This post is an entry in the 2nd Stratejoy Essay Contest. Throughout the next month, we will be featuring each finalist writing their answer to the question: What would your TED Talk Be? On September 13th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.”
*THE IMPORTANCE OF A SUPPORT SYSTEM*
I have a vivid memory of overhearing my mom telling my dad about her recently remarried friend. The story went something like this: Her new husband would come home from work and wipe his (gloved) fingers on the mantle to ensure that it was dust-free.
I don’t remember hearing the rest of the story. Maybe I don’t remember because that’s when my mom would lower her voice. I was seven years old at the time.
I knew one thing: I would never allow that to happen to me. And I wouldn’t have to worry about that for a long time.
I was blessed to have grown up supported and loved. As a child, that is not something you contemplate; it’s simply something you know. It is the settled assurance that whatever happens, you have people in your corner.
And then you grow up. Life happens. Time changes everything while you find your way in the world. At some point, your priorities change.
If you are anything like me, and most of the women I know, by your early twenties you are on the hunt for a husband.
I am all for being a modern woman. There are women for whom love and marriage are not the top priority. I admire these women, but I am certainly not one of them. Falling in love and getting married has always been on the top on my To-Do list.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved. But what I’ve discovered, and hope to impress on you, is that love doesn’t come from only one source.
As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true: you need to know and love yourself before you can love someone else. In her book, Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert summarizes beautifully what I believe happens when you embark upon a relationship without the foundation of self-love and respect:
“When you become infatuated with somebody, you’re not really looking at that person, you’re [sic] intoxicated by a dream of completion that you have projected on a virtual stranger.”
You are hoping for love but taking what’s there. And I will take it one step further. If you don’t love and honor yourself, you will be unable to see all the love that surrounds you.
I was so fixated on romantic love that I missed out on appreciating some of the most fulfilling love of my life. My parents, my brother, my nana, and my friends: they were there for me before, during, and after all of my tumultuous relationships.
I am lucky and proud to say that I have a strong support network, and they could see the good in me even when I couldn’t.
Whatever you do, from this moment on, please don’t overlook that part of your life. Take a moment and consider all of those people that make your life better. Who can you call at 3 a.m.? Who would help you move? Or, as the joke goes, who would help you move the body?
These are the people that matter. They will be there for you regardless of any outside situation; they love you for who you are and, by doing so, they allow you to become a better person.
I’m not hoping to slight romantic love, because it can be magical. My hope for you is that you don’t overlook the love that is already in your life. Treasure the people that love you; they are your core.
That relationship I knew I’d never put up with? I did. Over and over again. I wanted love so badly that I’d take what I could get.
My last relationship was the worst. I didn’t tell my parents or my friends the details; I knew they wouldn’t see it from my (desperate) point of view. Still, they could see it wasn’t healthy and tried to get me to see it from their point of view.
I would tell them that he looked through my phone, but I would rationalize that he was the jealous type.
I’d leave out a lot how he would delete every number that sounded like it belonged to a male, including professional contacts. Or that he’d check my phone and email regularly. I certainly didn’t tell anybody about the time that he randomly woke me up at 4 a.m. and kicked me out of his house.
My breaking point was when he threatened to commit suicide. I’ll spare you the juicy details. I will let you know that ultimately, he did not succeed in killing himself.
What he did do was allow me to see how far gone I was.
Finally, I could see my family and friends for what they were: nothing less than my lifeguards, there to watch out for me and rescue me if necessary.
My parents and best friends listened to me sob on the phone. They calmed me down and assured me that everything would be okay.
Not one of them said, “I told you so.”
These are my people.
Falling in love is awesome, but opening up to the love that already surrounds you is nothing short of a miracle.
Find those people who will support you when you are unable to do so for yourself. Cultivate those friendships. It’s so important because these are the people who will be there for you when you need it the most.
While I may not have the data or facts to back it up, what I do have is experience.
Having a solid support system is important. Yours may look different than mine, but I suggest you nurture it. Allow your friends and family to love you, and love them back. When you fall, allow them to help you back up.
You can do it all by yourself, but it’s much easier surrounded by people who love you.
Cary, 29, is a former Virginia girl who somehow ended up in the wildly different terrain of Miami, FL. A sales rep by day, Cary uses her free time to figure out what she wants to do when she grows up. The nights of staying out until the wee hours are long gone, but she’s not yet ready to settle down. She is somewhere in between, and she is finding ways to enjoy the journey.
*This post is an entry in the 2nd Stratejoy Essay Contest. Throughout the next month, we will be featuring each finalist writing their answer to the question: What would your TED Talk Be? On September 13th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*