February—the month where entering stores necessitates a “parting of the Red Sea,” there are hearts, flowers, candy, stuffed animals and love symbols everywhere you turn. While I currently bask in the festive nature and ambiance of this special holiday, this was not the case for over a decade. It actually became emotionally suffocating for me to be surrounded by these decorations and gifts because they were reminders of a relationship that had fallen apart and love that was lost. Re-entering the single world was my new reality following the year 2003; as such, my life took on unfamiliar roles, tasks, jobs and locations. Back then, I was unable to fully grasp how all of these turns of events would lead and shape me into the woman I am today, one who is able to love and celebrate herself and life in general. I can’t even begin to say when my mindset shifted and this epiphany occurred, because it has been a tremendous work in progress and still is to this day. What I can do is share some pivotal points that became the lifeboats for me during the times I felt like I was drowning, lifeboats that I still continue to hang onto to this day.

You are going to be okay.

This was an extremely challenging concept to believe and follow because so many times when I thought a situation was going to work out, another obstacle appeared out of nowhere. I remember feeling so hopeless that I would stay inside and not deal with the outside world. I realize now, though, that I needed those breaks from everything beyond my front door. As women, we are often bombarded with multiple responsibilities, choices, and opinions, and it is imperative that we take the time to rest and regroup. A fresh perspective can be the bridge to weighing out what needs to be done and what can be put on the back burner. The bottom line is, no matter what changes in our lives, we will be okay. Oftentimes, we need to remind ourselves of this fact. When I am going through a tough spot, I will say the words out loud “I am okay. I will be okay.” I love to shout affirmations out loud because I believe speaking brings life to our words.

Surround yourself with positive souls

It sounds simple enough, but this is crucial, especially when going through a life transition. Even now, I am constantly evaluating how relationships are affecting me on a daily basis. I was known as a “fixer-upper,” I was the one who had answers on how to solve everybody’s problems. While I relished that role for many years, what I did not realize was how physically and emotionally depleted I had become. I also started to observe that many in my life wanted things to change in their lives, but were not willing to take the steps to achieve this. I have slowly made changes in my personal and professional circles, and what a difference it has made! I feel energized and inspired rather than exhausted and frustrated. Now when I am around individuals who are facing issues, I have the focus and patience to effectively support and empower them because I too have fed my soul with positive nourishment.

You have a purpose

This is not always easy to see and feel, but I can say from personal experience that it is true. We all have a unique purpose and mission to bring to this world, but it just may not be what we originally intended. Twenty five years ago I had a totally different vision of what my life would look like in my forties, but the great news is that purpose can manifest itself in limitless ways. We are not bound by age, education, relationship status, or profession. We just need to be open to the possibilities and have the faith to step into them.

Even though I am still a single woman (and a very happy one at that), I choose to be my own Valentine. February 14th signifies love itself, not who we are with. If we don’t love ourselves first, we are not able to adequately love and be there for others. I challenge each of you to take time out this week, buy yourself a card, and treat yourself to something special. Make it a new tradition. Celebrate yourself!