Having fears is human—but fears aren’t facts.
The problem begins when we choose to keep our fears a secret. When we chose to protect our fears and keep them from the light, they grow larger and larger until they become monsters.
We feed our fears by keeping them quiet.
I want to tell you the story of what happened when I spoke about my fear of being alone, when I exposed it to the light.
Not so long ago, my biggest fear was ending up alone. I felt there was something inexplicably wrong with me, something that made it impossible for me to have a lasting, healthy relationship with someone. At every wedding, party and event designed for couples to attend, I was sure I wore a scarlet letter on my forehead. I was sure that every single person in the room was wondering what was wrong with me.
My relationships were short and sweet. They ended before they even began. I was always the single friend, so people eventually stopped asking.
It was incredibly painful to feel so alone, not good enough, unworthy of love. And no matter how strong, intelligent, beautiful and worthy I felt at times, other times all these things felt like lies. You know, that mind game we play with ourselves: “But if all these things are true, why am I still single?”
I began to believe that I was not going to fall in love like everyone else. I began to believe that love was not in the cards for me. I began to believe that, for whatever reason, my destiny was to be alone.
And this terrified me. I would spend nights in bed thinking about how lonely life would be. I was angry too, angry that this was the hand I had been dealt. I would have given anything for somebody to assure me what the future had in store for me.
During this 25-year period, I received all sort of pieces of advice from friends:
“It will happen when you are ready.”
“It happens when you stop looking for it.”
“Just focus on you and it will fall into place.”
And a personal favorite: “Be patient.”
Of course, most of these women were in relationships, so I didn’t believe a word they said. Frankly, I wanted to punch each of them in the face when they gave me these well-intentioned, but incredibly unhelpful, condescending and un-validating pieces of advice.
But slowly, I stopped caring about what other people thought and said. I started talking about my fear, exposing it to the light. I talked about it with friends and a therapist. I wrote it down on a piece of paper and ripped it up into tiny pieces. I prayed to have the fear removed. I asked for help when I needed it. I began to accept the possibility of being alone and found that I actually really liked my life—so being alone didn’t sound like such a terrible idea anymore.
I started to focus more on me and the kind of person I was. I started to believe I would attract this type of person into my life.
I worked on myself every day. I learned how to love myself through the good, the bad and the ugly. I began to believe, deep down in my soul, that I was worthy of great love. That no matter what mistakes I had made or pain I had felt, I was still worthy of great love.
So I cut out the destructive behaviors: the drinking, smoking, late-night text messaging. I stopped entertaining individuals who weren’t treating me the way I wanted to be treated. I became more assertive and asked for what I wanted and needed. I stopped feeling ashamed to be alone. Instead, I felt empowered.
I surrounded myself with loving women who accepted me unconditionally. I began to follow my authentic passions. I threw myself into mental health advocacy, went back to school to pursue a career as a therapist and completed a 200-hour training to be a yoga teacher. I did whatever I wanted and realized that the person who was meant for me would accept this version of me.
Today, I accept my life as imperfect. I am not where I thought I would be at 28, but I am indescribably happy—and in a loving relationship.
I had promised myself that if I ever got into a lasting, healthy relationship, I wouldn’t forget what it was like to feel profoundly alone. I promised that I wouldn’t give unhelpful, condescending advice to single women. I promised that, instead, I would empathize with their pain. I would listen to their pain.
This is what I want to say to the women who fear they are destined to be alone:
I am sorry that you are hurting. I am sorry that you feel alone. I felt alone, too—for a very long time. And the only thing that ever lessened the pain was learning to love myself through it. No one person ever took the pain completely away for me. Although I’m in a relationship today, I still battle with this pain. It didn’t matter so much that I found a healthy relationship, what mattered is that I stopped protecting my fear.
It isn’t always easy, but today, I know that my fears will not live long in the light.
Author: Ali Mariani
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Han Cheng Yeh/Flickr