My first memory of love interest happened on a bench swing. His name was Robert, and I was almost positive things were progressing in the right direction, as it was our third play date. I scooted right up next to him, looked him in the eye and with all the enthusiasm I could muster, exclaimed: “HUBBA HUBBA!” I was five years old, adorable, and just couldn’t grasp why poor Robert looked frightened and our mother’s wide-eyed. Can’t a girl just express how she feels?
I went on to experience the terribly awkward first kiss, the classic high-school heartbreak, and in college, a slew of whom my roommate referred to endearingly as the single file line of “suitors.” Casual dating was a completely foreign concept to me, one of which I was willing to try out. My incredibly low self-esteem coupled with extreme people pleasing turned my casual dating into serial dating.
I have this theory that dog owners always tend to resemble their dogs. I started to resemble whomever I was seeing at the time. You love outdoors? I’ve camped my whole life. You’re on a spiritual journey? Great, take me on it. You play football? Sports! I love ‘em! My chameleon tendencies reflected my desperate plea for affirmation from the opposite sex, as I watched my identity slip right through my fingertips. The inability to say no landed me in uncomfortable and downright scary situations. It became apparent that I couldn’t be alone, because being alone meant having to be content with myself.
Once I gathered up the courage to look inward, I saw all the things I’d compromised to feel worthy. Rather than being engulfed with shame, I was propelled to action. Change was in order, and so I commenced a one-year dating hiatus; dedicated to spend quality time with one person I’d neglected for too long… myself. Although it began with a “Don’t Need No Man” mentality and a lot of Beyoncé on my Spotify queue, I quickly learned it wasn’t about feeling vindictive or resentful towards the male species. I disliked the person I became around them, and was on a mission to reclaim my lost self. I have to tell you, my time consciously choosing to be alone was worth every fleeting moment of loneliness I felt.
Please understand, this time wasn’t spent stocking up on turtleneck sweaters or moving myself into a convent. Rather, it was spent practicing saying “No” to filling voids and instead saying, “Yes” to living and loving wholeheartedly.
If we can inherently believe our worth without compromise, our wounds will heal and we will move forward with dignity. You may feel trapped and voiceless but remember, you are the one holding the key to escape it.
Whether you’re single or dating, casual or serious, kindly remind yourself:
Don’t lose your voice.
Don’t rush what you’re not ready for.
Be aware of red flags. Stick to your gut.
Relish alone time.
Stay uncomfortable. Try new things. It is sure to produce growth.