When I think of relationships I think about the heartache of lovers passed, crying over a tub of Ben and Jerry’s at 3am and watching car crash TV until the wee hours in an attempt to occupy my mind. I think that love is as much of a physical experience as it is an emotional one, the feeling that your head is about to burst into a million pieces, the pleasant ache you feel when needing a partner’s touch or the broken heart that is often inevitable in the end.
Yet the more I thought about that one word, a word that is so heavy in meaning, the more I came to realise that often we often sacrifice the most important relationship in our lives – the relationship that we have with ourselves.
I guess that I’ve always had a difficult relationship with myself and in many ways it’s had more bumps than any of my previous romantic relationships. Sometimes we would be best friends and other times we sworn enemies; we’ve always called each other hurtful names – stupid, fat, ugly and so on.
t seems that when I’m on my own my internal relationship is stable, I accept who I am and often it’s a rather positive experience but the minute someone else comes into the equation it’s like all my self-respect goes out the window.
A few years ago I dated this guy who made it his mission to chip away at the confidence I had worked so hard to get. Things would happen and he’d make me feel like the worst person in the world, only for me to find out that he’d done something incredibly similar. He used to call me crazy, scold me for using my phone around him and make snide remarks about how I looked. Yet my damaged self-esteem reasoned that being with him was better than being on my own, so I often persuaded him that I would change, and that we shouldn’t end it because what we had was so good. I can see in hindsight that I was entirely wrong but he was like a bad drug and I couldn’t seem to escape.
Looking back I was forced to ask some difficult questions but one was more consistent and louder than any other: why was I so prepared to sacrifice so much of me for so little of him?
This relationship ended and it took me a while to get over the experience, but slowly my life got back to normality and that relationship became just another bump in the road. Since then I’ve come on leaps and bounds, my self-respect has grown rapidly and as a result my personal relationship has started to flourish.
This point was interestingly proven a few months ago when I met up with this person in an attempt for us to become friends. Things were fine at first but his agenda was then made rather clear as the evening progressed. He was buying me drink after drink and reassured me in to drinking the shots he bought. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable so I declined repeatedly and refused to give in to his constant demands. Of course when I addressed this to him, telling him I wasn’t interested, he insisted that it was my mind playing tricks on me and his hand creeping up my leg had been a friendly gesture and I must be ‘crazy’ to think otherwise. It felt good to have been the one to turn him down, to be able to say that it wasn’t what I wanted and that he no longer had that power over me.
But again it got me thinking: why are we often so concerned with external relationships that we are so quick to sacrifice the one we have with ourselves?
As a result of my own experiences, I have my own theory. Essentially, they band-aid the holes inside of us that we simply can’t seem to repair for ourselves. Being in a romantic relationship gives you that sense of security, it makes you feel that you are wanted, desired and loved. It’s easy to sidestep the insecurities when being reassured by someone who’s intimately close to us, someone who’s seen all there is to see. So when they leave us or threaten to do so, we are once again laid bare.
Growing up we are inundated with messages that promote these unhealthily perfect relationships and encourage us to aspire to these unreachable ideals. It’s a staple in our everyday lives, relationships being constantly forced down out throats – but how often are we taught to love ourselves? But then again, why would we be taught to love ourselves when there’s a multimillion pound industry based upon us doing just the opposite?
After the aforementioned relationship ended I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t get in to another relationship until I was entirely happy with myself. I’m not a massive fan of clichés – there’s fine line between a cliché and a stereotype – but occasionally they’re right, and none are quite as apt as this: no one will ever love you fully until you learn to love yourself.
These days I’m much kinder to myself and I’ve made a conscious effort to change the way I live my life; I’m not afraid to put myself first. When I don’t want to do something I can say no but on the flip side, I’m not afraid to say yes. I’ve acknowledged that I’m a human being and my mistakes are no bigger than those that anyone else might make. These little changes have allowed me to learn to love myself and to build a positive relationship with the person who matters most – me.
Yet the biggest change I made to my life was to realise that I’m okay on my own, and that I don’t need someone else to make me happy because I can do that myself. I don’t need someone else to point out my strengths because I’m more than capable of spotting them on my own. I’m thoughtful, creative, kind and determined; I love who I am and a fulfilling relationship with yourself is the best one you’re ever going to have.