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Practicing Self-Compassion on Valentine's Day

Whether you call it Single’s Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day, or just another day, today is February 14th. For some this holiday has the potential to bring out our worst fears and feelings of rejection, as well as feelings of connection, love and satisfaction.

When I was in elementary school, my classmates and I would exchange candies with Valentine's messages across the front. As I grew older, I noticed the focus of the holiday changed from connecting with my peers to exclusively romantic partners or lovers. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can keep the spirit of “giving love” to inform any phase of life we are in whether we are single, dating, partnered or otherwise.

Remember that your first relationship is always with yourself, regardless of your attachment to a romantic partner. You are the only person who has lived all the unique experiences that you have gone through in your life. Why not honor yourself by giving yourself the attention and care that you might seek from others? Try “giving love” to yourself in some of the following ways:

  • Set boundaries to create space for yourself during a stressful workday

  • Set aside some time to listen to and enjoy some of your favorite music with your full attention

  • Write yourself a love note admiring your strengths and efforts from an outside perspective

  • Take care of your body through dance, movement or exercise

  • Engage in an activity that brings you joy, like painting, drawing, talking with friends, watching your favorite show, singing or playing a musical instrument

If the idea of giving love to yourself feels difficult today, you might also want to try acknowledging any difficult feelings you're having in the moment which can also be a form of self-compassion. Recognizing painful feelings and being gentle and loving with yourself in spite of them can be a very healing practice that can help us move towards a greater relationship with ourselves. Here is a meditation practice that can help guide you through this process of acknowledging, accepting and nurturing oneself during a moment of stress.

Alternatively, one of my favorite mindfulness practices is the Loving Kindness meditation. In this exercise, you focus deeply on sending yourself well wishes, and then you can shift the focus to others in your life, as well as the general public. This can be a beautiful practice for cultivating self-compassion, as well as connection with others. It may help you recognize or remember that you are worthy of some of the same basic things you might wish for others, like health, well-being, happiness, or peace. Here's a guided Loving Kindness meditation from the Greater Good Science Center. I hope that these ideas inspire you to treat yourself with compassion today, in whatever shape that may take!


Melissa Lee Nilles, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist with a Master's degree from Lesley University’s Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy program. She is deeply passionate about self-exploration through the arts, mindfulness practices and therapy. She seeks to collaborate with her clients using the tools of person-centered therapy, mindfulness, meditation, trauma-informed body-oriented psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy (through music therapy, art therapy, and poetry/writing therapy). Melissa also employs CBT and motivational interviewing to help you transform your life. She prefers a holistic, eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to addressing client concerns.

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