I once lived my life as if there was no other way of being except to be thin, tanned, and a carbon copy of other people I assumed were happier than me. And, for this reason, I caused my own suffering. I shed blood at the hands of my own destructive assumptions about how I was supposed to live. I fueled my own self-hatred as a perverse motivation for me to change my body, my life, my skin, my anything that I assumed was preventing me from being accepted and loved. I never asked myself what I want because there was no mental space in which to do so. All I could hear were the voices of people who I thought knew where I had misplaced my happiness.
When I was single, I felt intensely rejected. I was convinced of my inadequacy, piling on evidence by using unavailable men that I knew would never love me. In the stark blue daylight of retrospection, I realize now that I wasn’t ready to be loved and was especially not prepared to give love.
What we fail to remember when we’re knee deep in the muck of our loneliness is that we can only love another person to the degree that we love ourselves. And, as I victimized myself and claimed stake in the garden of the unlovables, it was clear only through perfectly crisp retrospection that the amount of love in which I was capable of giving was the smallest amount, because I loved myself only the smallest amount.
As I sat there in my unrequited unlovableness — a victim to circumstance — I see now that the amount of love I received was in equal measure to the amount of love I was capable of giving and, while at the time this irrefutable and immovable fact was misery, I am now grateful for those times that propelled me to care and love for myself, first because I had to give myself what I wanted so badly, but second because no matter how much or how little I am loved by the people in my life, the unwavering degree to which I love myself is far greater an achievement than having been in a doom-fated relationship with any of the unrequited loves scattered across my history.
You’ll have a story like this, just as everyone does. It’s the story about what propelled them to care about something more than what the world had to offer them. It’ll be your story when you decided that, instead of waiting for someone else to love you, you’d just go ahead and love yourself and give yourself everything you wanted.
Some people learn this through the anguish of unrequited love. Other people learn it through being with someone that loved them to the extent that they loved themselves and realizing that it wasn’t enough – not the love they were given – but the love they allowed to give themselves.
It’s that moment: when you pick yourself up off the cold floor, wipe the tears from your eyes, and make the decision to give yourself that which you cannot find outside of yourself. It’s then that you start to carve out the life of a person who is grounded by the sustenance they can offer themselves and anything or anyone else that comes in and out of their life is an experience, rather than something that is earth-shattering and self-crushing.
Believe me, you want the kind of love that doesn’t fill a part of you that needs to be filled by yourself. You don’t want the kind of love that wrongly assures you that the love that can sustain you is given to you by someone else. You don’t want to patch your heart up with the fragments of love you’ve collected across the landscape of your life.
Because you can’t imagine the kind of love that can come swooping in once you’ve given all the love you desperately want to give someone else onto you. You can’t imagine that the love you receive will then expand the love you have given yourself. You can’t even know or be able to contextualize what that kind of love feels like, the kind that rests on top of the love you’ve built up and stored for yourself.
That’s the beautiful part. That’s the kind of love that transforms you, that brings you to heightened parts of yourself, that allows you to roam free.