I never dated in college (or high school…or after college…or ever…) and I assumed that was because something was wrong with me. I was convinced something about me made me undateable, because what other explanation could there be? I watched my friends date nice guys and not so nice guys, and I waited for my turn. I had crushes, of course; there were a few young men who turned my head and brought a little smile to my face. But nothing happened, because nothing ever happened. Not to me.
So it was easy to stand in front of a mirror and tell myself that if parts of me were different then I would find love. I was the common denominator in my non-existent romances, after all. Maybe if I was skinnier or taller or had green eyes then I would find a man. Maybe if I was more of a party girl and less of an academic. Maybe if I was more religious or less reserved and quiet. Maybe if I had more tattoos and piercings or cared less about my family. Maybe if I watched different tv shows or read different books. Maybe if I wore shorter dresses or tighter pants or heels. Maybe if I didn’t wear glasses or a purity ring then love would find me. Maybe maybe maybe…
Maybe if I was less myself I would be more attractive to the men who seemed to be forever looking through me or past me.
I stood in front of the mirror and watched myself drown in a sea of maybes, being pulled under by my shrinking self confidence and self worth. And instead of telling myself I was lovely and special and strong enough to swim for shore, I made concessions. I began to catalog the things I’d be willing to part with, the parts of me I’d be okay with sacrificing in the name of the love. I picked apart my body, my personality, and my passions and had a mental list of things I would give up if it meant finding a man. I made a deal with myself: if it meant finding true love, I would change who I was into who they wanted.
The men who got to know me after that never really knew me. They knew a woman I made myself into in order to seem more attractive in their eyes. They didn’t see me; they saw a reflection of what I believed they wanted from me. I let their expectations mold me into a woman I was never intended to be: a woman who wasn’t complete because she let go of things that made her into the lovely person she was because she was convinced that was a woman no one wanted.
I lost myself in my pursuit of love, or what I thought love might be.
But I had it all wrong, a mistake brought to light between the pages of books. I would always read in novels about men (and sometimes women) being willing to give up their souls for the one they love. Anything they had, any part of their self, would be sacrificed on the altar of true love.
One day, thinking about the man I might someday fall in love with, I discovered I didn’t want that. Not that I didn’t see the beauty in the gesture, but I wouldn’t want him to sacrifice any part of himself in order to be with me. I didn’t want pieces of him to go missing in his pursuit of me, because I want all of him – every cell and corner and crevice of his soul. I want a whole man, and I don’t want him to ever, ever believe that changing who he is the only way to my heart.
And I don’t think he’d want that from me either.
We talk about love as self-sacrificing, but we’ve twisted it, I think. Because love isn’t losing pieces of who God created us to be in the foundation of our soul in order to find our soul mate or true love. Love isn’t looking in the mirror and seeing the things that make us special and agreeing to part with them in order to please someone’s idea of the perfect man or woman.
Because I don’t think love is about finding someone you’re willing to sacrifice pieces of yourself for. I think love is finding someone who takes all the pieces of who you are – the broken, the shiny, the weird, and the lovely – and asks you to share them with him brazenly and without apology. It’s about finding someone who accepts you for everything you are at every moment, even if it’s not your best moment.
Love is finding someone who wants all of you, not just parts of you, because to lose even the smallest piece would be to lose what makes you amazing and special and completely yourself.
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