Some people come by a sense of self naturally. They just know that they are worthy of love, respect, and happiness, and they own it. This has never been me. I've had to fight and claw and scratch my way to this understanding, and after 39 years of being alive, I'm finally getting to a place where I have balance more days than not. Truth be told, I still struggle with voicing my needs, especially when I feel like my needs inconvenience someone else. But, here's the thing, my needs matter, and so do yours.
Stuffing your feelings down and suppressing your voice to avoid rocking the boat or to make someone else happy will always backfire in the end, trust me. Either you end up miserable and quietly resentful, or you explode at some unspecified, and most likely inopportune, moment in the future. There absolutely is a such thing as compromise, but please don't confuse compromise with shoving your needs down the garbage disposal. You matter, and what you want matters too.
I can't think of a better way to illustrate my point than the relationship between me and my husband. I love that man - like would fight rabid badgers for him. He really is my best friend and my soulmate and all that jazz BUT we both have some serious baggage from past traumas and sometimes we come up against that shit hard. We both have a tendency to shut down and curl up inside ourselves stewing on our resentment when faced with the prospect of actually voicing our needs out loud. And I, in particular, tend to take every sigh or brow furrow or slight intonation of frustration as a personal assault on my character. So, when I really want a nice long scalp massage and he exhales, I just say never mind and walk away assuming that I'm a horrible burden (very melodramatic I know). But the thing is, I really wanted a scalp massage. And the next time he asks me for anything, like a back scratch or a sandwich, I comply because I really do love him, but I've still got the lingering resentment of never getting my scalp massage.
And he's such a night owl, and I'm totally a morning person and when I'm waking up he's still happily asleep and visa versa. So when he wants to chat about all the things that are important to him, I just want to go to sleep, and the resentment builds. Two people who love each other, building up a volcano that could burn the house down, and for what? I mean really. He's my best friend (and my very sexy husband), why don't we just communicate? Because, years of trauma and cultural bias have taught us that love is suppressing what you want to make someone else happy. For me especially, it's the still small voices that whispers "You're not worthy. You're not important. You don't deserve love." And so, instead of compromise, I shove my needs down the garbage disposal and give him whatever I think he wants because isn't that love?
No, still small voice, that is not love, that's something more akin to masochism. Because the truth is, I am worthy, my needs are important, and I do deserve love (and so does he and so do you). Loving yourself, loving someone else means being honest. It means standing up for yourself and communicating what makes you happy and what doesn't. It means respecting yourself enough to believe that you have a right to speak up, and if the other person respects you too, they will listen. And if they don't, to hell with them. They aren't worthy of you.
Your voice is precious. Don't give it up for anyone. And when someone else speaks, give them the same courtesy. Protect your fellow humans. Because we are all deserve to be heard.
You are not half...
When I was little, I dreamed of weddings and flowers and a handsome princes as much as the next girl, but my mom gave me a beautiful gift. She encouraged me to be strong and independent, "Go to college, have fun, live your life, find yourself and then find someone you love to share it with." I didn't properly appreciate that admonishment as a teenager. I saw all the girls around me wearing make up and growing into their bodies and building a shrine to Valentine's Day and boys who bought them gifts or held their hands between classes. And neither of my dads gave me a good example of how a spouse should treat their partner. I was adrift in a sea of teenage angst wearing combat boots and blue lipstick with my dresses. I never wanted to fit in or be popular, but I did want to be loved. I wanted so badly to find my other half. My soul mate. The one person who marched to the beat of the same drum.
I settled a lot, and put up with shit that I really shouldn't have, on my search, but props to mom's wisdom, because I never stopped being me. I was a girl with goals, and passion, and great big dreams, and I'll be damned if I was going stop wearing polyester pants and pink flamingo bowling shirts for anyone. So much internal conflict. What was wrong with me? Where was this person that was going to complete me? It took me years to realize what some people still haven't. I AM NOT HALF. And you are not half either.
We are complex, diverse, amazing very whole human beings all on our own. Much to my chagrin, mom's right about this too. We don't have to get married or have kids or a white picket fence to be complete. If you feel like something is missing, I promise it's not a mate.
Sure, we can desire companionship, and love, and sex, but none of this really means anything if we can't love ourselves first. In the immortal words of RuPaul, "If you can't love yourself, then how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?"
Believe me, I have been through my share of shitty relationships to figure this out. I'm allowed to blog, podcast, travel, party, make money, have adventures and absolutely love my life with or without a partner. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise, because they're probably trying to sell you something. The media is great at this especially for women. Our culture has traditionally given the same one size fits all step ladder to every little girl. Be desirable and socially normative so you can get married and raise a family.
But what about the other million possibilities? What about women who don't want to get married and settle down? The ones who would love to find a partner but haven't met them yet? The ones who want kids but can't have them? The ones who have loved and lost? Are they somehow less than? Sad, derelict ships endlessly sailing with no safe harbor?
Absolutely not. Because you are whole and worthy of loving yourself, of divine love (however you interpret it), and of all your dreams. It took me years to realize this and truly embrace it, but I'm eternally grateful that I did, because when I got married to the most amazing human being at the age of 32, I was a whole person sharing my life with another whole person. And I didn't settle, or give up who I am, I shared the life I already loved with the person I loved and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Creating my own sunshine 🌞