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A little over a year and a half ago, at the beginning of a reflective and already difficult winter season in the Midwest, I left a dysfunctional relationship.
After the dissolution of this intensely passionate union, I began to unravel the bad relationships I had been in and out of for the entirety of my early 20s.
When the process of grieving all the loss, hurt, chaos, and change that had taken place shook me loose and the sun began to return, I found myself ready to explore the world around me as an individual.
I traveled a bit, took days alone at the café and the park, spent my evenings writing and watching silly sitcoms, and found solace in my own company.
Somewhere in there, I began to have wonderful days. The fear of being alone dissipated into appreciation for my own company, and soon enough, I found myself being admired by men who I knew I could love.
Things looked upward, and based on what new age relationship philosophy told me, my love for myself would soon attract me the love of my life—I was optimistic.
Life moved forward (as it always does), and days went by in the sunshine. I had hopes for a man I’d met who lived quite a distance from me; I’d hoped he’d to come and see my home and fall madly in love with how I love myself.
However, things don’t always work out the way we hope they will, and no matter how comfortable we are in our own company and no matter how much time we spend caring for ourselves, there is no guarantee that we will be gifted some brilliant relationship.
One of the many things I can take from a year by myself is that the idea that we must find some sort of perfection of self-love and solitude in order to truly love and be loved by another can be toxic.
I know, I know. A lot of insightful new age subscribers out there are just foaming at the mouth to argue against this point and, truthfully, I have found myself saying this same phrase to single friends in the past.
“You just have to love yourself first, then the right one will come along.”
Frankly, if I met my past self and she dared to say these words to me, I would have a few harsh ones for her about the limited amount of time she’d taken to actually be by herself. My own hypocritical past aside, the idea that a day when we have perfected the art of self-love and acceptance exists is absolutely absurd and insulting.
Loving ourselves unconditionally is a constant process, and there is no end to the journey. Adding an end to this journey is really a setup for failure because self-love is a day by day, season by season process that nobody will ever truly perfect.
Toxic relationships don’t usually begin purely out of self-hate, but out of taking a chance to trust another human being to care for us and vice versa—and in that, there is no failure; there’s only experience.
As for the idea that self-love emits some pheromone that attracts the love of your life, it’s nonsense. Not only can we find love while on our own journey with self-love, but we can actually grow to love ourselves more through being with another person, if we allow it.
We are human beings. We are meant to connect with each other and build each other up—nothing is done truly alone. We are one being experiencing ourselves through experiencing each other, and every person we meet is a mirror of a forgotten self.
Unconditionally loving others is a direct line to unconditionally loving ourselves.
I know that this can work the opposite way for some people, and I say to each their own when it comes to matters of the spirit and the heart. However, I can honestly say that after one year and nine months alone, I no longer speak about self-love being some catalyst to true love, and uncovering this truth has changed the way I speak to others who are currently seeking a mate.
We are all on a journey with twists and turns and no true destination, and in that lies the beauty of love and life.
May we be easy on ourselves and others as we all navigate our own mazes and uncover our own truths.