Valentine’s Day is known as a time to celebrate love, romantic or otherwise. But most of the weight on this holiday is placed on romantic love. Many people feel giddy and excited about this holiday, seeing it as an opportunity to profess their love with tokens of affection.

However, when that holiday approaches, many people get filled with anxiety. There is the fear of not standing up to their partner’s expectations of “romance”, or not finding the “perfect gift” that will top whatever was given the year prior. There are also those in new relationships who are not really sure how much they need to do, so they can seem interested but not too eager.

Then, there is another category: the single folks. Some start to get anxious in early February, with the notion that “they can’t be alone on Valentine’s Day” – what will people think??? The horror!

And last there are those (single or not) who see this whole thing as a big commercial holiday, a time when jewelry, flowers and candy sales soar. Do you want to dine out? Better make a reservation weeks before Valentine’s Day! And yeah, that dinner is probably going to cost you more too.

Whether you are in a relationship or not, whether you exchange gifts or not, there is so much that can be done to shift the perception of what a celebration of love means, and how to navigate this or any other holiday free from anxiety and stress.

Let’s start from the beginning: love. Is romantic love the only valid form of love? Or does society as a whole put way too much emphasis on it? Growing up, were you led to believe that you were only half a person and HAD to find your “other half” in order to be happy, or – gasp! – whole? Do you have friends who pressure you into “finding someone” and are constantly trying to set you up on dates? Do you hear questions such as: “why are you still single, you are so good looking!” or “maybe you are just too picky” or “you will find the right person, don’t worry”?

If you were raised like me, you probably heard on a regular basis that you would grow up, meet the perfect partner, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. Maybe, like me, you internalized the idea that marriage was a given: eventually you’d just get married and start a family, no doubt. You were taught that’s the natural progression of life.

But then what happens when things take a different turn?

I’ve spent many years of my life questioning my ability to make a relationship work, and, in turn, my own sense of worth. When the message we receive is that we are not enough if we don’t have another person by us, it’s really hard to see outside of that box.

In a sense, we are taught that our sense of worth is dictated by a whole other person, not ourselves. That’s not only flawed, it’s dangerous. How many people get into terribly unhappy relationships (and stay) because they are so afraid of being alone or of not knowing who they are outside of that dynamic? How many times have you found yourself in that very situation?

Romantic relationships are wonderful—one of the greatest ways for us to evolve and grow. Being that close to someone is like having a mirror right in front of us, showing us what we look like at our best and at our worst. However, there are so many other ways to grow, and we shouldn’t overlook them.

It took me so many years, so much reflection and so much heartbreak to get to this point, but here is what I’ve learned:

Selflove is the most important kind of love, whether you are single or not.  We really cannot give what we don’t have. We are expected to love and honor someone else, but we are often not taught to love and honor ourselves. Take the idea of unconditional love for example. Can you honestly say you love yourself unconditionally? But you are expected to love others that way. Does that make sense to you?

Do you enjoy your own company? Do you accept your flaws? Do you forgive your shortcomings? Do you take the steps to take care of yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit?

The list goes on and on…

There are so many ways to give love, and love is so badly needed out there. Whether you like animals or children or elderly people, there are so many opportunities to open your heart and show that you care. And love is one of those things: the more you give, the more it grows. The supply is unlimited.

This beautiful line from a Brazilian song by Raul Seixas comes to mind: love is a cosmic, magical number. Adds, multiplies and divides… love is the answer.

So, this is what I wish for you, my single friend, on Valentine’s Day (and always): don’t give in to society’s pressures. Celebrate love in any form. Divine love. The love of your family. The love of your friends. The love of your pets (the best kind, in my opinion). Your community. Your coworkers. Your neighbors. Instead of feeling bad because you don’t have that “special someone” to celebrate this date with, first remember that YOU are special, then reach out to someone out there and show that you care. You could make someone’s day really special.

Love is the answer.