This past week was Valentine’s Day. It’s probably my LEAST favorite holiday because it is so commercialized and I’m not big on fancy dinners or gifts. However, it is a good time to think about love: loving God, loving your self, and loving others. While the first one typically comes easy to those who believe, the latter two can be really hard for those with anxiety/depression/body image disorders (like myself).
Even though Valentine’s Day is over by the time this post goes live, I came across this article on nationaleatingdisorders.org, and I wanted to share it with you and invite you to take part in one or two (or all!) of these five things over the next week(s):
1. Write yourself a love note.
When was the last time that you explicitly expressed how much you appreciate yourself?
I tend to externalize love and give it to other people, and I often end up forgetting about myself. A great exercise in self-love is to practice putting into words the ways in which you appreciate yourself, as you are, right now, in this moment of your life.
You could also write affirmative quotes on post-it notes and put them somewhere you can read them.
2. Remember when you were in elementary school…?
Valentine’s Day was the best day ever. In our school, we used to staple decorated paper bags with our names on them to the wall, and each kid brought a piece of candy for everyone else. What I loved about this tradition was that it wasn’t discriminating—the love was meant for and shared with everyone universally, not only exclusively with family, friends or significant others.
Which brings us to our next point…
3. Random acts of kindness.
Carry on this spirit on non-discriminating love!
Keep in mind that people receive love in different ways, and, for some, baked goods, candies or food is going to be stressful. Consider carrying around an alternative for our friends who are struggling with disordered eating, such as handmade love notes or drawings.
I have a friend, Hannah, who cut index cards in half, drew crazy monsters on them, and added googly eyes to the monster at the end. They each had wonderful sayings on them, like, “you are loved” or “you are enough,” and she gave them to people she knew who were struggling. These simple and beautiful acts of kindness can make people feel seen, loved, appreciated and cherished.
You could also write love letters to the people you love in your life—a relative, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a person you say hello to on your daily commute, a stranger on the subway, a lover—there are endless possibilities. I think that, in our society, we tend to view love from a perspective of scarcity, only showing it to select people. But love exists in many forms, and it is exciting to imagine all of the different people who can be appreciated in your life!
4. Pay attention to how you’re feeling.
This is really important in general, and especially crucial on this day—Valentine’s Day is a charged day in a lot of different ways. Paying attention to how you are feeling and what you need during the day is important. Do you need to be with your friends? Alone? Do you need to watch an episode of your favorite comfort show? Do you need tea? A bath? A hug? Stay curious and open to how you’re feeling throughout the day and respect what you need moment to moment.
5. Reach out.
If you are struggling and need support, please reach out to someone. Society encourages us to only show ourselves to others when we are feeling good, and to hide in the shadows when we are feeling bad—try to fight that pressure. If you are not feeling well, and need the love and care of others, reach out to someone (or multiple people) in a way that feels good for you (texting, calling, FaceTiming, meeting in person). Also keep in mind that if they cannot support you in that moment, it does not reflect on your lovability or value.
For me, I think the hardest of these things to do is #1 and #5. I’m not good at showing love and appreciation to myself, and I am not good about reaching out when I need help. So, I’m going to take some time this week to reflect on those areas I need to improve on, and try to take a baby step in the right direction — like by writing myself a love note. I encourage you to take some time this week to check in with yourself, to love yourself, and to share that love with those around you.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience, either by writing a guest post, or doing an interview with me. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.