I always heard the saying "you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else." While I never disagreed with this statement per se, I never felt it resonate with me personally, thus never found it to be a valid life-altering piece of advice. That is, until a few months ago. Despite attaining a college degree (two in fact), experience in a variety of work fields and ambition engrained since childhood, here I am: three years out of college with nothing to prove for it other than a looming 5 digit number and a diploma collecting dust on my bookshelf. I always thought I would be working the job of my dreams by now, feeling accomplished and satisfied. Instead, I live paycheck to paycheck and come home with a dirty apron and wad of ones. While this isn't due to a lack of effort, I really have no one else to blame but myself. I can't count the amount of times I have read a job description, or visited a blog and said "I could never perform that job" or "I'm not qualified enough for the position." or "I could never have the guts to backpack around Europe solo." ....Well, why not??? That is the question.
This is the question that I have been trying to answer and in turn, gain my life back. So far, my 20s have been filled with self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence that was once present. Isn't high school supposed to be the time where you're awkwardly trying to figure out who you are and go through the horrid phases you beg your mom to burn the evidence of? For me, high school was great. I was never part of the "popular crowd," but I was happy and care-free. Most of all, I was confident. I was actively involved in Theatre and Speech and Debate and very few things scared or embarrassed me. While I bounced around with interests and jobs in College, I was still never plagued with the self-doubts and lack of confidence I had become accustomed to until after graduation.
These doubts and lack of self-love took a major toll on many aspects of my life- including relationships. While I am not one to dish out on my private life to the public eye, I will say this: The necessity to love yourself before you can love others is the real deal. If you aren't happy with who you are, where you're at and where you're headed, nothing else will fill that void. After finding myself in this position more than once recently, I was forced to recognize the pattern in myself. I have found it so much easier to avoid my personal angst and unsuccessfulness by focusing my attention on something (or someone) else. While this may hold temporary relief, take my word for it: your dreams, whether failed or unattempted, will come back to haunt you. All those things you thought you could live without, or push to the dark corner in your mind where you could revisit them whenever you were ready, show their big ugly faces in a way that is utterly unavoidable. Take care of yourself first.
Further, stop comparing yourself to the successfulness of your peers. I am 100% guilty of this and it's an epidemic. It is so easy to look at someone else's life (or the apparent facade of their life) and think "man, they really have it together. If only I could achieve what they have." You don't know their life. You don't know what they've been through or how they got to where they are. Hell, you don't even know if they are really happy. The "highlight reel" has been coined a term to describe our social media profiles and it couldn't be more accurate. Who really is going to post all the negative things in their life for the world to see? For the most part, we want our lives to portray that of success and bliss and it is so easy to get caught up in the comparison game of life. A sunset is beautiful, but so it a rose and they look nothing alike.
Recognize and reach for those dreams you think are unattainable. Don't ever settle for the easy way, because you WILL succeed the hard way. Most importantly, don't ever sacrifice your own happiness and success for someone else's definition.