• Emily Bennett

Love Thy Self

"Do not go in search of love, go in search of life and life will find you the love you seek." -Unkown

I’ve heard it been said on more than one occasion, that to be the girl that everyone wants to marry, but no one actually dates, is the highest compliment and yet the most disheartening thing you could ever feel. While I still believe this to be a source of loneliness and confusion in my own life, I remember reading a book called the Uninvited that helped me to accept this notion a little better. One of the quotes that stuck out to me the most was: there is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to realize that being ‘set aside’ is actually God's call for her to be ‘set apart.’”

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I believed that in order to have a successful relationship with someone you needed relationship experience- that of which I lacked drastically and which made me feel unqualified or less worthy (as if love requires a resume *eye roll*). Now however, I believe this to be only partially true. I still believe you need experience, but not necessarily relationship experience. You need you experience. Knowing what makes you happy, sad, excited, frustrated, angry. How to make yourself laugh, what really bothers you, and how to pick yourself up when you fall. How to love others without it taking away from the love you give yourself. How to appreciate your own presence. And, although those things aren't necessarily foreign to me, seeing my "singleness" as a gift rather than it feeling like a punishment or a flaw is quite new to me. Living in New Zealand the past five months, I have realized that "when you go in search of life, life will give you the love you seek." What I didn’t realize, was that the kind of love I deeply desired… was my own.

I have always been proud and confident in who I am and what I bring to the table. I enjoy being in my own company and am genuinely comfortable with being alone and being independent. This being said, I will also be the first to admit that I have felt self-doubt which is rooted in being a girl who, at this age, is not pursued often. Having no relationship experience, naturally, I have pondered the possibility of not getting married or coming to terms with the idea that I may be someone who is unlovable or undesirable (which I understand sounds incredibly dramatic for a twenty-year old to say considering I have so much time to find someone, but when everyone around you has been in a relationship or is currently in love, you can't help but think there could be something wrong with what you have to offer the world). I would argue that culture plays a huge factor in this statement as relationships and commitment are becoming less and less common in comparison to hook ups and cheap love. Most guys my age are not looking for the girls who know who they are and what they want in life; they want the ‘good time,’ not the ‘good thing.’

As it turns out, I fall under the category of a girl who buys flowers at the grocery store. The one who tells you corny jokes and laughs at them before she even lets the words fall off her lips. A girl who stares out of car windows and sees shapes in the clouds. The kind of girl who dances in the kitchen, the shower, and the treadmill at the gym. The girl who loves Jesus more than anything, who sings every song in the car, and who throws food up in the air to catch it. The one who checks up on others, takes them to the doctors, sends encouraging messages and who tries to take care of everyone around her before she takes care of herself. The kind of girl who likes twinkly lights, picnics and being barefoot and stargazing and who snorts from laughing too hard because she can’t catch a breath. The one who likes books and cursive and wine and kids. The kind of girl who has spent half the year getting to know herself better because a guy wasn’t trying to.

“Until you get comfortable with being alone, you’ll never know if you’re choosing someone out of love or loneliness.”

While in New Zealand I took an interest in a boy who was also studying at the University of Auckland and, although it didn’t work out exactly the way I had hoped, it taught me quite a bit about this season of my life. I was obviously a little discouraged after things unfortunately fell through with him, but someone I think very fondly of reminded me that, “it’ll happen more often than it won’t.” And he would be right. There are so many times in life where you might be interested in someone who seems to be the perfect person, but they just aren’t the perfect person for you. It’s okay that not everyone wants to be in a relationship with you- this is not a determining factor in your self-worth.

There are seven billion people on this one little planet that circles a big fiery ball and, in those seven billion people, probably more than half of them have a relationship status of single. And some of the most beautiful, intelligent, interesting, kind, all around awesome people are included in that. Not because they aren’t worthy of love, but because that’s just the way it’s worked out. Maybe they met someone, but the timing was off, maybe they’re focusing on themselves, maybe they’re scared to fall in love... who knows. But I bet you that most of them (even though they are utterly impeccable) probably feel unloved, unworthy, or overlooked, and you might feel that way too, but your worth should never depend on your relationship status anyway. There is nothing wrong with any of them, just like there’s nothing wrong with you. Some people might absolutely love pineapple pizza, while others want nothing to do with it. That doesn’t make pineapple pizza any less of a pizza. You just have to wait for the ones who can’t live without it.

"Balance my darling, is not letting anybody love you less than you love yourself." -Ketut Liyer

The thing is, I have spent so much of my life stressing out about not being in love or in a relationship, when in reality it has been such a blessing in disguise. Your early twenties are such a pivotal time of growth and self-discovery and I really do believe that you need to figure out who you are without needing another human being to help you to finish the definition. I never realized how much freedom there was in being able to focus on myself and the things that genuinely bring me happiness: my future career plans, my relationship with God, traveling, friends, family, life after graduation, etc. I don’t have to worry about making decisions that may affect another person or having to prioritize a guy in relation to my friends or family. And while all of this was true before I left, I think being abroad and traveling opened my eyes to the reality that this season of my life is so unique and empowering. I know now that love is not restricted to a significant other or that, it coming from yourself or friends or family, doesn’t make it any less beautiful. That you are complete on your own and you can change the world with a relationship status of “self.” How cool is it that you get to learn about the things that you enjoy and that bring passion to your soul. How wonderful to recognize that you are your home.

When I passed this tree (the one pictured above) while on a hike towards the end of my trip in New Zealand, and saw the phrase “love thy self” written in sharpie, it somehow all made sense. Regardless of how you feel or what you want, you are here in this season because you need to be. To learn about yourself, to embrace alone time and thrive in it, to unlearn bad habits and practice new healthy ones- this trip was only ever about learning to love thy self and using that love to make the world a better place. Love will come, but for now, just enjoy this moment. It is just as impactful.

Thank you New Zealand.

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