(Excerpted from The Path, by Michelle Devon, Copyright 2006)
While at the grocery store, in line in front of me was a very attractive woman, who looked as though she had been crying, and on the conveyor belt in front of her was a 1/2 gallon of ice cream, Soap Opera Digest and TV Guide. She reached over and picked up a pack of gum as an afterthought and that’s when I could see how very sad she appeared. I overhead her talking on her cell phone to a friend about how she and her boyfriend had just broken up.
I have a friend who cannot find anything in her life to bring her pleasure unless she has a love interest in her life, but then none of them ever seem to work out quite the way she wants. She gets very down on herself when each new relationship fails.
In fact, most of my single friends seem to always be on the make, looking for the next ‘The One’ with whom to share their life. They usually end up disappointed with each new venture into the relationship pool. I know a few people who are so afraid of being alone with themselves that they move from one relationship to another, never truly investing anything of their true selves into the relationship, and finding someone to move on to before they risk the chance of ending up alone.
When you don’t like yourself, it’s hard to be alone with yourself, isn’t it?
I played that game too for awhile, going swimming in the deep end of the relationship pool, looking for something outside of myself to make me ‘complete’ or ‘happy’, only to be disappointed time and again when I could not find it. Perhaps that’s why, even though I’ve had the opportunity in the past to marry, and even though I’ve had some serious relationships, I never quite allowed myself to fully commit to a relationship before now. I think I have finally figured it all out, at least for me.
I know, beyond a shadow of any doubt, no matter what happens in my life, in my love relationships, even if I end up completely single, I will never be that woman at the grocery store buying ice cream to drown my sorrows, waiting for the next ‘The One” to come along.
Why? Let me see if I can explain it to you.
From a very young age, I spent my life trying hard to please other people. What others thought of me was important, and my self worth came from other’s opinions. It shouldn’t be this way, but I know this is how I lived my life for many years, starting with my parents, then my friends, and then working my way through all my adult relationships.
I found myself, when alone, once I’d dealt with the loss of a relationship, truly liking who I was, where I was heading, and what I was doing.
At the core of who I am, I am strong, confident, secure in myself. But then the next love interest would come along. He would like what he saw in me, the strength, the confidence, the security. As soon as we would become a couple, for whatever reason, I tossed all of that aside to be what they wanted me to be.
No, that’s not accurate. The core of who I am was tossed aside to be what I thought he wanted me to be, and not necessarily what he actually wanted. I tried my best to always do or be what I thought the other wanted, so much so that I would often lose my own identity in the process. Then when I discovered I was not successful in being what I thought he wanted, I would take a hit to myself worth. I would let that ‘failure’ affect my image of myself. I’d shut down emotionally, completely.
Then, when someone would tell me they loved me, I could easily disregard that. I would not, could not believe it, or truly feel it in my soul, because I would always know inside of me that if they only knew the real me, they wouldn’t love me.
Yet, I could never show the real me, because to do so would mean to put myself at risk of being rejected, not for who he thought I was, but for who I truly am.
I don’t think I could have handled that rejection of the core of who I am, so a part of who I am had always been locked away, kept safe from the danger of being rejected, and I refused to truly ‘be myself’ with anyone.
Until an event in my life changed all that and put a lot of things into perspective for me… one of those life altering, pivotal moments that come very few times in a lifetime, the kind that really makes you open your eyes and take stock of not only where you have been, but also where you are and where you are going.
Somewhere in that soul searching, pivotal moment, I found myself. I was locked away somewhere I thought was safe, somewhere deep inside of me, hidden even from my own probing. When I allowed ‘me’ to meet myself again, for the first time in a long time, I realized, “Hey, I like who I am… not who I want others to think I am, not how someone else sees me, not what anyone else wants, but the core of who I am. I like myself!”
I’ve always liked me, at the core, but I haven’t always been able to bring that out and just be myself with others.
Now that I’ve learned to do that, to open myself up and share the core of who I am with others, I am happy. And now, if someone says they love me, I can know that it is truly me they love and not this image of myself I portrayed while the real me was locked deep inside.
And if someone doesn’t like me, then I simply dismiss that as the incompatibility that it is, knowing that my self worth is still in tact, because my self worth comes from inside of me, and not from anything outside.
Yes, once a met myself, hidden away in the dark for so long, I learned that I do like me. There’s so much I wanted to do and have for myself that I am no longer willing to give up or change for someone else. I realize now that anyone who truly loves me and wants to be a part of my life would never ask me to change who I am, neither would they expect me to be something I am not simply to please them.
And that, my dear friends, is what I realized is missing in so many people’s lives—that feeling of truly being content and dare I say even happy with who you are.
Only when you are okay with who you are and truly happy with your life can you possibly hope to share that with someone else and find happiness together when you finally take a dive into the deep end of the relationship pool with another. In fact, no one can truly love you, completely, the way you deserve to be loved unless you can love yourself first, because otherwise, you’ll never understand and fully appreciate the depth of the love that can be shared, because you’ll always think in the back of your mind, “If they only knew the real me…”
If you are one of the lucky ones, then you are a person who knows your own worth and loves and respects yourself as much as you do your partner. If you don’t have a partner, and you truly love yourself, then you will be happy, even if there is no love interest in your life.
But for the rare few who can have both—love for yourself and the love of and for another—then you are truly blessed.
There’s been a shift in my life, and I can honestly say that I am happy, with myself, with my relationships, with my family, with my career—just happy in general. That doesn’t mean things are perfect in my life, far from it. I wouldn’t want it to be perfect, because I love the challenge and sometimes love the fight, but behind everything, there is this feeling of knowing I am finally moving in the right direction. My attitude is positive, my outlook is optimistic, and I’m having fun doing the most ordinary things… why?
Because I’m okay with me!
It’s contagious too, infectious even. When I am happy, it seems everyone around me is in a better mood. Not just from those closest to me, but everyone I touch during a day. The service I’ve received at stores and restaurants has been exceptional. Everyone around me seems to smile and be kind.
Before I met myself again, I had moments of happiness that appeared similar to this type of contentment, but behind it all, I wondered how long it would last—waiting for the ball to drop, and everything to fall apart again. Once I was reacquainted with myself, somehow, I know this time it is different, because I am different.
I am me again. And I like myself.
I create my own reality. I am the master of my own destiny. No one and nothing can change my mood, attitude, emotions, thoughts, feelings or opinions without my express permission to do so. I will never allow anyone else to have that much control over me again. I share myself now rather than give myself up to another. You see, it’s not about controlling others, because you never will control someone else completely. It’s not about someone else being in control of you either.
It’s all about being in control of yourself, self aware, and not allowing anyone else to influence you or cause you to change who you are. No one can make you feel anything you don’t allow.
You choose. It’s that simple. You call the shots.
If there’s one thing I own, one thing that is truly mine that no one can take from me or change, it is what I choose to feel inside of me. I’m fortunate enough to have people in my life now who understand and respect that, but it hasn’t always been this way. I learned also through this process that I get to choose who is and is not in my life too.
When is the last time you met yourself, truly sat down and had a good, long, hard look at who you really are?
Why don’t you do that now? Find yourself, meet yourself, talk to yourself, and learn to truly love you for who you are.
Don’t look at who influences you. Don’t look at how others expect to see you. Look at the core of who you are and fall in love with yourself.
Then, when you do, think about the people you love in your life. What would you want for them? The very best, right? Well, when you love yourself, you should only want the very best for you too. In each new venture, each new friendship, each new relationship, look at it as though you are outside of yourself and ask, “If this were happening to someone I love, would I want this for them?” If you love yourself, then you would treat yourself with the same respect and admiration you would another whom you loved.
After all, you deserve that.