Recently I've had some beloved friends experience heartache and sadness. People they cared for deeply had broken their hearts, or treated them badly. And yet, there is much more to what they are going through than just a relationship on the rocks or ending. My heart is troubled because I see a deeper issue, one with which I have personally struggled. The issue of self-worth.
I've dated men who did not treat me well. I've put up with emotional unavailability or infidelity or outright disrespect. I'd make excuses for them, explain it all away, look at my phone anxiously hoping they'd call or text. I put up with less than what I deserved because, I'm ashamed to say, I did not feel I deserved better. Now, this isn't a conscious thing. You don't go around saying that you deserve to be treated like crap. But when this is how you feel inside, it colors everything you do. You don't love yourself and so you're desperate to be loved by someone. It's a hole you try to fill with other people, until you realize the only person who can fill it…is you.
I see this happen to so many amazing women (and men, too). They're smart, funny, caring, successful, and yet they shortchange themselves when it comes to the potential partners they meet. They are willing to overlook red flags and behavior that is inconsistent with what the other person says. They settle for crumbs and scraps instead of the full, authentic experience of love. And then it all goes to pieces and they're heartbroken once again.
I was that woman. Until I finally learned my lesson. That Prince Charming ain't coming. We have to save ourselves. And it starts with loving ourselves AS WE ARE. Not when we lose 10 pounds. Not when we find the right job. Not when we make X amount of money. I continue to struggle with this, at least the appearance stuff, but I know now that I really do love and value myself. That is progress and it's reflected in the life I lead today.
A beautiful thing happens when you begin to not only accept yourself the way you are, but love yourself. You attract a much higher quality pool of potential partners. The more selective you are, the more likely you are to find a person who actually deserves you. And you are willing to take your time getting there.
I look back sometimes at the people I dated in the past (and not so distant past), and realize if I'd met them today, most would never have made it past the first or second date. I did have at least one wonderful relationship in my late twenties and I still respect, love and value him for the good man he is. However, most of the other guys? I just wouldn't be interested today because I know who I am, I love who I am and I know what I deserve.
I want the women in my life to feel this, too. I want them to see themselves through my eyes, to see how lovely and intelligent and interesting they are, how much they are loved and deserve to be loved. That any person who does not treat them well does not deserve their affection or loyalty.
That they should choose themselves.
It took me a while, but I finally got it. That single realization has added richness and joy and sparkle to my life that it did not have before. I am happy. As I am. Some days are easier than others to feel that way, and on the yuckier days, I just think of all the things that make me grateful.
I don't *need* to be with someone. I can choose to share my life with someone, and that is infinitely more powerful for both of us.