By: Janna Adams
I would consider myself an emotionally mature person. By emotionally mature I mean I can mostly keep myself from crying over inspiring youtube videos. Sometimes. If it involves young girls promoting self-love count me out.
The last revelation of post-college in my findings thus far is my emotional growth. Since starting college, I have been in two semi-long term relationships. The first started my senior year of high school and lasted about a year, fizzling out in the middle of my freshman college experience. The second has been going strong since the start of my sophomore year, and he’s still sticking around to this day (props to him). It’s the difference I have found in myself throughout these two relationships that really astounds me, however.
When my first relationship fell apart, I fell apart. You can ask my friends, I was miserable for months on end. I was not fun to be around. I was sad, in a lot of ways. I had invested myself in that relationship, and when it ended, I lost myself. Looking back, I was very pale in my self-love. I gathered every ounce of self-respect from my then-boyfriend: he made me feel good, he made me think I was cool, pretty, unique, worthy of love. I was not loving myself, I was loving my relationship with another person. It wasn’t healthy, and I wasn’t healthy emotionally. In my opinion, you can tell a lot about the maturity of yourself in a relationship after that relationship ends.
Fast forward to now, and I feel like I’ve been through the ringer. My boyfriend and I are different, so different. We had different upbringings, different ways of going about our lives, and different personal beliefs about certain issues. We “broke up” a couple of times (if by breaking up you mean not texting for a few days and then crying about how you miss each other a lot) but never really separated. At the beginning of the relationship, I felt prepared to love another person again, but I was only beginning to understand how to love myself.
Here’s the issue: I did not know how important loving yourself is to being happy. Let me define loving yourself for a second. Loving yourself is accepting yourself, not expecting too much of yourself, understanding your flaws as well as your strengths, being comfortable with yourself and by yourself, being content in who you are and coming to the realization that you are not completed by another person. That last point is a big one (note the italicization). Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t get that. I didn’t come out of the womb independent enough to not think “love” was a synonym for “crutch,” and I think a lot of us struggle with such a concept.
Hear this: it is not fair of you to consider your significant other to be what makes you whole. It is not fair to you; it is not fair to your significant other, it is not fair to your family, your friends, the people who love you, it is not fair to anyone. You are you despite anyone else. I don’t care if you meet your soulmate, your literal other half, someone you cannot believe you have ever lived without, you need to be content in yourself before you give your love to another person.
I’m not in any way saying that losing love should be viewed as trivial. It is horrendous. Whether it’s a break up, a loss of life, a mutual split, it will rip you apart inside. But what I needed to know is that grieving and mourning and being sad is healthy when you experience lost love, but it is not a lifestyle you are required to adopt after you lose someone. You are allowed to carry on, you should carry on. You are not less of a person just because the love you gave someone else is over. It may make you a different person, a person with more experiences, who has seen more hurt and pain than you would have preferred, but it does not make you incapable of self-love.
The progress I’ve made emotionally is probably the part of my post-college self that I am proudest of. I like who I am, and although I still experience my (very) fair share of self-doubt and insecurities, my personality is bangin’ and I know it. I’m a cool person, I am hilarious and intelligent and I try to keep my self-confidence solid by telling myself things like this. We all struggle with harshness inside of us that whispers we aren’t worth anything. Yell back that you are, and then go watch a Dove Beauty commercial and cry your eyes out. You can thank me later.