Have you contemplated the power of vulnerability? …by Allie Gold
The only thing that is worse than self-hatred is unrequited self-love. Unrequited self-love occurs when years of bullying vandalizes your heart and tears down your self-esteem until you sort of know that you’re able to love yourself but you are unable to reciprocate because you believe that you’re not worthy of such a love. Until this year, I couldn’t remember the last time I acted out of self-love. Thanks to a childhood filled with nasty nicknames and objects getting thrown at my face, I acquired quite the low level of satisfaction with myself. As a result, what was left of my self-esteem had been strategically concealed through several (I mean several) fleeting relationships on my end, which deterred me from sincerely loving myself and instead allowed me to briefly focus on others whom I thought were more deserving of love than I was. I did actually care about others, but I also cared in a way that provided a hefty self-negligence and ultimately, cynicism towards both parties.
My many ephemeral relationships were good while they lasted because I was only attracted to those who needed help, and so I never had to solve my own issues – only theirs. I enjoyed distracting myself from my self-hatred. And oh, their issues! You name it and they’ve experienced it, with me ineffectively pushing them to change. And it was never a question of whether my issues needed to be solved; in their eyes I was fine comparatively. It felt better to pretend to have my shit together than to actually have it together, and to get praised for it. I didn’t need or want myself to be vulnerable to them. My romantic interests covered all of the vulnerability bases in the relationship. Of course though, the relationships had to end sometime due to the poor functioning, or because the guy was an ass, and I was left drained and burdened still by my own problems.
Then one day I watched the fantastic TEDTalk by Brené Brown, which stresses the importance of vulnerability. In the presentation, she discusses her six years of research on vulnerability through qualitative data collection. One part of the talk really resonated with me: “There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.” She continues, “And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.”
So it was time to face the fact that I was really treating myself horribly and that I needed to become mindful and learn to love myself, or even learn how to do that. So for an entire month in 2013 I went through a self-cleanse to focus on myself. My communication with others weaned and I no longer engaged in conversations unless they were in person, via email (for work purposes), or through a phone call. I did not date anyone, or text my friends (well, I tried not to), or post on Facebook. I used email only when necessary and made some phone calls on occasion.
Well, let me tell you just a few of the things that I learned from one month of this mindful, semi-reclusive self-exploration:
- How to be single and LOVE it.
- My parents were right about several things.
- I’m allowed to be picky in terms of my relationships.
- How hard it is to truly change a habit.
- The collapse all/expand all button in Gmail exists (lots of email exchanges, and yes I realize I should have figured this out a long time ago).
- I can be a control freak.
- Meditation is a beautiful, much needed daily activity to promote clarity, grounding, and success.
- Malbec is always a good, safe red wine choice.
- Feeling gratitude can change your day. Take notes from this girl’s list of affirmations.
- Snapchat is just a whole new level of modern day communication.
- Most existential questions provide transient answers, and that I just had to get over the uncertainty of things.
- Everyone has hardships and we are all equals in that fact, regardless of how different (or similar) our hardships are or who holds their guard up more effectively to hide those hardships.
- How to learn to love myself more than others.
- iPhone’s Do Not Disturb feature is ridiculously underrated.
- How to accept vulnerability.
- How to accept imperfection and how to embrace it.
- I can’t just not text my friends for an entire month. That was just an aggressively asocial rule.
- “Boyfriends” are not the same as three-month long flings even if they tell you that they love you (eek, sorry).
And finally, I learned that I am worthy of love, like any other living thing in the world. The sun doesn’t choose to shine its rays on the Earth. It just does, and the Earth accepts it with biotic gratitude. I think love should be like that between two individuals, and also just for one. For years I had known what unrequited self-love feels like and it is by far the worst feeling in the world. Now, though, I promise to love myself forever, without question, without distractions.
There is a phrase in Japanese that the English language cannot truly translate: koi no yokan. This expression refers to the feeling that when two people first meet, they know that they will fall in love. This phrase is different than “love at first sight”, however, because it refers to the knowledge of the future love. There’s a kind of excitement that is experienced when you realize that you will fall in love, whether with yourself or with another being. It’s the feeling that something wonderful is going to happen and that potential has yet to be reached. Essentially, the best is yet to come. Can you imagine waking up every day to the thought that the best of you is yet to come? I can.
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