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One of my greatest fears, the thing that has broken my heart so many times, is that I will never be loved in this lifetime.
I fear I will never be married and I will always be alone.
And I fear that what people have said about me—and the messaging inherent in our society at large—is all true: unless I find someone who loves me and wants to marry me, I am worthless.
I fear the pity people project when they see my naked ring finger, assuming I will never be truly content unless someone rescues and marries me.
I stayed engaged to a man even when I suspected we weren’t right for each other because I thought staying in this relationship would mean everyone was wrong about me—I wasn’t worthless. I fought for our relationship even when we were clearly not in love with each other.
I didn’t want to be a failure. I could hear the voices saying, “We knew you’d screw this up.”
In this world I live in, being a single, nearly 40-year-old woman means living with this subconscious idea that no one wants me, that I am fundamentally undesirable and broken and I need to “fix” myself to be worthy. It’s that same icky, sticky feeling when you’re standing by yourself and coming to the understanding that no one picked you to be on their team.
I know some of you out there may feel this way too and worry we are doomed to a lonely, sad existence.
Well, I call bullsh*t!
Allow me to clarify.
I am not going to tell you love is stupid and we shouldn’t want it. That is also bullsh*t.
I’m not going to tell you I finally attracted my soul mate because I learned to love myself enough—I’m still single, and attracting a soul mate isn’t the point of self-love.
And I’m also not going to present myself as someone who’s “got it all together,” who is totally okay, not lonely anymore, and has all the answers. I don’t think I will ever stop wanting a partner, and I hope I never do; I will always want to love and be loved.
I live in an interesting time. I don’t need to depend upon marriage for economic security, and I can control my fertility. I am a literate, educated woman who is able to travel the world unescorted and publish my words for the world to see! We are changing social norms to break down gender binary, recognizing the existence and rights of LGBTQ, and including other forms of partnership in mainstream society. Mindfulness, personal empowerment, and authentic living are all the rage.
I mean, is finding a partner really the most worthwhile and meaningful pursuit in my life? Is there no other point to my existence?
What if there is more for me?
I am here to challenge the shame-inducing ideas imposed upon me while I grew up, and that are still imposed today. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same.
I am here to declare I am not a failure. Alone or not, I am worthy!
I reject the messages telling me I must somehow make myself smaller in order to be attractive. So many times, I’ve been told my intelligence is admirable, but that’s probably why I’m still single. I should just dumb it down a little. This is my witty flare, my curiosity, my creativity, my very being. This is who I am!
I reject the messages telling me my strength and independence are a problem—that I need to be “needy,” to pretend to need help, perhaps with opening a pickle jar as a ploy to attract a man—because men need to feel needed.
I reject these ideas, even coming from those who have rings on their fingers. Perhaps, if I had followed this advice, I could’ve been married—and divorced—by now. Maybe even twice.
Marriage won’t magically solve my problems or guarantee anything.
I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not in order to be in a relationship. Let’s face it, misrepresenting myself is manipulative. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small, for love or money, what is the difference? It is still a fraud. They would be in love with an illusion.
I want to be loved as me, not some smaller or made-up version of myself.
I’m a grown, capable woman, and all of this time being single has shown me I can take care of myself, handle challenges, and be happy and fulfilled even without a partner. I have been creating an amazing life for myself! This world, this life has so much to offer. I don’t need a partner, I want a partner.
I know it’s a scary thing to be in love with someone who doesn’t need you, to not have that power and control. Because it means they can leave and they would manage on their own, and that you could do the same. This means you have to choose each other every day.
It took a shattering heartbreak, long after my relationship with my fiancé ended, for me to realize that just like my happiness, I can’t depend on someone else to love me. If I kept looking for happiness and love from others, I would be forever empty. To expect someone else to love me when I won’t love myself isn’t love. That is codependency. It is attachment. It is fear-based entrapment.
If I want to be chosen, I must choose myself. If I want to be heard, I must listen to myself. If I want to be trusted, encouraged, supported, challenged, and taken care of, then I must trust, encourage, support, challenge, and take care of myself! If I don’t want to be abandoned, then I mustn’t abandon myself.
I need to learn to stay with myself, with my whole heart.
The years I spent hiding myself and trying to be less than were sad, lonely, and didn’t bring me any closer to a loving partnership.
I know a lifetime of not being who I am with my whole heart would be far more painful than a lifetime as a single woman. I have so much more I can offer this world and this life when I am utterly and completely myself.
And finally, loving myself isn’t about attracting a soul mate. I just love myself. And that is enough.