I want to sit with you in your pain. I want to just be present with you and not tell you that it’s going to be all right or that everything is going to fall apart. I want to say nothing for a long, long time, and feel with you in that space as you, too, feel.
When you said that you’re too broken to be fixed, I thought about what that meant. I thought for a while. I thought to myself: What does that mean? What does it mean to feel irreparably broken? Does feeling that way mean that we are? Is there actually still hope in that? If there is hope even when we feel irreparably broken, I thought, then what is the key to accessing it? That made me think about love, because love is a deep source of strength from which to draw. Might self-love help us access the hope that remains within what we consider to be irreparably broken? If so, what can we do to help ourselves love ourselves? How can one actively love oneself?
I’m hearing that you want a relationship. I’m hearing that you feel beyond ready for it. But I’m also hearing that you don’t love yourself. I’m hearing that you’re identifying that you don’t love yourself because you have been rejected and that has caused you to profoundly question your worth. But it also sounds to me like you don’t love yourself, period, and that these feelings of rejection are serving as triggers to make yourself dislike yourself more acutely. In other words, I’m hearing a cycle.
I think I could make a good case as to why self-love is a path to hope, and basically to anywhere good and solid. When we are taking good care of ourselves, we are able to stand on our own. We can balance and we can thrive. We can stop just existing. We can move forward. We can be confident enough to take the risks we want to take. We can live our lives.
I received a piece of sage advice a little while ago, one that I’d like to pass on if I may. It goes something like this: Loving ourselves isn’t about trying to feel differently about ourselves. That’s not the core of it, even though that’s a spectacular side effect. Loving ourselves, in reality, is about responding to our intrinsic worth as human beings by taking steps to “love” as a verb–taking care of our bodies, minds, and spirits regularly, methodically, hopefully–on the days we feel like it and on the days we don’t. When we can honestly look at ourselves and say that we are loving ourselves with our actions, we are truly loving ourselves. And although we are not always cognizant of the power of this active love, our whole being experiences it, which means that we are infusing its effects into our lives. That has the power to change things.
Teaching ourselves how to participate in self-love equips us to grow, to expand, to lead. It also equips us to deal with both negative feelings of rejection and positive feelings of vulnerability and intimacy, because when we’re self-loving, we cultivate the wisdom and strength to care how we need to care when the situation demands it, whether for our own well-being or for the well-being of another.
Sentimental bullshit, you’re thinking? I was, too. I’ve been thinking about why I automatically want to reject that in practice, even though it sounds nice in theory. Perhaps we have heard “love yourself first” in a certain context. Perhaps we have heard “Love yourself first–then you’ll be desirable, and be ready for a mature and lasting relationship, one that doesn’t become a case study in codependency or one-sided reliance or unhealthy dynamics” again and again, but we’ve never heard what we’ve really needed to hear (or we’ve heard it, but have never listened). We’ve never heard “love yourself because you are worth it. Love yourself for a lifetime because your love is inherently worth receiving, especially from yourself” from any of the mouths that mattered growing up. And that’s destroyed us. We’re just now learning that loving ourselves intrinsically and without a different ultimate agenda or goal is even a THING.
DISCLAIMER–THIS PARAGRAPH IS ACTUAL ADVICE FROM ME. YOU DIDN’T SPECIFICALLY ASK FOR ADVICE, AND SOMETIMES IT FRUSTRATES ME WHEN SOMEONE GIVES ADVICE WHEN I DIDN’T ASK FOR IT. SO IF YOU DON’T WANT IT, FEEL FREE TO SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH. YOU WILL SO NOT OFFEND. I JUST WANTED TO BE A FRIEND IN ANY WAY I KNEW HOW, SO I INCLUDED IT, BUT YOU’RE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO READ THIS PART. I know that you don’t want to hear focus on you. I know you want this is what you can do to get the relationship you want, or men suck, or I know a guy…. but I’m not confident that you’ll even know what you want until you’ve become adept at loving yourself (body, mind, and spirit) with your actions. Spend some serious time (months) loving yourself actively, with NO set agenda in mind–not a relationship, not casual intimacy, not celibacy, not lesbian partnership, not drunken one-night-stands, not castration. Nothing. Once you’ve detoxed by allowing yourself to fulfill your own core needs and desires for some time (Love on your body by lotioning it, cleaning it regularly, making it feel healthy, working out, whatever you need/whatever feels right; love on your mind by processing through your emotions with gentle honesty rather than repression or harsh rumination, complimenting yourself, steeping yourself in beautiful literature and thought-provoking music that causes vivacity to pour forth from inside of you; love on your spirit by praying, searching, spending time in nature, engaging with the divine in any way that seems life-giving), with no agenda, reassess what you want. Be willing to ask yourself what that truly is. Be willing to dig deeper. Don’t think about what you should want or what you have wanted. Think about what you want now that you have begun this journey of true engagement with self-love, now that you are standing on your own. I guarantee that with the backdrop of your commitment to loving yourself and bringing yourself life, your answers to these questions will have the potential to surprise you.
Done with the advice part. Now sobriety and hope in the same paragraph. Maybe you’re not going to survive this. Not as you are. But maybe a different you can. Maybe the you you will be can. Maybe the you you can be can. And maybe it’s not about changing yourself to have different hair, a new tattoo, or more eye makeup (although these could all be a part of your journey). Maybe it’s not about constant, exhausting efforts to make yourself better. Maybe it’s about changing your perspective by steeping yourself in your own love, and then reassessing what seems good to you.
I love you so, so much, and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch.
Hang in there.
You are ever in my thoughts and prayers.