I’ve done a lot of very stupid things for the love of men. It was an attempt to employ the principle of every romantic movie: the heroine needs something special about her. Some unique trait makes her easy to love and hard to be with, which proves the hero all the more wonderful because he works so hard to be with her, despite her flaws and eccentricities.
Thus, I thought my “flaw” would weed out the terrible suitors and only the most heroic man would make it through my emotional booby trap. It needed to be dangerous to date me. The more dangerous the quirk, the more amazing the hero.
Over the years, I tried on a full wardrobe of silly stories and flaws and characteristics. Sometimes, it was that I was afraid of commitment or intimacy because someone else had hurt me before. Sometimes, it was that I was too busy and passionate about my future to get into a relationship. Other times, I was deeply spiritual and desperately committed to my individual enlightenment. Or I was the outspoken, gives-no-sh#ts girl, not afraid to disagree.
I had all sorts of crazy personas about myself, and most guys believed them. In fact the plan usually worked, until I would ruin it. He’d fall for the story, and we’d be having a wonderful time falling for each other, then the part came where he should be weeded out if he wasn’t willing to work hard enough to love me… But I’d change my mind and not want him to leave. I’d get scared of being alone. We’d end up in a mess. Neither he nor I had any idea who I was or what I wanted, which made breakups very messy. I was dangerous to date all right, because I’d suck all the love out of men as a way to see value in myself.
That is, until one person really, really broke my heart. He’d been lured by my story, for sure, and I’d been lured by his. A few months after moving in together, we culminated in a fight of catastrophic proportions, in which I finally admitted I wasn’t so special, so quirky and unique. I was just a scared little girl and actually needed rescuing from a prince — and are you that prince? No. He was not that prince. He left me crying on the living room floor, slammed the door behind him, and didn’t come home or speak to me for weeks.
My job suffered, my body suffered, my heart suffered. Until finally, one night, he did come home. He knocked on the door, and I let him in. Then, he walked straight to the guest room and closed the door behind him. He wasn’t home to rescue me or to ask for my love back. He needed a place to sleep. I thought “well, if he’s not here for me, he’s probably worn out every other place to sleep. I am his last resort.”
My concept of him changed. My concept of me changed. He wasn’t hurt from a lost love like me, so why was I sitting around hurting for him? I’d gotten what I’d asked for, here he was, and I suddenly saw him for what he was: a mess. Just like me. Not knowing what we wanted, who we were, or what we were doing anymore.
The difference that night made is that I was finished turning my personal history in a fishing lure. Whether it was the good parts or bad parts, it didn’t matter. I was too old for this, and I’d never have time for any kind of happiness or success if I was too busy crying over men all the time. I wanted to be loved, and the only source I had was myself, and for once that was more than enough. From that simple decision, the big empty apartment we once shared was so quiet, and so peaceful. It was purged of the false character I’d been shackling there, and all that was left was really, truly, story-less me. It became a safe place where I could heal and regain my strength.
Things started to grow from there; once I started giving love to myself, I started seeing potential in myself. I started acknowledging my power and talents. That all led to the confidence to go after what I wanted, to move cities and to start a new career. I started feeling sexier, taking better care of myself, valuing my opinion which led to sharing my opinion — my real opinion, not words I thought would make me look good — more. I started to give myself love and it changed everything.
When I began to feed my love rather than my insecurity, my love became the stronger of the two. I didn’t need someone else to prove to me that I was worth loving anymore. My own love was my own life raft, and I no longer needed rescuing.
And make no mistake: I’m still dangerous to date, because I don’t pity myself now, and I won’t allow my partner to pity himself either. And he won’t be able to derive his own worth from being needed by me. I’ll be demanding and offering the best of myself, and you can believe I’ll be expecting him to do the same.
How does one fall in love with another person? You get to know them, you share some special experiences, you talk about your wants and dreams. You cherish them, adore them, compliment them. Then you get comfortable, and you open up and accept the not-so-perfect things like old pajamas and giving that person a break when they need it. You respect those things without looking down on the other person. You go through challenges together, you stick together, you prove you’ll fight for each other. You build love together over time, you give it and you get it and you treasure it…
That’s exactly what you should be doing with yourself. It starts with a clean slate; get to know the quintessential details, look at yourself with your eyes, not your fear. What do you look like? What are your interests? Get to know yourself anew without the stories about how you’re not good enough.
Begin to dote on yourself, start to compliment yourself, adore yourself, give yourself little gifts. Get into the deep conversations with yourself: share what you see possible, what you really dream of, just like you would with a partner. A journal (like we talk about in this post) is a great way to start that conversation Be supportive.
Share the vision your highest self has with you, see what she sees. Encourage yourself, just like you would for a partner. Then start to get comfortable. Let yourself stay the night in with you, watching tv, take a hot bath, let yourself relax without judgment. Tell yourself you’re beautiful in sweatpants, with no makeup. Eat chocolate. Drop the guilt and negativity.
This is about you falling back in love with your truest, highest, story-and-excuses-less self. Once you focus on only her, stop seeing other people (those imaginary versions of yourself in your head), you’ll stop letting other people’s opinion, or what you thought they thought of you define your worth.
It’s you, with you, by you, for you now. That’s love. Now you know who you are better than anyone else. Now you’re getting love and validation from the right place. And you won’t fall for your own self-pitying story ever again.
Because who’s got time for that??