The Art of Self-Love
A month before my 16th birthday, I was pressured into having sex. My then-boyfriend impatiently reminded me that he had waited for me for almost a year and if I wasn’t ready to be with him sexually, he would be left with no choice but to get it somewhere else. He had needs.
The first time I was ever touched was in the back of a cheap movie theater. The seats scratched my skin, and theater #7 smelled of stale popcorn and the floors were syrupy and sticky from spilled Icee’s. The Count of Monte Cristo was humming in the background. I wasn’t ready!
At 16, I was called a stupid b*tch with such force, spit from his rage sprinkled my face. Compliments and endearment was reserved for pretty girls, or at least that’s the conclusion I arrived at as I watched him affectionately tease other girls in my face. I wasn’t the most physically attractive girl. I was awkwardly shaped and too nerdy to puzzle fit with the popular kids. Honestly, I should be grateful he paid me any attention, even if it was only behind closed doors. I lowered my head and took verbal lashings frequently.
At 17, I was slapped across my face so hard that I saw stars. Why did I always have to have the last word?
At 18, I finally found the one. That was until I realized I was in a monogamous relationship with a man who spent our time apart laying in the heat of other women. That was my fault. Evidently, I wasn’t giving him all that he needed or else he wouldn’t feel the need to bed other women.
Over-saturated with untold stories of men who didn’t know the first thing about how to properly love a woman, my dating diary became wrinkled from my tears. Adjusting well to mistreatment, I justified each and every one of their actions by saying things like, “He was a spectator of domestic abuse in his home, so he only knows how to communicate his frustration and rage through physical violence. I can help him!” Or, “His father abandoned his mother, so no one taught him how to be gentle with a woman. I can help him!” “He seeks the praise and admiration of women because growing up, no one ever gave him the attention he needed to feel whole. I can help him!”
The truth was that my self-esteem was so shattered that I couldn’t even help myself!
The recurrent factor in all of my relationships was me. I was a young woman so desperate for love, that I was willing to subject myself to ill-treatment to have it. So far removed from what it meant to have self-love, I made myself an easy target for egotistical, self-hating, masochistic men.
Stripped of my self-confidence, I showed up less and less of a woman with each new relationship. When love for self is non-existent, your willingness to subject yourself to unfavorable love affairs significantly increases. Having emerged a new woman on the other side of self-loathing, I know how extraordinary love can be when you first love yourself.
What does a relationship look like when self-love is present?
You don’t beg for the things that should be given willingly.
When you do not have benevolence for your own heart, you carelessly invite non-empathetic lovers into your life. These individuals will exploit your insecurities and toy with your emotions simply because they can. You may find yourself asking questions like, “Why would you do me like that? Why can’t you just be faithful? What did I do to deserve this?”
In a relationship where there is self-love, you rarely ever find yourself begging for respect. Your level of confidence sets the tone for your lover. Your partner knows that you are unwilling to compromise your sanity or your dignity for the sake of a relationship. This gives them two choices: either do right or get gone. Simple!
Forgiveness is extended to the worthy, not the careless.
Ntozake Shange said it best, “One thing I don’t need is any more apologies I got sorry greetin’ me at my front door you can keep yours.”
You put yourself in an emotionally dangerous place when you tie your self-esteem to the validation of another person. You are more likely to entertain the lies and excuses of someone when you are emotionally dependent on them.
On the contrary, when you have established an identity outside of your relationship, your willingness to forgive your partner is not based on your emotional needs, but rather on the nature of the offense. When you love yourself, the expectation of your significant other is clear; conduct yourself in a manner that honors your union. Self-love makes no room for frequent wrongdoers.
You are free of insecurities.
A relationship submerged in self-doubt causes conflict. You can’t maintain a rich relationship when you’re consumed with nervousness. The more you’re sure of yourself, the less insecure you are. The less insecure you are, the more you realize that trying to dictate the behavior of your significant other is a mental battle you will never win.
Self-love calms the spirit. It reminds you that you are the incomparable, a woman/man of the highest quality. If your lover doesn’t recognize your value, that is their loss. When you love yourself, you don’t waste your time trying to convince someone to see how remarkable you are. The moment you realize they are taking you for granted, you let them feel the agony of living without you.
Settling is not an option.
Terrified of having to spend time alone with my demons, I was willing to settle for the bullsh*t that past lovers drug into my life. As long as I didn’t have to deal with my issues, embracing mistreatment was easy. But admitting I was emotionally mangled and in desperate need of healing was petrifying.
When your heart is full of love for self, growth doesn’t unnerve you. Relationship or not, your devotion to constantly evolving is unwavering. You so desperately yearn to be the best version of yourself that you do not allow anyone into your life who does not constantly empower you to rise to the next level.
You, Me, We.
It is not uncommon for individuals in abusive relationships to isolate themselves from loved ones, especially if family and friends oppose their relationship. The more distance placed between them and their loved ones, the more difficult it is to walk away from the situation.
Opposite of that, in relationships where both people spend time nurturing their individuality, couples maintain healthy networks outside of their union.
Why is it important to have self-love before entering a relationship?
Bullied and humiliated for most of my adolescent years, I clung to the first man who showed me attention. Addicted to the high I got from the admiration of my significant others, I spent years being a fiend for their validation. My appreciation of self was fictional without the acknowledgement of my lover.
I wasn’t pretty until he told me I was. I wasn’t doing my job as a woman if I couldn’t keep him from cheating. I was an idiot if I couldn’t subdue his frustration enough for him to keep his hands to himself. Hopelessly yearning to be loved, I attracted the wrong type of attention. For years, I exchanged emptiness with emptiness, confused as to why I never felt full.
Your self-love determines the magnitude of love you can receive from another person. When a person watches you destroy your pride and virtue, you unknowingly give them permission to do the same.
How do your fall in love with self?
When I finally took a break from chasing love, I realized I had no idea who I was. I was so used to being molded by my lovers, I had no idea who I was at my core. One of my partners loved when I wore sneakers, so I purchased sneakers every chance I got. Another partner loved to party, so I took shots to the head and spent many nights praying to the porcelain gods. When my boyfriend told me that he hated when I wore makeup, I stopped fixing myself up.
Stripping away all the false identities I assumed over the years was painful. Healing hurts. Self-love is especially difficult, because it demands that you take ownership of your self-sabotage. The heartache that comes from having to look at yourself in the mirror and reflect on the damage you have done to yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically can be unbearable.
When you are a repeat victim of self-inflicted pain, your healing can’t be done in the context of a relationship. The goal is to shift the way your emotional needs are fulfilled. Relying on others for your emotional wellness, whether it be friendship(s) or a relationship, will distract you from the process. You must train yourself, from within yourself, on ways to reach internally for that encouragement towards fulfilling your emotional needs, and achieving the goal of true emotional wellness.
You have to have solitude. Here is where you connect with yourself on the deepest level. We all have an internal voice that we must learn to trust. This is the voice that tells us when are heading into a disaster zone. This is the voice that warns us before we get too deep into a bad situation. This voice will help you recognize red flags once you are prepared to date again.
Falling in love with self is the most intimate experience your will ever have. In this space, you discover how uniquely brilliant you are. You slowly figure out how to forgive yourself. After years of heart breaking love affairs, I found the most precious woman in the world and I learned to care for her.
In my healing, I found my love for words. I discovered that I am by nature, a whimsical energy and lover of people. I am a bold energy with a shy side. I love food and foreign places. Overflowing with knowledge, I can talk for hours about everything from science to sex. I never would have known these things about myself had I not of taken some time to restore my spirit.
I pray you that all seek and find everything you need and more. Move in love. Until we meet again lovers and friends. Be well. Be prosperous. Be passionate.
Jazz Keyes is a community activist, poetess and a nationally certified Life Purpose and Career Coach. Keyes supplies clients with the necessary tools and techniques to awaken their divine energy, heal their open wounds and create an aura of love, compassionate and tranquility. In 2013, Keyes was named “13 People to Watch For” by Rockford Register Star and in honor of Black History Month 2014, Keyes was recently named a“Neighborhood Hero” by ComEd’s Power of One Campaign. Keyes in currently pursuing her Masters in Clinical Psychology and hopes to one day be a best-selling author and motivational speaker. She has devoted a great deal of her time and energy on mastering the art of communication in order to create healthy, dynamic, long-lasting relationships.