Ban the Valentine’s Day Performance Plan

I’ve been called a Valentine’s Day scrooge. It’s true. I love people. Not Valentine’s Day. During the 14 years I was married, my husband was out of town for 13 of them and we barely acknowledged the day. Last year, the guy I was dating fell asleep on the couch at 9 pm and I watched Sports Center by myself.

Our culture has turned Valentine’s Day into a performance based holiday. I liken it to a grown-up version of standardized testing. Unnecessary pressure is placed on people to express their love for each other. Boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses everywhere rarely pass the test. Single people feel obligated to appear sad. Mothers of young children turn into competitive lunatics.

Those of us less-crafty-types with small children feel lame on Valentine’s Day. A few years ago, my friend, Polly-the-Pinterest-Addict (girl, I love you), made these:

I have NO idea what they are, but don’t they look fabulous? This friend inspires me to be a better mom, and I love the creative things she does for her boys. But that photo launched me into a moment of inadequacy. Am I doing enough for my kids on Valentine’s Day?

On to the school parties. Check out these gorgeous card boxes by two girls in my son’s class when he was in first grade.

The boa! The glitter! The ladybugs! I have box envy. The problem is, I have a full-on panic attack when I walk into a craft store AKA foreign land that causes the right side of my brain to hemorrhage and me to drop dead in the pipe cleaner aisle.

I also loved this one with the lace.

I know you’re dying to see my son’s box…

Yep, that’s the reverse side of some leftover Christmas wrapping paper.

Adding to the paucity of my self esteem at these annual class parties are the beautifully crafted hand-made cards and gifts. I call it a success if I can get my kids to write their own name 23 times on store bought Disney cards.

This time of year I’m out of steam. It takes me two months to recover from the ridiculous, evil Elf on the Shelf’s antics. I mean, er, I’m still tired from implementing all my fun Elf on the Shelf ideas! (Can we take a break from the performance pressure please?)

In the leadership development work I do with my consulting firm, I coach executives and athletes to maximize their potential and perform their best. Peak performance is critical to my clients’ success in sports, business and life. An important distinction for any leader is this:

Your performance does not equal your identity.

Who you are is determined by your core values and by living those values with integrity each day. Your identity is not affected by your performance at work, on the playing field, or on Valentine’s Day.

If LOVE is one of your core values, let’s take back the holiday and focus on what’s important: Loving others well.

Here are three ways you can live out this core value:

  • TELL people you love them. Not just on a holiday. Tell them every day.
  • SHOW people you love them. Do something unexpected for a friend. Send a card for no reason. Make your family’s favorite meal on a Tuesday.
  • REACH OUT to those who might not feel loved. Chances are you know someone who is hurting from painful circumstances. They’ve lost a parent. They’re the new kid at school. They’re going through a divorce. Notice them. Befriend them. Invite them to lunch. Or simply pick up the phone.

Join me to ban the performance plan inherent in our society’s celebration of Valentine’s Day. Of course, if you’re a talented baker or crafty-type and you enjoy those activities as an expression of love, rock on sista! All you romantic guys, keep supporting the economy and pay the 300% markup on flowers and candy this week, especially if your wife’s love language is chocolate!

For those who might feel less-than on this holiday, keep in mind it doesn’t matter if yours is the best gift, most delectable treat or embellished card. Take the pressure off yourself and do one thing.

Love others well. Every day of the year.