The other week, I celebrated two years officially single. There’s been ‘things’ and ‘talking stages’ in those two years, but no official relationships. A year ago, or even a few months ago, this realisation would’ve triggered a panic – that I’m unlovable, that people will judge me for not being in a relationship, that I’m missing out. Now, it was just a day I remembered thanks to Snapchat memories of my last breakup and marked with Prosecco and a movie with my housemates.
Like many people, the lockdowns and isolation of the last year have given me a lot of time to think about things. I’ve had time to examine every feeling I have and every event I experience, arguably not a good thing for someone who was already a habitual overthinker. But the often difficult process of spending a lot of time alone and getting to know myself better has led me to the point where now, as clichéd as it is, I can truly say I love myself and put myself first. I am the love of my own life.
It’s very much in vogue at the moment to love yourself, know your own worth, prioritise your happiness, etc etc. Instagram is filled with (often very smart!) quotes about the importance of putting yourself first, and how to be truly happy you have to start within yourself. But what all these pretty typography designs and snappy phrases don’t mention is how hard it can be to do all that.
Knowing your own worth isn’t just about telling yourself you look good, or doing things that make you happy, or seeing yourself as more than just your body. It’s also about making sure all the relationships in your life have a positive purpose, and standing up for yourself at times when it would be easier to keep your head down. It involves calling out shitty behaviour in relationships, romantic or platonic, knowing full well that that may spell the end of that relationship.
It involves facing up to reality, and cutting out people that you want to like you but know only use you; it involves addressing toxic behaviour that you’ve accepted because you don’t think you’ll ever find anything better; and it involves standing up against gaslighting and making sure your voice is heard, however much other people may try to twist your words or dismiss your feelings.
This is hard, harder than a flowery font and snappy turn of phrase can convey. Sometimes it means ending things with people that you wish you could keep in your lives, or knowing that you’re going to push them away by highlighting behaviour that you shouldn’t have to put up with. This is almost harder than keeping them in your life and accepting the criticism, or manipulation or whatever other issues come with them. Truly knowing your worth is knowing that you have the strength to make the difficult decisions to do what is best and healthiest for you, even when this leads to more pain in the short term.
Although this reality of knowing your worth and focusing on your happiness rarely makes it to the glossy heights of Instagram, it is the most crucial part. It involves sticking to your guns and prioritising yourself even when it’s not easy, and that’s when you know that you really have got your own back. It’s hard work, but you are the only person you have to spend the rest of your life with – if you don’t care enough about yourself to back yourself, even when its hard, then why should anyone else?