Today’s blog post is brought to you by self-love. I write a lot of poetry on the topic of self-love, so it is only fitting I dedicate a post to it. In 1956, psychologist Erich Fromm introduced self-love to the world. Self-love stems from respecting yourself, holding yourself accountable for your actions, being honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I also think self-love stems from vulnerability as well. We must be willing to let the walls of our fortress fall in order to discover who we really are as a person.
With that being said, I’d like to take you back to 2009. A fresh-out-of-college graduate thinking the world was in the palm of my hand, my dignity and hopes were slowly chipping away as bright-eyed twenty-something turned into a cynical outlook on the lack of prospects I had to go off of. Even though a handful of my friends were also in the same boat, I felt like a failure with no big executive title or designer handbag to match my gorgeous apartment decked in nothing by the finest decor.
The truth was, I was back at home, paying down student loan debt, trying to get my life in order and it just wasn’t happening. I felt like this:
(GIF courtesy of Giphy)
Regina George was basically Life and I was her Gretchen Wieners.
In hindsight, this was extremely difficult for me to admit but because everything else in my life was in shambles, I turned to my boyfriends for acceptance. I measured my worth based on a man’s opinion. I started to blow off friendships for weekends spent cleaning up a guy’s mess, hanging at bars I hated, acting like a follower. The only way I could love myself was if someone loved me in return and when another relationship crashed and burned, I would feel worthless. I wouldn’t eat. I just wanted to sleep. I walked around with a glassy look in my eyes for weeks. I felt replaceable, disposable, unworthy of the type of love I deserved. The next relationship was never a step up from the last guy, but I had my mind wrapped around the idea of needing a man to validate my purpose. His hobbies were my hobbies. I suddenly liked spending an entire Sunday in pajamas watching hours of football, a sport I actually do not understand whatsoever. My interests, ideas, likes/dislikes all took a back seat to the guy I was dating.
Then, one night, I snapped. At a bar with a bunch of friends where we were all there to see a concert, a switch flipped and I realized so much of my energy was being wasted on things I really didn’t want to do. I had an epiphany. After two years of battling with anxiety and depression, I owed it to myself to start living my life the way I wanted to sans a boyfriend. It dawned on me that 10 years of my life had been spent with a significant other. Who was I? What made me happy? What really filled my cup? More importantly, did I have enough respect for myself to walk away and be OK on my own?
It was weird for the first couple of months. Engagements and wedding announcements flooded my Facebook Newsfeed and invitations filled my mailbox. At parties where seemingly everyone was a couple, I got better at showing up to places alone. When I traveled for work, I took myself out to dinner. I read books I had been meaning to read. I went out with girlfriends with no intention of finding a man for the night. I started having solo adventures and I started to like it. The night I left that concert at that bar over a year ago was the night I shed a layer of insecurity. I walked out a new me and I was proud of it.
I knew I had a lot of work to do. I think we are always a work in progress, but the sooner we realize this the better. I always wanted to love myself but I didn’t know how and that may sounds strange to some but it’s true. I just directed the love solely toward another individual and gave up a part of me in the process. I had meant to getting around to loving myself first but loving someone else took precedence.
I decided I would need a complete overhaul of my mindset if I were to be successful in truly being comfortable in my own skin. I told myself I would allow a period of being single. I wanted to run a half marathon, so I did. I wanted to teach yoga, so I signed up for teacher training. I wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest, so I went. I wanted to spend some Saturday nights curled up on my couch watching my favorite TV shows, so that’s what happened. I cut my hair into a short pixie because I thought it looked amazing on me. I got called a whole bunch of stupid names but I didn’t care. I felt totally confident in my ability to rock a short ‘do. I went to concerts alone if nobody was around to go with. And I found my impromptu wine nights with my closest friends ended up leaving my sides aching from all the laughs we shared.
Artwork Image from Beloved Green blog
I know my growth doesn’t stop there. The real test will come when I’m back in a serious, committed relationship. Will I fall at the feet of the man I’m with, or will I maintain my sense of independence? What I do know is this:
It’s a hard rut to get out of when you’ve spent a good chunk of time devoting yourself to somebody else. It is emotionally and mentally exhausting questioning whether you are good enough for your partner. And it can be a shameful feeling inside of us when we start to give up our identities in order to please another.
You are enough. You are loved. You are a dazzling light in the darkness of night that dances and sings and laughs and remains hopeful. Believe me when I say that while the journey to loving yourself is a tough one, it is beyond worth it. You will find yourself discovering so many wonderful things about yourself, becoming so aware of your surroundings and how they affect you. And if you don’t mind sharing the bed again with your new partner, you ultimately become a more grounded person if you do decide to start up a relationship.