Understanding the importance of self love doesn’t mean you know how to do it. If you’re struggling to put self love into practice, you’re probably still clinging to a fantasy-based story that’s blocking you from accessing the real thing.
In the first days after my latest heartbreak, I spent more time being angry than crying. When you find out something wasn’t what you thought it was, it’s easier to go numb and let the power emotions take over instead of losing yourself in a pity party.
But I did have my moment. It happened on my mother’s red couch while Thanksgiving holiday preparations were taking over the kitchen.
“Haaay!” my mother entered the living room in her typical gregarious fashion. “When are you starting those sweet potatoes?”
I looked up with watery eyes that queued her to take a seat beside me. She put her arms around me and let me sob.
“It’s okay to grieve,” she reminded me.
“I know,” I said. “But this is really big. It’s about what I lost, but so much more, too.”
I had just gotten slapped in the face with what I perceived as another prince charming turned bad-dream experience. And it killed whatever was left of my attachment to the ideal love story so many of us waltz around with in our culture.
“No man is ever coming to save me and make all the bad stuff go away,” I said. “He doesn’t exist. I have to do it myself.”
I was never one of those girls who grew up planning my wedding and swooning over what my future husband might be like. But I did grow up with all those pre-Frozen Disney princesses and an imaginary, romanticized version of what our culture says love between a man and a woman looks like.
Since the age of 16, I assumed love would be hot, heavy, and happily ever after. It would make me feel special, safe, and happy. Over the years I found versions of that ideal with several men, except it never lasted. The real-world movie always ended with me either disillusioned or brokenhearted, on the ground trying to find the strength to stand and walk forward again.
Once you go through that cycle enough, you learn. You realize you have to take prince charming out of the equation and stay grounded on your own two feet instead of allowing yourself to be carried.
That’s a powerful paradigm to give up. Losing it feels like death.
Until this latest cycle, I’ve viewed self love as something I do to help me heal and get me through to the next man. Now I’m realizing that I have to master self love consistently and indefinitely if I want to live with strength, stability, and joy.
That’s a tough shift.
I’m used to having my person, and now that I don’t, I’m having to face some uncomfortable realities. My reflexive coping mechanisms are ignoring, numbing, and distracting. That’s so much easier than facing, feeling, and moving through.
I can’t do it all at once. Instead, I’m trying to tip the scales toward self love through small, daily actions. Taking just one step—journaling, cooking a meal, spending time in nature—helps me practice taking care of myself rather than waiting for someone else to do it for me.
I’m not going to lie: I spend a significant amount of time feeling lonely and frustrated. But I have hope that my practice will pay off. I also have faith that with time I’ll start attracting friends and romantic partners who compliment me rather than complete me. I’m clearing space for a new reality to form and allowing myself to have a different experience.
What does it feel like to be here right now, without the thought of your future self in that ideal relationship you’ve always imagined? What would change if you were to give up that fantasy and accept the reality of today?