I have been single for many years. Some of those years were unwillingly forced upon me, despite my greatest efforts to persuade them otherwise. Some of those years were designed by choice – after realizing that my empty void of unworthiness was never going to be filled as long as I sought affection outside of myself. It was painful to so desperately want love and acceptance, and know deep down, that even if I received it, it would not be enough. My infinite well of unworthiness felt bottomless. I was tired of dragging others across the vast, empty fields of my broken heart, hoping that someone would get stuck long enough to help me feel whole. I felt like a monster, and so I sentenced myself to a life of solitude until I could mend and cleanse the battlefield of my soul.
I assumed this process would take a few months. Three years later, I was still waking up alone.
That’s the thing about learning to love yourself. There is no timeline. There is no recipe. There is no proven method. You wake up every day, look yourself in the mirror, tell yourself lies you hope to actually believe someday, and you continue living. In my case, you continue thriving. Powerful jobs, riches, gorgeous clothes, vacations, incredible friends.
On paper, I knew I had every reason to love myself. But my heart begged to differ.
I went through the motions. The ones that everyone said, “worked.”
“Focus on yourself,” they said. “Read this book. Go to yoga. Cook good food. Get massages. Go on dates with yourself. Meditate. Get to know yourself. Rewrite your own story. Stop looking for love, and love will find you. Love yourself first, and he will come along.”
I executed the above flawlessly, like the perfectionist I am. And I still woke up every day alone.
And therein was the lie. “Flawless.”
When I knew I was undeniably damaged.
Learning to be vulnerable was like learning to swim again. I dipped a toe into the shallow filthy river, and I looked around anxiously to see who noticed. Who would rescue me if I drowned? I began to expose more of my body to the cold darkness. My tears and anguish began to blend into my surroundings. For months, the fear consumed me. The isolation was heavy. My whole being felt heavy. Weak and raw, ready to be enveloped by the blackness.
And then my tears kept me afloat.
And there was I was drifting on a waterbed cloud. Exposed to all the algae and dirt and slime and filth. Swimming in it. And in the center of it all…was me. Still pristine. Still capable of staying afloat. Still capable of radiating lightness. My experiences, my burdens, my pains, my fears, my unforgivable choices. They were not me. They were simply the experiences I was meant to rise above.
I cannot tell you when it happened. I cannot tell you how.
But on December 31, 2017, I sat down to write this:
“In 2018, I will romance myself. I will find beauty, luxury, sensuality, and radiant love available in each moment regardless of my relationship status. Because I am beautiful, and I deserve to make, create, and receive beauty. My worth is dependent on me and no one else. I will relax into the flow of this world, and I will let beautiful, romantic things come to me. I am patient, and I know my responsibility on this earth is to give my best radiant self in every moment.”
For the first time, I meant every word.
I bought a new dress for New Year’s Eve – a holiday I have come to dread with every part of my body. I lit candles and played female rock anthems – singing along at the top of my lungs. I danced alone. I spent more time on my eyeshadow than I usually would. I allowed myself to melt into my own beauty – and vowed to have a romantic evening regardless of who was present. Because I would be present. And that was going to be enough. I did not need anyone but myself. My whole, imperfect, flawed, and full-of-life-experiences self.
That night, I fell in love.
The saying goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I was ready to be seen. I allowed myself to be seen.
And that is when he saw me.