someone else. You’ll find that not only will you brighten their day, but you’ll inspire yourself to reflect on all the good you are capable of, which will inherently lead to positive feelings of love and compassion for yourself.

Don’t allow this season of hugs and kisses to encourage you to only focus on showering others with your affection, or to dwell on your own lack of romantic love; you deserve to be the recipient of your own adoration, regardless of your relationship status. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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