As women, we are conditioned to believe our self-worth is directly correlated to our success in a romantic relationship. Every which way we look, something or someone is telling us to pursue the fairytale. Pursue the romance. Pursue the marriage. Pursue the unrealistic definition of beauty in order to find the perfect husband (or wife) for the perfect marriage.
But very few people are telling us to pursue ourselves. And no woman is safe from this. No matter how different our backgrounds may be, at Thanksgiving dinner, your mother, sister, brother, grandma, and/or distant cousin will be asking you “when are you getting married?” It’s a tale as old as time. And sadly, as inescapable as time.
But why hasn’t this narrative changed with time?
Because we continue to play into it. We’re (un)willing participants. We listen to these dated ideas and let them sink in. We internalize them. We think this idea is right – even if we know it’s wrong. There’s a cognitive dissonance happening here.
I’m not guiltless, though. I’ve spent most of my adult years in relationships. And not even great ones. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I stayed in these relationships for so long because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I thought that if I was alone, it would mean I was falling behind in some way. I thought that if I left, it would mean that I had failed in some way.
It wasn’t until that I had been dumped from two serious relationships, that I realized the relationship is not what makes the girl. And it’s certainly not the only mark of success. Instead of waiting around for another relationship to find me – I set out to find myself.
I think it’s time that we accept, embrace, and love ourselves above all else. If I’m going to be stuck with anyone for 70 years, I damn well better enjoy their company. I better laugh at their jokes and support their dreams. I better embrace their quirks and I better see their beauty above and below the surface.
Romance and self-love don’t have to be mutually exclusive either. You can be in a relationship and still pursue yourself. Actually, you should pursue yourself. Because without learning how to love yourself, how can you learn to love someone else?
So let’s change the conversation and get down with our super cool selves. Loving yourself is in, doubting yourself is out.
Here’s a few tried-and-true tricks to appreciating you:
1. Find your tribe.
Surround yourself with people who love you and support you in your wildest dreams. And be protective of these people. You’re only as good as the company you keep – so keep the good ones around and let the bad ones go (without any guilt).
Common traits of good eggs include, but are not limited to: great listener, open mind, compassionate core, and inwardly or outwardly creative. A killer sense of humor is not required but greatly preferred.
It’s a hell of a lot easier to pursue yourself when you’ve got some cheerleaders pushing you in that direction. Your tribe is what will keep you going when those self-doubts sneak up on you. They’re the ones who will remind you why you should love yourself and of appreciate all your awesome accomplishments.
If you need a tribe, start here. Count me in. You’ve already got my vote and I will continue to support you as best I can for as long as I can. Let me help you love yourself.
2. Hang on to what you love.
Take the thing that makes you happy and treasure it. Grow it. Never let it go. Completely drown yourself in it. Because chances are the thing you love gives your life meaning. It’s your purpose and your love of that hobby, job, or interest is a sign pointing you in the right direction.
Have you ever noticed that when you leave this thing by the wayside, your happiness tanks? And it’s kind of hard to appreciate yourself when you don’t feel fulfilled.
3. Challenge yourself.
Some of the most rewarding lessons come from the most uncomfortable of places. I am very susceptible to peer pressure, and so far, my weakness has worked to my benefit. One of the absolute scariest things I’ve ever done – at the request of a friend – was enrolling in writing classes at Second City. Talk about pressure. I had never written comedy before and I had zero life experience. I was a meager twenty-two.
But I pushed the nerves down and walked into that classroom and walked out a year later with a whole lot of confidence. I had gone so far out of my comfort zone and came out alive. I proved to myself that I can rely on myself even when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I learned. And I grew. And I took that feeling and used it to push forward through more new experiences. Which upped my confidence again. It’s a beautiful, cyclical thing.
4. Take inventory.
On the hard days, when you find it almost impossible to believe in yourself, make a list. Take inventory of everything you’re grateful for and appreciate. They can be even the most basic of things. I picked up this trick in my previous life as a sorority girl. We had an incredible body image program. And a cornerstone of the program was learning to love yourself through appreciating the most simple of gifts.
For example, if I was just not feeling the self-love vibes, I’d start small. I’d appreciate my legs for the strength they give me to walk. And my arms because they allow me to tote my niece around.
The same theory applies to just about anything. If you can’t appreciate yourself on Monday for your creativity, appreciate yourself for your sense of humor instead. Then circle back Tuesday and try again. And appreciate yourself for that too.
5. Keep it real.
Keep it real, my friends, keep it really real. You know yourself the best, so trust yourself. Let your instincts lead the way. I promise, they never steer you wrong if you’re willing to listen. And once you see that I’m right, you’ll see that you’re right. And what does that build? T – R – U – S – T! (in yourself.) And when you learn to trust yourself and your instincts, you’ll be making decisions with the confidence of a queen.
Love is hard, man. And loving yourself will be the hardest journey of them all. It’s a continuous and conscious effort to swim against the current, against the definition of beauty, against the scale, against societal constructs and gender roles, against expectations, against insecurities and self-doubt. But it will always be a fight worth fighting. Because you are your most important relationship.