Greeting cards treat Valentine’s Day like it’s a day for love. But for many people, it’s a day of self-loathing.

“Why am I single, yet again, on another Valentine’s Day?” they may wonder.

And it goes on: “Why can’t I get my house clean? Or get it together at work? Why isn’t my belly flat? I’m a failure.”

If this sounds familiar, see if you can change that tradition this year. Life is short. Don’t spend it beating yourself up.

I just visited a close friend who is dying of cancer. She’s 45 and single. She never had children. She never made a lot of money, didn’t own a car, and certainly never bought a house.

And yet, at the end of her life, everyone who knows her remembers one thing about her above all others: how full of love she is. Love for life and love for her friends.

Valentine's Day

Club Med – Discover a New World/Flickr

She’s joyous, fun, vivacious, and always loyal to those she cares about.

I don’t know if anyone told her that when we thought she’d be around for years to come. Did she know how loved she was?

Or did she mentally run down lists of her own defects and beat herself up for her failures? Did she spend her Valentine’s Days sad that she was single, feeling unloved when she was anything but?

Odds are that if each of us could see ourselves the way others see us, we’d be pleasantly surprised.

Because when it comes down to it, other people aren’t busy judging whether you keep your house clean. They don’t care if you drive a fancy car or maintain a thrilling relationship. They appreciate your smiles, your laughter, and your warmth — even if you don’t look like a supermodel.

This Valentine’s Day, whether or not you’re planning to have an exciting and romantic time with an intimate partner, consider taking a day to love yourself.

Take a vacation from self-judgment. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary for 24 hours. Instead of worrying about what you “should” be doing, do things that you enjoy.

Try eating your favorite food. Or get a massage. How about letting go of self-imposed pressure to do housework and just going for a walk outside on your own?

Maybe you could allow yourself to sleep late. Or just take a day off from scolding yourself for everything you don’t do but think that you should.

Even better, make a list of all of the qualities about yourself that you love. Then, spend your day feeling good about them.

Listen: All those times you felt guilty for eating a cookie instead of a salad, skipping the gym, or leaving clutter on the kitchen counter don’t matter. No one will remember any of that at the end of your life. Why let those things drag you down now?

Self-love won’t make any money for Hallmark. But it might be the best valentine you ever get.

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Jill Richardson

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix

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