DISCLAIMER: yes, this is a mushy Valentine's Day post about love
I unexpectedly met my boyfriend my sophomore year of college. I say unexpectedly because I was in no way, shape, or form, looking for a serious relationship or anything that resembled it. In fact, the first time we met, I was actually in between situationships convincing myself that serious monogamy did not exist in college. But that's the thing about convictions, the moment we're sure we're right, our experiences tend to transform our perspective in its entirety.
With that being said, a few days after moving into my first apartment in Philadelphia, my best friend / roommate and I decided that we would celebrate our new space and her birthday simultaneously by throwing a party. The day of the party I found myself rushing around trying to accommodate guests, unpack the last of my belongings, AND make sure that my best friend had the happiest birthday. In the midst of all this, my now-boyfriend and I kept making eye contact with each other so I decided to say something. Shortly after introducing myself, I found out that we were both from D.C. and that our dads grew up with each other.
The night progressed, and he eventually left without saying good bye, but not before leaving his business card on my kitchen counter. Admittedly, I thought this was an extremely corny move on his end, but something urged me to text him anyway, and well... the rest is history.
After dating for a while, it was clear that I had feelings for him and that I was taking our relationship pretty seriously. From the moment we went on our first date, he treated me like a literal princess and although this was the treatment I had always dreamed of receiving, I still found myself never really quite content or satisfied. I could not put my finger on it, but something was definitely missing.
From the outside looking in, everything seemed fine. I should have been the happiest girl in the world, but I kept convincing myself that I was undeserving of this type of love and happiness. I kept convincing myself, for whatever reason, that this did not happen to girls like me.
Too often when the concepts of self-image and self-esteem are discussed, only two extremes are presented -- the people who love themselves so much that it's considered unhealthy, and the people who have little to no love for themselves at all. But as with many things represented in the media, I was unable to see myself represented in either extreme.
So where exactly did I fall on the self-love spectrum? A few years ago if somebody would've asked me if I loved myself, the answer would have been absolutely, however that wasn't the truth or at least not the whole truth. See the thing is, I only loved parts of myself, the parts that did not expose my imperfections, the parts that did not force me to be introspective. Because of my inability to love all of myself, I would actively self-sabotage my relationship along with many other aspects of my life.
It wasn't until the spring of 2016, after making it out of one of my darkest moments, that I was able to realize that I was worthy and deserving of all things good, including but not limited to a healthy relationship.
Although I am still very much on a journey of actively loving myself (because it honestly never ends), I would like to share 3 things with you that I have come to know thus far:
1) it's not easy - peeling through all of your layers and forcing yourself to be introspective can be difficult, and sometimes jarring, however all of those layers and dimensions make you unique and it is important to embrace that.
2) be willing to do the dirty work - of course it's easy to love all the good things about yourself, who doesn't? but real self-love is about identifying the things you don't love about yourself and finding healthy ways to address them.
3) be realistic - just because you've declared your love of self doesn't mean that everyday forward will be sunshine and flowers. there will be days that may seem dark, but life is all about balance + duality. Through love, you are light, and light cannot exist without darkness. accept the contrast.
While my relationship is far from perfect and we definitely still have our days, I am now more happy and content than I have ever been before. I feel love now more than ever and I know that I am so deserving of it all.
So on this Valentine's Day, as you celebrate love with that special someone, or a friend, or maybe even yourself, I encourage you to do the dirty work and be introspective and learn to love all parts of yourself. The love you're looking for, whether it be romantic or platonic, will externalize once it's internalized.