I was single until I was 24 years old.
I want to say it’s because I didn’t fall for the societal pressures of needing a partner to be whole, but that would be a lie. I was desperate for a partner. All I wanted was to be loved. I wanted a boyfriend who would say I was beautiful—someone to travel the world with.
Little did I know that I was the problem. I wanted to be loved because I didn’t love myself. I wanted someone to make me feel good and make me feel worthy. I needed to be told I was beautiful because I could not say it to my reflection.
When I did receive interest from others, I pushed them away by putting up barriers. Even if I liked them, I had already convinced myself there was something wrong with me. I was sure that once they got to know me, they’d change their mind. I didn’t think I could ever be in a relationship, yet yearned for nothing more.
As I moved into my 20s, I finally realized I would never feel worthy of someone until I believed I was worthy of myself.
The thing is, I have always been worthy. I just needed to see it.
And so that’s what I began to do. I finally began to give myself love. I negated overly critical thoughts with positive ones. I complimented my hair, my kindness, and my hard work. I focused on self-care—a bath, a new mug, or a luxurious meal because I deserved something nice.
I had to stop worrying that I wasn’t worthy of someone else. Instead, I needed to shift my thinking. I needed to ask myself if they were worthy of me, my kindness, my loyalty, and my love. I had to learn to love myself. Only then could I give love to another but, also, receive it.
Finally, at 24 years old, I find myself in a relationship and I wasn’t even planning for it! It was simply the right time. I am not always entirely in love with myself, but the relationship came easily because I am in a place where I have started to see my worth. I am open to learning and growing for myself.
I still have a way to go, but every disagreement, every joy, and every experience is a test of my self-love and a lesson to be kind to myself.
This deeply connects to my other dream: traveling. I have always wanted to travel (and still do) but thought I wasn’t capable. So, I imagined a wonderful man who would take me around the world. A man I would feel safe with. And so, I waited.
Many told me I should travel solo—that I didn’t need to rely on a man. I saw the truth in this, so I considered it, but all it brought was pressure and shame that I was still too scared to do it.
During this relationship, we have traveled and I now see that it’s okay to want to travel with someone. It doesn’t have to mean I don’t believe in myself. It just means I want to have someone to share these experiences with, and my confidence enables me to be open to seeing the world and trying new things. That’s what learning to love myself taught me.
I am fortunate that my first relationship has been positive, so far. I feel lucky, but I do believe that giving myself the time to learn how to love myself was vital. I sought a relationship that didn’t act to fill in the holes but instead cultivated the self-love I was beginning to grow.
Even in the challenging moments, my love for myself means I can comfort my own self—I can act in ways that are loving to my partner and me. It means that I have the clarity to see the lessons each challenge brings.
I am grateful for all my years of being single because they taught me what a relationship should be. It is not about finding someone to fix us or make us whole. Instead, it is to teach us about ourselves—to let us live and experience the world through love and compassion, and to connect to another freely. There should be no fear of giving our love to another because we know there will always be enough for ourselves.