This post is a continuation of my “on being broken” series, where I share thoughts and reflections on early life crises that broke me, yet also taught me so much and gave me opportunities to grow into my more authentic self. In this post, I’d like to share about the time I realized I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Specifically, I kept looking for external validation and love outside myself, when in reality, I would never feel truly loved unless I could start fostering self-love.
For this post, I want to zoom in specifically on one experience where I had a swift, sudden, and deeply uncomfortable realization that I had not developed nearly enough self-love to be able to function independently in a healthy way.
In 2015, I was living in San Francisco with my then-boyfriend (now-husband). He was finishing medical school and got Matched to medical residency at UCLA. I had been blindly hoping he’d somehow manage to Match into a school in Northern California so we wouldn’t have to move and would be able to stay together. But once he got his Match results, I was adamant that I wasn’t leaving my Silicon Valley job, so he would go to Los Angeles alone and we would do long-distance. He has always been unconditionally supportive of my career choices, and he respected my decision and never pushed me to consider otherwise.
I was sure I would be able to handle long-distance fine. I was a mature, self-sufficient, and resourceful adult (so I thought…), and a few years’ long-distance was no biggie. It sucked, but we would be able to visit each other. And if I stayed in the Bay Area, I still had my job, I still had my network and friends there, and so while it wasn’t perfect, I would be fine…again, so I thought.
The inevitable day came when he had to leave for Los Angeles. As soon as he left, completely counter to my expectations, I was not fine. In fact, my heart completely broke, and I could not stop sobbing. Right then, I had a crushing and highly uncomfortable realization that I had subconsciously seen him as the physical manifestation that I was worthy of love and had depended on him that way for years. I thought that I was a self-confident, capable, independent individual who knew what it meant to love oneself and trust in oneself. Yet, my intense reaction to and realization that came with him leaving proved me disturbingly wrong.
He had seen me at my best and my worst. He had stood by me during my greatest successes and worst failures. He was someone I was able to come home to every day and take comfort from. Basically, my subconscious believed: because he was still with me and we saw each other every day and he hadn’t yet left, I must be worthy of love. I was totally dependent on him for validation. So now, without him physically being near me, I felt totally and completely unmoored.
Essentially, I discovered had been unhealthily codependent on him, and that did not align with the independent, self-trusting, self-confident person I actually wanted to be and thought I was.
It took me awhile to get over the initial shock of my realization. I was withdrawn for months, struggling with how I could possibly have had such a distorted perception of myself when reality was so far from it. Slowly, however, I was able to find space to open up and really look at myself, and I also received some great support and insight from excellent coaching. If I knew that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and I had an aspiration of where I wanted to go - how did I want to work on myself to get there?
Over time, I was able to start cultivating the beginnings of true self-love and self-confidence. I was able to find myself and define myself and my own wants and desires outside of my relationship with my husband. And I am very grateful now that despite this experience being highly painful, I was able to go through it, so that I could start understanding the importance of being my own person.
I did eventually make the decision to move down to Los Angeles after a few years to be with my now-husband. When I made that decision, I found that after I moved down, our relationship became much healthier and richer since I was able to come into it as a happier, healthier, more balanced, whole individual.
If you are struggling with a similar situation like I've gone through, I can support you. I know what it’s like to have unexpected and uncomfortable realizations about yourself. I know exactly what it’s like to live with deep cognitive dissonance and try to make sense of it. I’ve found coaching invaluable during moments in my life like these, and I am confident I can support you in turning challenging situations into something highly constructive and supportive for your long-term growth. You can connect with me via email - email@example.com - to learn more about how we can work together.