How Space, Grace, & Being Intentionally Single Taught Me How to Love Myself
I used to fear solitude. You know, abandonment issues and all that. That fear caused me to be insecure and to cling to relationships that I knew weren’t good for me. Sound familiar? I think we all experience the fear of being alone at some point in our lives. Probably because we feel like we’re inadequate or incomplete and that we need something else or someone else to fulfill us. We know that the death of our body is an inevitable truth and that scares some of us. But when we get in relationships, of any sort, they make us feel a little less scared. Maybe because we feel stronger when we connect with people, maybe because they distract us from feeling so lost, or maybe just because they make us feel good. We start to get attached to these people and that attachment eventually leads us to try and control them because we’re afraid of losing them. We’re afraid of losing them because we’ve convinced ourselves that we need them in order to be happy. We’ve convinced ourselves that alone we’re not enough because we never learned to love ourselves and now that someone is offering what seems to be the love that we’ve been craving forever, we’ll do anything to keep it around. Over the past four years, I’ve been investigating why this is within myself. I’ve purposefully closed myself off to others because I didn’t want outside interference during this self-study. I wanted to know why I would cling to relationships that I knew didn’t serve me. Not only in romantic relationships but also the relationships I had with some family and friends. I found that a lot of my behavior was rooted in not loving myself. Fortunately for me, I learned how to love myself again and I’ve began to heal but this didn’t come without reflecting on how I got in the condition I was in.
I remember being told often that I was sensitive growing up. I remember being called a “momma’s boy” and I definitely deserved that title before my little brother was born. I loved affection and my mom was the best at providing it to me as most mothers are. I remember crying a lot — usually about my father not picking me up or lying to me about hanging out or my brothers and/or cousins beating me up or hurting my feelings. I remember always feeling like I was less of a man because I cried so easily. I think I started to associate my emotions and my desire for affection with why my pops didn’t come around and why I was teased so I started to repress them. As best I could, at least. It was tough at first but you can get better at anything with time and a little effort. I wanted to prove to my brother, my father, my cousins, and to any one else that I was more of a man than they were. In retrospect, this is when I started to not love myself. This is when I started to allow hyper masculinity to invade my personality. This is when I started to view women as objects because the men I looked up to did. This is when I started to withdraw my goofy, fun-loving personality and replace it with a mask that only showed emotion when it was useful because emotion seemed to get me hurt. This is when I started to gauge my self-worth on what other people said I was. To be clear, I’m not placing the blame on any of the aforementioned people. They didn’t know what they were doing just like I didn’t know what I was doing and they were only treating me the way they were treated. But I had to go back to my childhood to see the roots of this cycle of neediness that I had constructed for myself over the years. I had to go back to my childhood to find the roots of why I used to crave companionship so badly.
Me and my father didn’t speak for 6 years after a conflict we had when I was 18. Our relationship was never the best to begin with and that night he said something to me that I judged as unforgivable. It wasn’t even so much what he said because I knew it wasn’t true but it was the fact that he said it and that he was intentionally trying to hurt me by saying it. I pretty much killed him off of the Micheal program after that night. I reveled in my hatred for him. It fed me. Everything that I wanted to achieve, I wanted to achieve in spite of him. I couldn’t quit, I couldn’t settle, I couldn’t be anything other than this idea of what a successful man is because I needed to be everything he wasn’t. I’d convinced myself that our fight made me more ambitious and maybe it did but it also made me a victim and that victimhood poisoned most of the relationships I had over the next several years. I used it as a crutch and an excuse for my insecurities and possessiveness. Possessiveness because I was afraid of being alone. Afraid of being abandoned again. After my last romantic relationship ran it’s course early in 2013, I decided I should be alone for a while — in part because I knew deep down that I shouldn’t have gotten into that relationship to begin with. I definitely didn’t think I’d be single for 4 years at that time but little did I know that what was about to happen to me would not only allow me to forgive my father but also free me from my fear of loneliness and prepare me to be single for the rest of my life if it proves necessary.
In the Fall of 2013, I moved 1000 miles away from home in South Carolina to Oklahoma City, OK on a whim. I’d been invited out there by my soon to be roommate whom I’d only met through Twitter so I really didn’t even get to know him until after I was out there. He and I had been making music together over the internet for a couple months and when he got a job in OKC, he offered me the chance to come and be his roommate. I was tired of being at home so I figured “why not?” I went there expecting to spend a year cultivating my musical talents before heading on west to LA but OKC ended up gifting me with so much more. Oklahoma City provided me with the opportunity to become whatever I wanted to be. Thankfully, it became an opportunity to become who I really am again. Back home I had to be tough, I had to be cool, I had to be attractive, I had to be smart, I had to be responsible, I had to be everything I’d allowed my ego to tell me I was to the people who knew me. But when I moved away, I no longer had to be anything or at least I had the opportunity to easily become something else. I grew an afro, something I would have been terrified to do back home because people were so used to seeing me a certain way and how I was perceived was so important to me. I started meditating, doing Yoga, and exploring my spirituality outside the bounds of the bible I’d been force fed for so long — things that would have been shunned by my immediate community back home not out of malice but out of ignorance and fear. This spiritual journey opened my heart and I gained compassion for my father and for myself. The grace that meditation afforded me encouraged me to show grace to others and to myself because we all make mistakes. We are all flawed but we are all still worthy. I was able to forgive my father in 2014 only after I forgave myself and soon thereafter, we reconnected. I definitely brought my old habits to Oklahoma with me but they manifested a bit differently because my environment there was different. I dealt with all new women, women who knew nothing of the Micheal women back home knew. I didn’t have to worry about them having preconceived notions about me due to my past or the reputation I’d established. I didn’t have to pretend around any of my Oklahomies but they still liked me and that’s when I started to see that I’d been pretending for no reason all along. I got over the fear of not being accepted as I am because as I am is all my friends in Oklahoma ever got and they still liked me. And if it was enough for them, why couldn’t be enough for me?
Moving to Oklahoma allowed me space away from the people who thought that they knew me. It would always bug me out when a friend or relative would say “I know you” because I didn’t know myself and if I didn’t know myself, how could they possibly know me? Without being constantly reminded of who I was supposed to be, I was able to start getting to know myself for what I really am. I started to see that I was much greater than the labels that had been assigned to me. As I spent more time away, I learned that a lot of the behaviors I exhibited like promiscuity, selfishness, and not being emotionally available are not things that are inherently a part of me but rather are things I’ve picked up along the way as either a defense mechanism or a coping mechanism. I’ve learned that being emotional is only a disadvantage if you let it control you. I’ve learned that people are afraid of change and that includes you changing so they will often subconsciously hinder your growth because they’re comfortable with the role you currently play for them and they want to you remain the same because everything around them is changing. I’ve learned that my family and friends didn’t want what’s best for me, they wanted what they thought would be best for me from their limited perspective of who I am. Since their perception of me is very limited, I have to take what they say about me with a grain of salt. I’ve learned that the people close to you will often project their fears onto you saying that you can’t do it because inside they feel like they can’t do it. They hope that by instilling fear in you, it might control you like it controls them. I’ve learned that we often sacrifice self-love to satisfy the desires of others but trying to please people is a losing game. The best thing I can do for anybody is to work on myself because I can’t change people but maybe through working to get better I’ll inspire them to want to work on themselves and get better as well.
Do I get lonely sometimes? Of course. Does that make me want a girlfriend sometimes? Of course. But wanting a girlfriend just because I’m lonely shows me that I’m not ready for a girlfriend because I would just use her as an object to avoid loneliness and then, when I’m inevitably not lonely anymore, what will I do with her? I’ll try to get rid of her — like a disposable object. The loneliness that I feel is not greater than the peace I have in not being with someone I’m not compatible with and not leading someone on that I know I don’t want to be with ultimately. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be with somebody that wasn’t afraid of being lonely? You wouldn’t have to worry about them trying to possess you or trying to change you because they aren’t afraid to lose you. Wouldn’t it be amazing to date someone who understands that within themselves they are enough and that we don’t need to have a lot of material things to be happy? Wouldn’t it be amazing to date someone that wouldn’t base your relationship on what other people’s relationships look like? There wouldn’t be any insecurity because there would be no comparison and with no comparison, there would be no judgement and with no judgement there would only be love. I like to say that at my best, I am love and at my worst, I need love. I’m at my worst when I need love because when I need love, I’ve forgotten that I am love. When I forget that I am love I turn back into that little kid who felt like he was abandoned but instead of crying, I just manipulate people and use them as objects to give me a temporary feeling of pleasure disguised as affection. When I need love, I play the victim and leave my happiness up to chance instead of being responsible for it. When I need love, I’m not available to give love to someone else because I don’t have it within myself. I do love myself now but I do still forget how to love myself sometimes so, I’ll continue to be single for the time being. Standing by, not for the perfect girl but for the girl who truly loves herself so fully and so recklessly that I won’t want to possess her or her love but instead be inspired by it to continue to cultivate a love of my own.