How many times have you honestly been in love? I mean, honestly. For me, it’s once. I met my boyfriend when we were fresh out of college at the age 21. At 22, we officially decided to begin a relationship together and now, three years later, at the age of 25, I’m still very much in love him. But there’s a caveat. Despite the fact that we make each other happy and have an insanely strong bond, we recently decided to part ways. Stupid? I hope not. The decision was rooted in the need for us to make sure we’re genuinely whole and complete within ourselves as individuals before we continue growing together as a unit (which we hope to do in the future). And frankly, only space and time allow for that kind of serious growth. Though it’s hard not to be communicating with and seeing my best friend in the ways that I’m used to, I don’t plan on letting this time be without a serious foundational change.
Admittedly, before our recent breakup, I had been thinking a lot about the whole concept of self-love. Not in the typical, you have to love yourself first before you can love someone else, kind of way, but a little differently. Let me explain what I mean.
When I think of my boyfriend, I unabashedly think he is one of the most wonderful people in the entire world. Literally. I believe that anyone would be lucky to know him, have him as a friend, or be loved by him. And any person that consciously didn’t want to be in his life? Well, that person is just plain stupid and missing out on something special. I have this unwavering confidence in his abilities and intelligence and wholeheartedly believe that whatever it is he wants to accomplish, he can do it without question. He is a genuine, honest person that yes, has flaws and shortcomings, but is still one of the greatest people I have ever met.
But as these very thoughts lingered through my head not too long ago, I realized something that really struck me: I don’t nearly have this same kind of passion, conviction, or unwavering advocacy when I think of myself. I am wildly in love with my boyfriend, but not in love with me. And that bothers me.
Clearly, my sense of self-worth and self-perception is not as strong as it should and could be. Do I believe in my abilities? Sure. But not without doubt or reservation first. Do I think I’m a wonderful person that exudes kindness and loyal friendship? Absolutely. But I feel like if other people don’t see that about me—especially those that I really want to—it begins to tamper with my self-esteem and I begin to worry more about how others are perceiving me rather than what I know to be true about myself.
Arguably, there are many factors that affect how we see ourselves: the media, our upbringing, the people we spend our time with, our relationship and friendship experiences, and a host of other things. And that’s certainly something to be talked about. But right now, in this very transitional time in my life, I’m not so much worried about how this came to be, but how I can fix it. And the first step to fixing anything is admitting something needs to be changed.
So as I process my many feelings about this breakup and figure out exactly who I am and want to be as an individual, I’m going to use this solo time to unequivocally fall in love with myself. Not in a childish or narcissistic way, but genuinely. The kind of in love where I’m so proud to be who I am and wholeheartedly believe in my beauty, inside and out. The kind of in love where I fully know my value and worth regardless of anyone else’s inability or unwillingness to see it. The kind of in love where I’m comfortable being my own best friend and feel lucky that I have such a good one. And finally, the kind of in love where I don’t look to others for validation that I’m strong, full of potential, and wholly capable of accomplishing every goal that I have and more, but instead I find that purely within myself. That way, when I think of how many times I’ve honestly been in love in the future, I can include myself on that list. We all should.
Kiara Hall is a proud millennial and a firm believer in the power of storytelling to share knowledge, inspire ideas, and foster change. Passionate about the discussion of social, economic, and political issues on a national and global scale—especially those relating to women and girls—she’s a blossoming writer that aspires to create meaningful content to contribute to that space.