Years ago while in grad school, a dear friend on Valentine’s Day walked into one of our classes with many bags of goodies that she proceeded to pass out. The sweet gesture was nostalgic for many of us in class that day, as we remembered childhood experiences of sharing cards and candy with friends and crushes. I watched my dear friend’s glow as she described how much Valentine’s Day was her favorite holiday of the year, and I just couldn’t believe how much one could love Valentine’s Day. Simply put, she said, “its a day where love is recognized and everyone deserves to participate in love.”

At the time, my partner and I were near engagement, and my dear friend had moments of sharing vulnerably how hard dating had been for her, how she worried that she would never find the right partner and grow the family that she envisioned. Yet, she adored Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a day where she pondered about lacking what she wanted for her future. Instead, it was day where she embraced her core-worth accurately. She saw the varied and complex lens through which Valentine’s Day can be seen. Rather than narrowly defining Valentine’s Day or allowing it to narrowly define her core worth, she used it as a way to discover herself as a composite of many traits that could be manifested on a day of love where everyone deserves to participate. 

As I write this, I acknowledge how difficult this day can be for many, because whether or not we observe Valentine’s Day, its marketed celebrations and messages has a way of permeating our lives either directly or by extension. For some, it’s  a nostalgic reminder of belonging; for others it’s a painful reminder of having felt unseen, or it can even be a reminder of an earnest craving of unconditional love.

Valentine’s Day can be intricate or complex in its meaning. In our lives, we are its narrators.  Thus, no matter what life phase we’re in, it’s important that we remind ourselves that similar to outdoor nature, we can choose how we nourish and grow our core worth. For instance, a person who sees themselves as just an athlete is likely to feel lost when a game’s outcome is contrary to what they would have preferred. Similarly, a person who defines themselves narrowly by the definition that Valentine’s Day is “ really a day for lovers”  can have difficulty embracing what’s accessible on a day of love where everyone deserves to participate, to share, to have fun in loving company,  to mindfully work, to be present,  to rest, to be nourished, and to heal as the narrator of their life and story.

So as this day nears conclusion and we enter the day post Valentine’s, which I like to call the Valentine’s Day Hangover (where love and grief meet), I encourage you to explore your core worth and if you don’t know what that means, I’ll give you a little guide. Start by noticing how you respond to human life and dignity (it will give you a clue about your self-regard and regard for others). How do you experience appreciation (this will give you a glimpse into what you respect and it’s connection to kindness and compassion)? What direction does determination prompt you toward (this will highlight discernment and wisdom)? What are ways that you open yourself to growth, improvement and change (there you’ll notice courage)? How do you use humor (here you might find proof of cheer and sensitivity)? Where do you allow love to meet you (this will show trust and vulnerability), and how is your character defined – can you recognize your ethics, integrity, morality, revere of justice; and honesty even in unfavorable circumstances? Lastly, how do you give yourself permission for play (as this enhances creativity and problem solving)? 

I think of my dear friend on Valentine’s Day and am so glad that her love for this day helped her express her core-worth, and that viewing her core worth accurately (meaning, not narrowly defining herself or Valentine’s Day ) helped shape a steady foundation for herself that would eventually lead to an authentic bond she has with her spouse, and their enjoyment of their kids. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May be this day of recognition of love remind all to unhook themselves from narrow definitions and allow themselves to participate in love. 



Carmelle Ellison, LCSW

I help high-achieving adults, especially in the BIPOC community live authentically wholesome lives via telehealth therapy throughout California.


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