Dear Valentine: Thoughts and Inspiration from Diana Chao of Letters to Strangers

Dear Valentine,

2/14 is supposed to be some magical day: love tinges the air with a blushed je-ne-sais-quoi; your heart is bubble-on-the-edge-of-the-blower full. The winter cold melts against the heat of a couple’s embrace; it’s gentle and beautiful and alive and awkward in all the most perfect of ways.

But sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, all that love is supplanted by loneliness.

The thing about love is that we are taught it as an external thing: to love someone, to be loved - these are internal feelings extrapolated to external relationships. When we say the cliche “love yourself,” the phrase can thud like a stone. What does it mean to love yourself? Acceptance - but of what? Kindness - but do I deserve it, always? “Love yourself” is a powerful mantra that dissolves upon contact, not because it’s not meaningful, but because we don’t always know what love looks like when it doesn’t take the form of something or someone else.

In this cold month of love, isolation and wistfulness are not rarities. But they should be. So, let’s take steps together to make Valentine’s Day not just a day of love, but an internalization of love.

Write a letter, dear stranger. To yourself. To someone else. To a stranger. Write your story, share your vulnerabilities, lend a hand. Share your wishes and your love; share what you think it means to love yourself.

IMG_5459 copy.jpg

Here are a few prompts to get started:

  1. In this cold winter weather, what keeps you warm? Beyond objects, are there people, activities, and events that bring you warmth? How?

  2. If self-love was a song, what would it sound like? Is it smooth jazz, improvisation and going with the flow? Is it indie pop, whimsical and emotional with a stable percussive beat? Is it lo-fi hip hop, a complex dance of rhythm and the faint buzzing of electric lines - something elated but just edgy enough to take you by surprise?

  3. What will you do this Valentine’s Day, or any day, really, in this cold month of love? How does that compare with what you want to do? Has this changed over the years?

If you’re writing to someone else, don’t forget to share your reflections with them. If it’s eating dumplings with family on Lunar New Year that brings you warmth, what do you want the reader to know? If self-love is 70s funk, how would you share your understanding of “love yourself” now with someone else? If you’re treating yourself to a nice dinner on V-Day, what do you want the reader to not be afraid to do? Anything outside of these prompts is fair game - this is your letter, after all. As you start writing, don’t be afraid to detour. Let your writing guide you. Where do your thoughts lead, and how does that feel? If you’re at a loss, check out some sample letters by Letters to Strangers here.

Love shouldn’t be a lonely thing, but when cold is relentless and the magic feels like someone else, it often is lonely. I want your words, your thoughts, and your letter to remind you that you are vibrant. Incredibly interesting. Strong in the subtlest of ways -- an exquisitely-defined human being who is deeply loved, not least by yourself, whatever that means for you. And I want you to share those thoughts and that love with others, even strangers.

2/14 is coming up. I can already taste the magic.



P.S. We partnered with Egg Press to giveaway some letterpress cards on our Instagram. Visit Letters To Strangers on Instagram and enter for a chance to win by 2/10.


About Diana: Diana Chao is the Founder & Executive Director of Letters to Strangers (L2S), a global youth-run nonprofit seeking to de-stigmatize mental illness and increase access to affordable quality treatment through anonymous letter-writing exchanges, education, and advocacy. Join the youth mental health movement and get involved by starting a chapter today!