Gabriela Herstik
August 03, 2017 11:11 am
Alexandra Herstik

I’ve been a romantic my whole life — just not in the way you’d expect. I love roses and love poems, but overtly cheesy things make my skin crawl. I’m more of a “picnic in the cemetery” gal than a “fancy restaurant date” one. While I’ve had my fair share of smooches, lovers, and heartbreaks, in my 23 years of existence, I’ve never been in a relationship. Though it was really difficult to come to terms with this when I was younger, now I recognize my independence as something that’s taught me more about self-love than anything else.

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get my period until the last day of my freshman year of high school. So while everyone was settling into their pubescent bodies, my journey was just beginning. I didn’t even have my first kiss until three years later, when I was 18.

I felt like something was wrong with me, like my budding (or not-quite-yet-budding) sexuality wasn’t valid, since how I looked never matched how I felt. This, combined with going to a prestigious public school in the Deep South, made me feel like an outsider. While everyone was hanging out at the local church or going to parties, I was reading about witchcraft and blogging.

Although I was insecure in high school, something that made my life a lot easier was that I never really viewed women as my competition. Instead of feeling like I had to compete for a boy’s affection or love, or simply “against” other women, I recognized that all I could be was me. Men already pit women against each other, so why in the heck would I help them do that?

Instead of growing into someone else’s mold of what I should look like, I grew into my own. I saw the women I admired as inspiration, reminding me that I could figure out my own shit, too. I got half my hair shaved off when I was 17, and started going to shows and concerts. I saw new kinds of people with different aesthetics, and I used those differences to help me figure out who I wanted to be, in turn learning the ins and outs of self-love.

In college, I still had flings, but there was never anything serious. Things would sort of work out and then they’d fall apart, leaving me hurt and confused and anxious about what I was doing wrong. For a really long time, that was the narrative that played out in my head. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

I wanted to date, but it never really happened. I wanted to be in love, but my partners never had the same idea. What was I doing wrong? I have always been upfront, and I pride myself on being assertive. Was I actually too much?

It took me a long time to recognize that my passion, my assertiveness, and my bold nature were things that I should love about myself. Not hate. It took just as long for me to recognize that my yearning to be loved was valid, that my wanting to be loved is valid. And so is yours. Being loved is a human necessity, and the pull to be understood and cared for and loved and felt doesn’t make you weak.

Repeat after me: My yearning to be loved does not make me weak.

I do, however, think it’s important to remember that there are different types of love — romantic love is only one of them. I live with my twin sister, who’s one of my best friends, and having her support and encouragement has allowed me to bloom — especially in the year since we moved to L.A., after graduating college. Have I ever been in love? Nope! But have I felt love so sweet, so pure, so thick, it’s made my heart grow? Absolutely.

Find people who understand you, who reflect the things you love about them right back at you. Having a community of souls who care for you and support you on your darkest days is vital — I would argue even more so than romantic partnerships.

Being single has shaped me more than anything else because it’s taught me how to be independent. It’s taught me to find the love that I crave, and to give it to myself. When I’m sad, I’ll talk to my sadness. I’ll take a bath. I’ll buy myself roses. When I’m feeling romantic, I’ll talk to the Moon. I’ll sit outside and imagine what sort of love I’ll feel next. I’ll hug and touch myself, admiring the soul within these bones.

Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. Finding comfort in your own presence, in your incredible soul, is so important.

One of the first things my mom taught me was that in order to love someone else, you have to love yourself. And that to let others love you, you have to love yourself first. This has always stuck with me, reminding me to be compassionate and loving towards myself as I grow and evolve and change.

Self-love is a journey, not a destination, but allowing yourself the freedom to make mistakes, to love your imperfections, and to remember that you’re not perfect is a beautiful start. Even if no one’s ever loved you the way you wanted, that doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of those feelings. It just means you haven’t yet found the person who’s worth your love.

And until they come, take solace in knowing that YOU are worthy of all the love you have to give, and that giving it to yourself can be the sweetest love of all.

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