I've become truly comfortable with being on my own.
I recently ended a major relationship and began traveling the world solo with no final destination or end date planned. Both of these transitions happened simultaneously and each one of them made the other that much more challenging. When you're a world away from anyone who knows you and you're in the midst of an all-encompassing heartbreak, the shattering of an expected future, and a sense of complete uncertainty about where you'll end up, you learn to be enough for yourself, fast... at least I did.
I don't like to admit it, but last year, if I'd have read what I just wrote above, I'd have felt sad for myself. I never wanted to feel comfortable with being on my own. To me, that felt like resignation. It felt like something only someone with no other options would settle for. The way I saw it, of course I wanted to find refuge in someone else rather than in myself. To me, it felt meaningless if that special person I could rely on to always love me and be there for me when I needed comfort was, in fact, me. I never wanted to end up one of these women writing about independence and being enough for herself. I wanted to be able to skip over that part of the human experience because I already had someone else to be there for me instead.
I'm not sure exactly when I arrived at the feeling of actually being enough but I do remember the first time I saw the results of it. There was this one day in Bali when I was exploring a remote part of the island alone on my motorbike. I had made it to 3 beaches, treated myself to lunch in luxury looking out over the vast expansive horizon of the Indian Ocean, visited a famous clifftop Hindu temple, and ate fresh barbecued mahimahi on the beach watching the sunset beneath a cliff side village. It was a less populated part of the island so I wasn't amid the usual swarms of tourists, but I did run into a few groups of friends, couples, the occasional family on vacation together. And it really hit me then. I didn't long to have what they had and I didn't need to post it on Facebook or text it to a friend in order for the experience to have meaning. I very distinctly felt lucky to be on my own that day. I was grateful to have myself all to myself.
That's when it really clicked for me. I realized that I had never quite valued my own company, love and support in this way. I had always felt like someone else's love was more meaningful than my own, so I could never be enough for myself and I would always be reliant on someone else to feel ok. But on this day in Bali I truly felt something deeply for the first time: I am enough and I already have enough. The feeling resonated so deeply through me that I couldn't help but wrap my arms around myself and cry with gratitude that I had such a solid companion in my corner. And the result of it has been that no matter what someone else wants, needs, does, or doesn't do, my sense of having enough and being enough doesn't change.
Many clients I work with in my coaching practice often feel tortured by the feeling of never being enough for someone else. They decide to do self-work in order to make themselves better in order to finally be enough for someone. What I try to help them see is that it begins with them; that they need to acknowledge that they are enough before anyone else will be able to reflect that back to them.
So once they understand this, their next questions are all about what they need to do to become enough for themselves. They want to know what to work on, what characteristics to develop, and which ones to "fix". In essence, they want to know what they have to do to earn their own love. But here is the thing most people miss: The only thing to do is make a choice. We simply have to decide that we are enough.
Admitting we already are enough and have enough is to make an acknowledgement that God, or the universe, or whatever you want to call it, has already given us everything we need in order to have a meaningful experience in this life. It's to acknowledge that, in fact, we are perfect already. This is a very difficult acknowledgement for many of us to make because we're afraid that if we admit to being and having enough, we'll never be or have more.
But I think the way it works is actually opposite from that. When we admit we have enough, only then can we actually have the experience of having enough. It's an experience of abundance and it will be with us whether we gain more or not. And in the end, having more isn't as important as feeling that we already have enough. Whether it leads to us having more or not, the perspective of already having enough is more useful than the perspective of scarcity.
It's an act of faith to believe we are enough because it requires us to trust that abundance is a state of mind, rather than a state of circumstance and until we have experienced that for ourselves, it can be hard to believe.
But imagine the solidity that we can have in a relationship when we know this about ourselves. Imagine the ability we'd have to remain grounded and clear when someone tells us we are not enough for them. Imagine being able to love ourselves there, not take it personally, and perhaps even say, "Hmmm... that doesn't actually feel true". Imagine not totally loosing our cool when another person doesn't see us the way we want to be seen. Imagine being clear and confident enough to then navigate through the fear and conditioning and find out what's actually true. Imagine if we knew that we'd be enough with or without them and didn't have to live in fear of not being so.
I'm not say we abandon the desire and passion that goes into a relationship. I am only suggesting that we not build our relationships upon a fear of not being enough without them.
Here is the truth of it: When we admit we are enough, we cease to cause harm to our relationships by burdening them with the job of validating us. While we might not blow up our relationship completely by failing to admit this, any relationship based on "not enough" will not be the best it could be. And that's just the simple unequivocal truth. The shortcuts that we take in order to avoid facing this truth are actually not shortcuts. They are ways we avoid giving up our dissatisfaction with ourselves and they ultimately create toxicity in our relationships. They cause us to become dependent on our relationships in unhealthy ways. It's a lot like an addiction, if you think about it.
The internet loves to talk about brutal truths and I've got one to add: If we're not willing to give up our addiction to having other people complete us, we can't truly know how it feels to be in a sober and healthy relationship. Yes, we can get away with being love addicts in the modern world. So many do. However, if we do that, we won't know how much freedom and peace would be available if we were to kick the dependence. We won't know the experience of the kind of real, deep connections that are available when we know we're enough. Instead, all we'll know is the drugged up version of love.
I'll end this essay with a quick little exercise to try. Try it and let me know how it makes you feel.
Stand in front of a mirror. Make eye contact and tell yourself "You are enough and you already have enough." Let it sink in. Notice if there is resistance to admitting this.
Then tell yourself again.
See if you can really mean it this time. See if you can say it with enough conviction to inspire yourself to believe it.