Why You Need to Love Yourself First

L-O-V-E. The word we all want to hear and the word that has us all completely confused and throwing our shit. Now, I don't normally talk about love—as many people don't—I just never felt like I could fully understand it enough to know what I love and who I love. Of course, I love my family, that's just a given regardless. However, the way we give love, receive it, reject it, and all of its forms has had me thinking a lot lately. You know, some people make it their goal to find love when love is already all around them. Our society has developed this idea that love is something we have to have at a certain point in our lives; you know to marry, make babies, and have a grand 'ol time? Well, the time has changed and love is changing, too. Especially our ideas of it.  

I want to disclaim that my growing and evolving "love story" is really new and I'm just learning as much as anyone else is about it. With that said, I've made it a point to be a bit vulnerable because talking about love is something that takes an open heart and I'm ready to share my thoughts with all of you. With it being the season of family and friends, the spirit of Christmas has definitely gotten me into the mood and what originally inspired me to write this. You could be rushing around getting last minute gifts or you could be rushing around trying to meet up with all the people that you care about—or both, who knows. All this time off and the holiday spirit definitely sparks a lot of repressed emotion and rekindled hearts that's for sure. 

You see, love is everywhere, whether we know it or not. Growing up I always found someone to crush on. There was always some boy that just caught my eye and unfortunately, it became a secret obsession. Not in like a creepy, gross way, but I looked forward to seeing my crushes pretty much every day in class to a point that my heart would sink if they were absent and I couldn't talk to them. You know, loving was so easy back then when you could just openly not give a shit about who or what was affected by it or judged. You could fearlessly walk up to said boy or girl and kiss them on the face and be girlfriend and boyfriend until one of you forgot you were girlfriend and boyfriend. As kids we never overthought situations and screwed up relationships, it was so much simpler.
As a 19-year-old, who has experienced flings and crushes with multiple guys, I'll be honest I really haven't gotten into any serious relationships. In my early elementary and middle school days, I knew I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend. However, I remember how strong I felt about some certain kids. There was one boy that I grew up with and haven't stopped wondering why things never worked out—we were really good friends that liked each other, but maybe my heart was in it more than his. My question is, do you really stop crushing on someone?

I feel like people we attract ourselves to, no matter if we get married to someone else, never really become "unattractive". Say, you see them at like a high school reunion and all the feels come back. Unless they did something remarkably wrong to you, I don't think the feeling really goes away. That back burner feeling of love is something I experience hardcore. When you know you need to move on—there are way more people out there you'll probably meet—but the back of your mind asks you "what if"? What if I did something differently or didn't say something I should have? Some people in your life will do that to you, I don't have a way of fixing it persay, no one really does, but I like to think that these people that strike us at a certain point in our lives are important and won't be forgotten. With all the happy memories or experiences we have with them, they came into our life when we needed them most.

I get the feeling in my gut, when I know I could be putting myself out there more, making moves and meeting people, but parts of me (the cheesy parts) believe that there is this one person that'll come into my life and want to stay. Isn't that what all hopeless romantics want? But, I'm not hopeless is the thing. I have wasted so much time with boys. Yes, there have been great guys that have come into my life at some point (I'm still young folks), but the time I wasted dwelling on them and second-guessing myself sucked and I was blind. I guess that's what the L-word does to yuh.

Don't get me wrong, I'm open to love and desire it. Like many people do. Family and having close friends around me is something I want present in my life all the time, but that also doesn't mean I want to settle for someone just to have it. I've heard that at 30 everyone settles down and just commits to the person they're dating because "time is running out," but I crave a love so honest and true that I will for sure know, no matter my age, that this person is worthy of staying (okay that was hella cheesy). I guess that's what dating is for, and since I've only been on dates, I can't really advocate for a committed relationship. I've made myself guilty for not creating experiences like that; discovering what commitment is like, getting my heart broken in ways that make me so incredibly frustrated or miserable, knowing how to trust and confide in someone, and to just be fully vulnerable and willing to do anything for another person.
A reason for me not dating a ton of boys in my teens probably is from the innate self-respect I give myself. I've lived through my friends' relationships to know that while there are great things that come with relationships and ship-names, there's also a lot of shit that happens. Maybe I've just avoided it all together when I was younger because I knew that I would graduate school and not want to deal with the breakups, or that I just couldn't be happy with one guy, or just never really understood how it all "worked". I also don't think this avoidance and overly self-respected mindset I have comes out of fear. I just know I deserve better. I don't think I was that innocent either, as having an older sister has worked in my benefit, but I got my first kiss this year and it happened just the way I wanted it to. Not forced, not awkward, just great :) And if that guy is reading this, I just want you to know that I'm thankful it was you.

So yeah, as I dreamed I would have many relationships and dating experience, it all kind of started this year. Really fast, too. I get into some really weird stages where I just put myself out there a ton and nothing happens and then when I'm not making the effort, someone just magically appears out of nowhere. It's funny how when you're so focused on yourself and your own groove, someone notices you. Whether it be at a coffee shop, random Tinder match, library, classroom, or anywhere else. It seemed as though when I worried about everyone else around me, nothing I wanted was happening. It was forced and pressured. Something that sounds selfless actually does us a disfavor because when we obsess over trying to control ulterior situations; relationships, families, etc., it actually hinders other people from being able to reach you. Wow, Nat, you're a true philosopher now. No, I just have a lot of emotions and it's really late at night.

The rut of comparison and compulsive obsessing over your relationship status eats you whole. I continue to rethink decisions I've made or never did in my past. I've revisited old friends and it always reveals the same shitty thing I hate—moving on. Yeah, times were great with this one person, but that was ten years ago. Times have changed and that person probably wants to move on as much as you don't. It's cliché, but things happen for a reason. Maybe that one guy didn't deserve you and you just opened up more doors and probably will find an even better dude in like a month, who knows? Why worry so much? I'm no love expert, clearly, but a lot of what I've come to realize is that living in the past does nothing for us and you need to leave that shit where it belongs. Okay, so when do we get to the "loving ourselves first" part? 
If you've delved into lovey-dovey self-help books and articles on how to find "true love," there's probably a thing or two about why we can't love someone until we love ourselves first. I mean, we have to know how to live with ourselves for what, 80 or so years? I think loving ourselves is hard. There's a lot to not love about ourselves right? You know, your flaws and all you think about when you look in the mirror every morning? Who doesn't have those thoughts because I would love to know. I have always struggled with my self-perception; who I want to be, what I want to say, look like, who I want to associate with, what I want to learn, what I already know, all of it. Self-reflection is not easy, but acknowledging and observing these thoughts is a start. I don't even know if I "love" myself. 

Jen Sincero's self-help book called, You Are a Badass, gives some guidelines as to how someone as badass as yourself can go on living the most badass life. I would highly recommend it to everyone. What struck me the most was that after almost all of her chapters, "love yourself," was repeated over and over. It was a reminder that there's only so much you can do to improve your life, but what it all comes down to is how YOU see yourself and love it for what it is, flaws and shit included. We are always striving for the better, the best, the greatest. We want things we can't have. We are so stuck in the past and the future that we can't appreciate what we've got in the present. Whether it be a lover or not because honey, you were always your own lover. Your mom, dad, sister, brother, dog, best friend, old high school buddies, grandma, third cousin, aunt, uncle, and everyone else present in your life probably loves you as much as you need to love yourself.

Loving yourself looks different to everyone. To me, it means accepting all those bad things that happen to you, acknowledging those that care about you and respecting them, respecting yourself and your body, letting yourself feel emotion and be vulnerable, allowing yourself to let go of what and who doesn't serve you anymore, rewarding yourself for things you should be proud of, knowing that you have the ability to change and grow, and lastly, knowing you don't need no man to make your life "complete". There are more I could list, but I think you get the point by now. This isn't a pep talk for sad, broken hearts. It's for people like me who have so much love to give, but the last person we think of giving it to is ourselves.

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