“Even in the loneliest moments I have been there for myself.” ~Sanober Khan
My life coach once suggested I give myself the love I needed, which saddened me profoundly. Was that not supposed to be the job of “the love of my life,” whom I would find one day? In fact, I had not met anyone who completely gave up on the idea of finding love, no matter how long they had been single.
I myself was happily single for years and yet deep down, there was still that expectation of finding love one day.
Recollecting my moments of loneliness and longing, I came to a rather selfish conclusion—it would have been so much easier to deal with my life problems and negative bouts of emotions if I had had someone that could make me believe “all is okay as long as we have each other.”
I felt alone all my life—in my family, among friends, and even in the long-term relationship I once had. That was probably why I always secretly yearned for that special someone who would understand me at the deepest level and love me the way I would like to be loved. Someone who would take away my loneliness…
I knew love was also about the joy of giving and being there for another person. However, my need for love was ultimately a desire for support and assurance. After all, being single never bothered me when life felt great in every way!
It suddenly struck me, what if I went through the rest of my life never meeting this perfect someone? Could I somehow give myself the support and assurance needed?
Finding love was an exhausted topic. However, while the concept of love was broad, when it came to finding love, people almost exclusively meant love for and from another being. When we felt the desire for love, we therefore naturally sought it out of ourselves.
What if, by finding enough love from within, we no longer felt the need for that special someone?
Empowering, but scary, I found.
It was easier to ignore my problems believing that the solutions to them were already out there in the form of this great love that I, like most people, would eventually find.
It was comforting to think that once this love was found, life would suddenly become better without me having to work anything out. The perfect partner would halve the weight of my life responsibilities, take away my moments of fears, and increase my happiness tenfold—so I hoped.
If I stopped counting on that special person to “fix” my life, I alone would become the solution to all my problems. And that was not exactly a comfortable thought. As Erica Jong put it, “Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame!”
The hope for a magical solution someday took away the pressure of this moment, but with it went the power to impact my own life today. Rather than the perfect man, what I really needed was courage to face my own life’s struggles, I finally decided.
Then, as if to test my resolve to find love and courage from within, life threw me a month of inner turmoil. My fears, doubt, and confusion were so consuming that for weeks I felt physically weak.
I had given myself twelve months to freely learn and develop, taking the risks I would not have considered in my previous corporate life. In the spirit of embracing the unknown, I had been going wherever passion and opportunities took me. It had been a wonderful journey but now that the “allocated” time ran out, my sense of identity came into question.
What if I did not have what it took to build a career on my own terms? What if the impact I wanted to make in the world was no more than an indulgent dream? Did I just let my ego take over when rejecting outright the idea of going back to full-time employment? Had I abandoned my responsibilities to myself and my family in this heady place of living a passion?
Alone in what seemed like a fight for sanity, I desperately searched for a way to give myself the support needed.
I knew that while my feelings were associated with unresolved problems, I could feel differently without anything being resolved.
The emotions were a result of me being caught in a spiral of destructive thoughts and perceptions. If I could somehow shift my focus away from being “a failure with no future” and inhabit a new perspective on my current situation, I would be relieved of the overwhelming feelings.
However, there was no good forcing positive thoughts through because my emotions had by then become a physical felt sense that would just stay there in my body even when my mind was far from my worries.
Every day went by with me increasingly aware of something heavy constantly choking my throat and pressing down on my heart. Tears would stream out in random moments for no apparent reason.
It was in that state that I attended a session called kindfulness—mindfulness practice with kindness. When I mentioned to the teacher about my usual problem of being distracted by thoughts in meditation and my fear of being even more aware of my heavy feeling while focusing on the present moment, I was told to welcome and be with whatever came.
As I turned my attention to what was happening around me and within me, I was acutely aware of my distracting negative thoughts and that heavy felt sense. However, I was also drawn to the soothing sight of leaves shimmering in the breeze under the sun outside. Just like that, my focus swiftly and freely moved from one thing to another.
For ten minutes, I sat there observing and accepting. Unlike with my other attempts to meditate, I for once did not mind the fact that I was doing it badly.
To my amazement, my heavy felt sense virtually disappeared after the session. Just to make sure I was not fooling myself, I turned my mind to the unsolved issues. They were still there, only, I no longer felt them the way I had.
I realized that it was probably the first time I gave myself a gesture of gentle kindness. There were no must, should, need to in those ten minutes. Neither was there a familiar inner voice telling me that this quiet time was a rare treat and I would have to work hard to earn it again. Like a true friend, I simply gave myself the tenderness of acceptance and companionship.
So it was by chance on a random Sunday afternoon that I found the love I needed—not in the courage that I had thought I would have to build, but in the softness of newly-found kindness for myself.
When I drift into thoughts of being in a relationship these days, I find that my former neediness has now been replaced by simple curiosity. Without expectations of support and assurance from a partner, I wonder what my new experience of romance would be like. I find myself smiling mischievously at the thought.
When destructive emotions take over, we are often overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness that sends us looking for support in others.
It is great when such external support can be found in a loved one, but it is also immensely liberating to know that with a little self-compassion, you alone can be the solution to what seems like your greatest struggle. After all, as it is often said, we cannot expect from others what we cannot give ourselves.
Find love image via Shutterstock