What does it mean to say 'yes' to love? This is a question so many of us find ourselves asking. I've agonised over it myself for years. Like many others, I was excited to look for love the moment I "came out." It was exciting and felt like the logical next step: come out, meet love of life, get two French bulldogs, retire to Berry, die. I searched for The One and never gave up hope that the right person was out there, but all the while an anxiety was constantly lurking, telling me something was missing. It wasn't until a bunch of failed dating experiences (book-ended by solo viewings of Bridget Jones' Diary and Under the Tuscan Sun) that I asked myself the question: where will I find love?
Forgive me if that sounds like one of Carrie Bradshaw's "I couldn't help but wonder . . . " moments, but I was younger and needier then. It was my little, self-indulgent "woe is Tom" moment, but I just wanted to know if I would ever find the kind of love I thought existed.
It's important to remember I'm talking about love here, not validation. We can seek validation so easily by logging onto Tinder and discovering who deems you worthy of a right swipe. By posting a selfie and getting a few likes, or even going to a bar and meeting real life people (is that still a thing?). Validation is one thing. Love, on the other hand, is entirely different.
Validation is one thing. Love, on the other hand, is entirely different.
Eventually, I realised that first and foremost love needed to start with me — and I'm not ashamed to say it was something I had to work on. I am a naturally ruminative and self-critical person. Anxiety is something I live with and I have always spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, wondering about everything from, "What if The Matrix was right?" to "Am I a terrible person?" I don't think I'm a negative person, just sensitive.
But here's the rub: When you're a sensitive, pensive child growing up bombarded by messages telling you that you won't be happy until your life matches those on the screens, you start to believe that you aren't good enough. On top of that, there's factoring in what it's like to grow up in the heteronormative world of 20 years ago, which subtly guided LGBTQI+ youth away from themselves before they were even old enough to know who they were. I remember feeling shame for being different and not being like "normal boys," even though I didn't know what made me different. This is not to say I did it tough — I had a loving and communicative family who always made me feel safe and heard, I didn't have much trouble at school, I had good friends and lots of love in my life. But it was a different time and there wasn't a dialogue around things like same-sex marriage, sexuality or gender norms then (and if there was, it didn't reach Leppington in semi-rural Sydney!).
Growing up bombarded by messages telling you that you won't be happy until your life matches those on the screens, you start to believe that you aren't good enough.
The result is that so many of us thought, and still think, we aren't good enough. But we are! We don't have to be famous, or have fuller lips, or be in the perfect relationship to be "good enough." Nor do we have to be out in the world, constantly achieving, to be content. We can't all be Beyoncé.
The hard work, the important work, was in loving myself first. I made a resolution to remind myself I am enough as is; to be gentle on myself. The late Louise Hay said that if we could only stop all self-criticism, then everything else would fall into place. Mark Darcy tells Bridget Jones that he likes her very much, just as she is. And that's what I had to tell myself, over and over again, until I finally stopped criticising my every move.
When you learn to love yourself, which I think many of us in the LGBTQI+ community can struggle with, everything else falls into place. You don't feel incomplete — anyone who comes into your life is a welcome addition. You don't feel a desperate need to impress people with your extensive knowledge of Britney Spears, how well you can make a bed, or even your near-fluency in German (by the way, these are my top three skills).
We should spend much more time on how to love ourselves, and just relax when it comes to letting romantic love happen.
I don't think we need to worry so much about dating and the how-tos of loving someone else. I think we should all spend much more time on how to love ourselves, and just relax when it comes to letting romantic love happen.
These days, I'm happy to say that after putting in a lot of work turning the beat around on my low self-esteem, I am now in a space where I can sit quietly, enjoy my own company and not search for external validation. I've said yes to loving myself, first. And as luck would have it, someone wonderful has indeed come into my life and I'm in love. It's really rather exciting; I've never felt anything like it before. I'm saying yes to love in a whole new way and I'm excited to see where we end up. So maybe this Valentine's Day, take yourself out on a solo date to remind yourself how great you are — because you are more than good enough.
Feeling the love? Read more POPSUGAR Pride stories.