“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit.” – Eartha Kitt
Last year on Valentine’s Day 2017, I found myself giving into the season and longing for love and I just was not comfortable with that feeling. I made it a mission to make myself more vulnerable and available to dating…but only met duds. Then I realized something. They mostly wanted me to come into their lives and somehow fix what was broken inside of them long before I stepped into the picture.
It felt as if they wanted to prove to themselves that no woman could really fix the storms society told them they had to live with in order to be considered “real men.” That it was on me to be patient with their brokenness and to live with the hope that one day they’ll become the person they told me they wanted to be, and the person I created in my head.
Instead, I fled. I left with the realization of what was truly happening. That many of us hate being single because we consider that time to be a drought devoid of love because there isn’t that other person around. We wait for relationships to do the healing and self-reflection that we should’ve done on our own.
So now we end up bringing in emotional baggage expecting our partners to love it away, but they suffer. Why do we do this? Why wait until someone comes along to say the things we should’ve said to a therapist on our own? Why postpone our healing? Why live with the fact we did them wrong forever?
It’s because we aren’t taught that self love is just as (or even more) important as mutual, romantic love. I wasn’t taught to love myself unconditionally, and for the majority of my life I did not. I was more comfortable beating myself up over little mistakes, past transgressions, and who I should’ve been by now if only I focused more. If only I studied more. If only I was more like them. If only I was more outgoing. If only, if only, if only.
And I too waited for lovers to validate me. But the problem was, they also had the power to remove that validation and reaffirm my insecurities. I don’t know about y’all but people could’ve told me something positive a thousand times but as soon as I heard that one negative statement, I knew it to be the actual truth. Everything said prior to that negative comment had to have just been flattery. That’s what I used to do to myself.
But living in misery just couldn’t be an option for me any more. Although I sought validation from others, it took my experiences of having to “prove” my ability to be someone’s lover/therapist/parent/spiritual counselor/cheerleader/punching bag to realize something.
All this energy I’m pouring into this unworthy person is the same energy I could redirect towards my own healing. Lord knows I needed it. I put on a great mask, but behind it I knew I was neglecting my truest needs. And I couldn’t wait for or depend on anyone to fix that for me, because the problem was that I was self-love deficient.
So I did the work. Internally, I checked that inner voice that was always quick to remind me of my ain’t-shitness. I made a habit to say that I loved myself aloud as much as possible. I traveled. I got massages. I ate out. I reconnected with friends and family. I did what I could, but it wasn’t an easy fix. Amidst all of that, my life was in still shambles.
Imagine trying to focus on loving yourself but you lose your job, home, and end up going broke and couch-surfing. I put on a great mask, but that was my life last year. At that moment, it felt like my only hope was to play my last card and move to Los Angeles. But how, Sway?
I remember the night I fought through suicidal thoughts in that motel room in Queens. The night I said “Man fuck this mask,” and alerted my friends online that I needed help. Self-love isn’t just about doing it all on my own, it’s about letting the people who’ve been down with me in.
And I did. I thought I would feel shame, but I was relieved and surprised that so many people cared about me. I was surrounded by all this platonic love and I never noticed. Because similar to self love, platonic love isn’t something we’re taught is just as important as romantic love. And in my final stretch in New York I tried to be a better friend to those who reached out to me that night. I haven’t felt as lonely since.
2017 was an emotional roller-coaster. Amazing and painful things happened to me simultaneously, but I survived and walked into the new year forever changed. It was the year that I transitioned into an adult, and I am proud of myself. I was on the edge of collapse more than once but somehow I didn’t break. And here I am today, still making it. Still growing strong daily.
This Valentine’s Day 2018 I’m not longing for love because it is both within and around me always. I love the little girl that I was once so cruel too, and tell her that we’re going to be just fine every day. I thank her for never leaving me. Who would I be without her carefree spirit? Without her imagination?
I love the woman that I am growing into, she’s no longer a mystery to me or a hope. There’s no more “One day, I’ll do this.” She doesn’t have time for that. As a teen in 2007, I told myself that it’d be a dream to live in L.A. and ten years later she made it come true.
I’ve learned sacrifice. I’ve gotten some W’s. So today, I’m choosing myself as my Valentine. I love myself unconditionally, even when I fuck up. I love that I’ll never really grow up and that I seem to inspire people around me. I love the people around me who don’t realize that they inspire me daily.
Romantic love is amazing and I can’t wait to experience it. But it is my responsibility to enter my next relationship with self-awareness and self-love. And I will attract someone who does the same, because more than anything I crave harmony. I’m becoming more comfortable in my skin and therefore more patient, I am enough.
Happy Valentine’s Day!