Every time Valentine’s Day rolls around I get a little down. I gird my loneliness, brace myself for friends’ Instagram photos of flowers sent by husbands and boyfriends, and wonder how in the hell I ended up being the last single woman on earth. (Because sometimes, that’s what it feels like.)
This wondering usually takes the “What’s wrong with me?” route, and its soul-crushing side effects include self-loathing, guilt, and shame. Never mind that it’s also a recipe for failure. And never mind that asking it is at odds with finding love. The question endures.
Its fuel is worthiness, an issue every woman I know — whether paired up or not — grapples with daily. It touches every part of our lives, from love and sex to work, friendship and parenting. It makes us feel small and reduces our expectations. It shrinks our paradigm of what’s possible and causes us to settle. At its least powerful, it incites fear, anger and depression. At it’s worst, it’s the reason almost all of us have #metoo stories.
It’s why this Valentine’s Day, in the spirit of recent women’s empowerment mantras — think Lean In, Black Girl Magic and Nevertheless, she persisted — I’m writing myself a long overdue letter that reminds me of all the wonderful and screwball things that make me worthy of love exactly as I am.
Why? Because we implore girls to know their value — recall Viola Davis telling her four year old charge “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” in one of The Help’s most touching scenes — and then promptly forget to do this for ourselves in adulthood.
I hope it encourages you to write a letter of your own. Because you are, in fact, worthy of everything.
I’m writing you this letter because you are a little off lately. I suspect it has something to do with Valentine’s Day and that last awful date you had. Also, that it’s freezing outside and dark every day at 4:00 pm.
I know you feel alone. I know you don’t really enjoy going to those comedy shows by yourself (even though you tell everyone you do). And I know you were jealous when your gym friend told you about the vacation her husband planned for her birthday (even though you were also happy for her).
I want to tell you that you’re okay, that you’re not broken or mean or any of the things you fear make you unlovable. I want to tell you that I see you. I see the fabulous stuff like the fact that you never forget birthdays and always hold doors for strangers, and I see the less fabulous stuff like the fact of your chronic lateness and quick temper. And I like all of you.
I especially liked when you stood up to the boss who hadn’t paid you and your colleagues for a month… and then promptly lost your job for it. You were brave despite being afraid, and I saw that.
I respected how you handled the end of that affair with the much older widower you adored. Despite your broken heart, you took responsibility and were neither vindictive nor cruel, and I saw that, too.
I’ve watched you recover from divorce, bake cookies for the guys at the AA meeting at church, and walk the financial tightrope of unemployment. I was there, too, when you shouted at the UPS delivery guy who lost the Kitchen Aid you ordered and “accidentally” stepped on the foot of the woman who pushed you on the L train. I saw it all, and I still like you.
In fact, I more than like you. So while you worry that you are not soft enough, not delicate enough, not feminine enough to be loved, I know that you are worthy of all of the abundance in the world, including love. Claiming it requires just one thing: See yourself as I see you.
With all my love,