By Stephanie Farrier
Published: November 29th, 2017
Frankly said, being alone is hard, especially when you’ve subconsciously committed to submersing yourself into relationships with others, so that you never actually have to work on yourself. I’m not sure where you fall on the learning spectrum, but sooner or later you’re going to realize that you have to deal with you. Identity is such a touchy subject; but it is the one thing we all search to uncover and attain throughout the duration of our lives. The questions, “who am I?” and “why am I here?” surface in our minds constantly and influence the decisions we make on a daily basis.
The millennial struggle with identity issues is, I believe, a unique one. We are at the point in our lives where we’re not quite full-fledged adults, but not exactly children either. We’ve reached a milestone that requires some deep thought and self-analysis (I know, it just gives you the shivers, doesn’t it?). This is the moment we evaluate who we’ve been thus far, what we want to keep and discard, and where we want to go next. Of course, even that clear-cut observation is much easier observed than executed. It’s difficult to take a long hard look at yourself, especially if there have been things and situations you’ve purposely been avoiding (even though that procrastination issue of yours is no secret). It’s especially difficult if the things we’d like to discard are so engrained in us and come so second-nature that we’d rather continue to fan the flame of familiarity than to put the fire out completely and deal with the third degree burns that some of our decisions have left us with.
You may have heard the saying, “We don’t grow in isolation,” but I’d like to think that sometimes, we certainly have to heal there. Healing, I believe, takes place before growth. It’s kind of like a back-track. You’ve got to retrace your steps, go back to the places where you got stuck, make the necessary adjustments and then construct your plan going forward. This is the difficult part I was talking about – particularly if you’ve been a “relationship person” like myself. Relationships to me were my way out. If I could focus on another person, their strengths and flaws, and how well or badly they treated me, then I wouldn’t have to address my own strengths and flaws, and the way I treated myself and others. I wouldn’t have to address the fact that I have a toxic inner narrative and some self-destructive mind sets that keep me trapped in a relentless cycle of fear. I wouldn’t have to admit that I’m selfish and that I’m a quitter sometimes (ouch).
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it is this self-realization that acts as the first step to laying the foundational bricks to identity. Knowing yourself completely, the good, the bad, and then accepting yourself is a key component to being able to progress beyond what you are now. Acceptance is imperative to growth, as the two work together in tandem. Acceptance says “I love you just as you are” while growth says “I love you just as you are, but love you too much to keep you here.” Solitude, as I see it, just provides the environment for this process to happen wholly and completely. I say this because sometimes, maybe too often, we look for acceptance in the arms of others. Don’t get me wrong, on a surface level, there’s nothing wrong with this. We all want someone to love and to be loved by. The issue comes when we search for this acceptance and love in others, before we have cultivated it for ourselves.
There have been so many articles describing “self-love”, but I often find the definition and advice to be superficial. Yes, self-love can be adding “me-time” to your schedule, giving yourself positive words of affirmation, or rewarding yourself after completing some kind of physically or mentally strenuous activity. But to me, self-love is tough love. It starts with an honest evaluation, in a season(s) of your life in which you spend a considerable amount of time alone, then it moves on to accepting yourself after you’ve made these observations, ending with measurable, tangible efforts in a desired direction. It’s not just a selfie on Instagram with an eloquently typed caption, or going on a shopping spree to indulge yourself. Self-love is a force that bubbles quietly from within, radiating a light and love that cannot be explained – only experienced. When it is ready and fully grown, it reveals itself not just in our expectations of the way we want others to treat us, but in the way we treat them. Self-love starts with you!