I was in my late teens and in a poetry club when I recited a poem about love. If I remember it well, it was all about love and longing and giving your life away for your beloved. Everyone applauded. My day was made.
On the way back, a lady who was in her mid-forties offered me a lift in her car. She started talking about love. All I remember from the conversation was that the identity or meaning of love changes with every decade of your life. I did not think much about it. I was 19. I was in love. And I thought, that was what life was all about. Love, the way I knew it.
Then life moved on and in that trail, it left me wiser.
We are conditioned to be in love. How are we taught to be in love? That love is giving without asking anything in return. Love is giving away yourself. And that your true love will save you.
Culturally if we see, we have made suffering a virtue. And like so many young girls, I completely bought the idea. I took to heart the popular but ill-conceived message that love means you have to sacrifice. I was a martyr without a cause. The day I fell in love I decided to be this giving woman, who loves without asking. Of course, it was a disaster. The thing is that no one teaches young girls about self-love or setting one’s boundaries. We don’t teach that to boys either. Our narrative of love or relationships is that of the rescued and the rescuer.
The first guy I thought I was in love with, cried every day because his girlfriend had left him. He didn’t love me or anything, he just needed to cry and I gave him my attention. I almost played the role of the rescuer. I was too young to understand that no one needs rescuing. We are all adults making choices. It all ended when he fell in love with his long lost friend and moved on as if I did not exist.
But here is another secret: I had an absolute need to be needed. That happens with women with very low self-esteem. I thought that the guys I liked were out of my league, so they will only talk to me or be my friend if they needed me somehow. In my mind, I made them heroes, people who were always better than me. So when he left, I was not too shocked because I somehow made myself believe that I never deserved him. I found another guy I thought I was in love with, and the same story continued, though it was much short-lived.
Related reading: Operation Find-her-a-husband!
But nothing will go away until you learn the lessons.
I was 23 then. I was broken. I still remember how I would look at other girls and curse myself for not being them. I used to look at the girlfriends of the guys (whom I thought I was in love with) and tell myself, that I am such a dud in comparison. I had almost perfected the art of self-rejection by then.
It was at that point that I took the first step towards self-love. I did everything to change the game. I was a woman on fire, who wanted to break this pattern and self-condemnation. I searched all videos on YouTube that talked about well-being. I remember waking up in the morning and doing those affirmations that come with every Louise Hay’s book; running to work, coming back and redoing it. As they say, the Universe brings in what you ask for.
I learnt to approve of myself. I learnt to love myself and most importantly, I learnt that love asks me to be happy not a martyr. To be loved, I need not be anything; I just need to be myself. As Oprah Winfrey says, ‘Relationships are complementary, not supplementary.’ When you get into a relationship to be saved, you are being unfair to the other person. For no one is here to be your saviour. You save yourself. When we ask someone to be a hero all the time, we take away their right to be human. It is a social problem that teaches boys to be heroes or saviours.
It is high time we change this narrative. Love is overrated. A boy or a girl is not here to make you feel like a prince or princess. Getting rejected is okay, so is making mistakes. Relationships are not about saving or giving. It’s about togetherness. It’s about both partners taking responsibility for themselves.
Related reading: I’m not looking for a relationship
Most importantly, you can never love someone, if you don’t love yourself. You will just run after mirages in search of approval and love. Relationships are a balance of giving and take. If you are the one who is always giving without getting anything in return, you will become bitter. In fact, the whole Universe runs on the phenomenon of giving and receiving. You are not wiser than the Universe. Are you?
Now that I have learnt to love myself, I see so many people wanting to be with me.
Love does not hurt, it feels good. Rest is just an overrated version of misguided lovers! Love is not asking you to be a martyr but to be happy and fulfilled. That is the purpose of any relationship.
This I know for sure.