I am not a relationship guru. I don’t claim to have all the answers or know how to act, feel, or be. In fact, ask the people I love and they’ll tell you I mess up. A lot. But don’t we all? Aren’t relationships really just two imperfect people trying to love the best they can? Isn’t it true that we sometimes say the wrong things, accidentally hurt one another, or lose ourselves somewhere along the way?
I don’t claim to have the answers by any means, but what I do know is the importance of learning how to stay true to yourself in your relationships. Because if you compromise yourself, your worth, your goals, or what you truly feel—you’ll only end up hurt and angry.
And that doesn’t create an environment for love.
I’ve fallen in love, I’ve broken hearts, and I’ve had my heart broken several times along the way. But this is what I’ve learned about valuing yourself, while you give your heart away.
1. Understand that your relationship is not your identity.
Your. Relationship. Doesn’t. Define. You. I wish I could scream this from the roof of my apartment, or write this in a letter to my younger self to open when I turned twenty-one. For the longest time, I was so focused on finding love that I abandoned not only my dreams, but my perspectives. Instead of working on building my own thoughts and feelings about the world, I was leaning into other people, hoping that we could create those things together.
Don’t take this the wrong way—there’s nothing wrong with love. But when love becomes the focus of your life, so much so, that you lose yourself, it’s not love. And it’s not healthy.
Understand that your relationship is not who you are. What you care about, the things you do, the passions you have, the art you create, the compassion you share—that’s what you’re made of.
2. Disregard the idea that you’ve ever been ‘incomplete.’
I used to identify with the idea that each of us is incomplete until we find our ‘missing piece.’ I imagined a giant puzzle, with my ‘person’ fitting the pieces of myself perfectly. It took some growing up, some heartbreak, and some brutal honesty from loved ones to realize that was a silly perspective.
See, love isn’t about finding something you haven’t had. It’s about recognizing the pieces of yourself in someone else. It’s about understanding that what you’re missing is matched with the person you choose to give your heart to. They’re the soft to your harsh, the calm to your chaos.
You’ve never been ‘incomplete.’ You just didn’t realize what you were missing until you kissed lips and tasted home.
3. Stop searching for your ‘other half.’
There is no such thing as an ‘other half’ because you were always whole. Love isn’t about finding something you’re missing, but about redefining who you are in the arms of someone who supports your growth and empowers you to be the best version of yourself.
4. Abandon the perspective of ‘alone’ meaning lonely.
Loneliness is a feeling—and a temporary one. It doesn’t mean that you’re defined by it, just as your relationship status doesn’t define you. If you’re feeling lonely, it’s not because you need someone to fill the spaces. It just means that your mental state is focused on what you don’t have, rather than what you do.
Change your perspective and you’ll start to see your singleness as a blessing. When you’re single, you have the opportunity to focus on yourself, on your desires, and on your needs. And as you’re pursuing those things, the right one will come.
5. Know that who you are and what you offer doesn’t change with another person.
You’re not any less of yourself if you fall into a connection with someone else. You don’t lose your identity, your goals, or your purpose just by intertwining with another.
If you want to stay true to yourself in your relationships, you have to get rid of the notion that you shift because of love. Yes, you might change in love (because you want to, because you grow, because you’re becoming new) but you won’t lose yourself. You will always be you.
6. Recognize what makes you, you and don’t lose sight of that.
What do you love? Is it helping people? Is it growing plants? Running a business? Cooking? Sewing? Shopping? Whatever makes you, you—don’t disregard that! No matter who you choose to connect with (platonic, romantic, friendship, etc.) you can still pursue and define yourself however you choose.
7. Prioritize your dreams, goals, and ambitions while respecting the others’.
If you want to stay true to yourself in your relationships, make sure you take the time to do what you love. It’s not selfish to think of your desires, to put yourself first sometimes, or to listen to your heart above anything else.
Just make sure that you’re considering others’ ideas and ambitions in the process because that’s what love is—a balance—supporting one another.
Featured Image Credit: Andrea Vehige