I met him when I was 25 and fell in love with him almost instantly.
He was a powerful concoction for me: gorgeous, exotic, and tastefully caring, yet mostly elusive.
He was my kryptonite, and I fell hard and fast. We dated for a few years, then got married. In total, we were together for about six years.
Before I started dating him, I really had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I had been a people-pleaser my whole life, and dating a man that I felt was incredible only amped up my people-pleasing ways to the point of utter exhaustion.
The thing is, our relationship seemed to work well when I was a people-pleaser.
He was an intensely picky person and liked to do things his way–and his way of anything was always a huge trek off the beaten path. Just choosing a restaurant usually meant two buses and a subway to eat at a random Transylvanian restaurant in another town.
It was fun, exciting, exhausting—but most of all, it was a distraction.
While I was with this gorgeous man, I didn’t have to toil in the struggle of figuring out who I was. I didn’t have to worry about rocking the boat when something bothered me, nor did I have to take responsibility for my dreams and desires. I could merely coast on his love.
That is, until it all started crumbling around me. He began disengaging emotionally, and I found myself feeling isolated and alone in a relationship in which I had invested so much.
Without his attention, the benefits of this thrilling yet toxic courtship no longer outweighed the costs. I somehow mustered up the courage to end it all and moved out on my own.
In true co-dependent fashion, I immediately got on Tinder and Bumble and began swiping like it was my job. I needed to fill the emptiness, sadness, and extreme self-doubt that I felt after my heart-wrenching break-up. Even though the relationship wasn’t great, it was with me for six years, and leaving it left a hole in me that felt bottomless.
The “good” news is that while I swiped and dated, I didn’t need to feel the pain. Who needs self-help when they have 10 matches to attend to. Needless to say, my foray into online dating crashed and burned into more heartbreak and oblivion.
Guy after guy that I attracted seemed to somehow be a new, but often a worse version of my ex. It wasn’t pretty and I hit a pretty terrible low during this time.
I decided to delete my apps and go rogue. I kept hearing the song You Can Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. I heard it in my dreams, in stores, at work. I took it as a sign; it was time to go my own way, so I did.
For the first time ever, I decided to focus on me, and it made a huge difference not only in my life, but my dating life as well.
In short, deciding to fall in love with myself changed everything. Here’s how I did it:
I bought new clothes that I felt great in and that gave me a sense of well-being and comfort. I made sure to do things that I cared about like journaling, lounging at cozy cafes, and playing the drums.
For the first time in my life, I began speaking up for myself when something bothered me. I started saying “yes” to plans and people I felt good about and “no” to anything that didn’t sit well.
For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to be me, and I really began to love me in the process.
I started seeing that my feelings were not a nuisance that should be hidden, but actually indicators of something that needed to be addressed.
That if I wanted to sleep in till noon, spend the afternoon writing, and the night dancing, it wasn’t “frivolous”—it was actually part of an expression of who I am. I took the time to dig deep and I indulged myself to the point of no return.
Essentially, I stopped trying externally to impress or please anyone. I put myself first—and did so with an unapologetic irreverence. I didn’t intentionally hurt anyone, but I certainly was no longer shirking off my life or feelings for anyone or anything any longer, and this radically shifted how guys, and women as well, responded to me.
As I fell deeper in love with myself and less out of love with pleasing others, my vibe changed, people could sense that I valued myself, and almost overnight what felt like swarms of guys were all of a sudden asking me out to incredible restaurants, planning elaborate dates, taking me to the theatre, whisking me away to brunches, and dropping off gifts while I was at work.
All of this attention is great and of course, it’s lovely to receive kind gestures and affirmations from the opposite sex, but I was and I am determined to keep going on my path of self-love.
My heart is still healing from my past relationship, and I’m still working on self-acceptance.
Every day is a new challenge. Our ego voices can be loud and cruel, and some days, that voice wins, but I can honestly say that my journey into self-love is increasing every day, and it seems to increase the type of man (and people in general) that I attract.
It’s a beautiful thing to send kindness out into the world, but often we forget about ourselves in the process.
Choosing to love ourselves—even just a bit more—heals from the inside out.
Author: Tess Bercan
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen