It’s that twenty and thirty year old struggle. The moment when you realize that you followed the path that you set for yourself – college, career – but still are in an empty place. That moment when you realize that your greatest joy may actually be beyond you. And that moment when you realize that you may just not be enough for your own self. It’s as though we are trained at a young age, that the key to happiness is surely love and that no story is complete until a Prince slips those missing glass shoes on our worn out feet. Feet that have been worn out from chasing men, running away from them, and/or reluctantly walking out of their lives. While our soles become tired, our souls also become weak– leaving us discouraged about happiness in the form of love.

Each day of our lives, no matter how consumed they may be in other things, is circulated around love. The news channels constantly broadcasts stories about people spreading love and people taking it away. The reality shows depict people fighting over love or searching to be loved. And the cartoons and tween shows all have a storyline based on the simplicities of love. Let’s face it, love rules everything around us, and feeling like less of a being without it is something that most people share.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which was created in 1954, every being has five major Need Categories that keeps them alive and makes them feel whole. According to his theory, one cannot reach the next level until they have fully (or almost fully) satisfied the phases before it. The first need is the Physiological need, which includes health, food, and sleep. The second need is the Safety need, which includes shelter and removal from danger. The third need is the Belonging need, which includes love, affection, and being apart of groups. The fourth need is Esteem, which includes self-esteem and esteem for others. And the fifth and final stage is Self Actualization, where a person feels as though they have achieved their individual potential.

Although this bit of information seems pointless, it was plugged in to provide an educational and psychological understanding of the human mind. The reason why we have the tendency to feel like reaching our greatest potential is a lot harder than we originally anticipated and the reason why our self esteems sometimes reach the ultimate low is because we feel as if we haven’t found true love. Not being a part of a group, so to speak, and not feeling chosen or accepted is reason why our self esteem and self worth may be questioned. Because as you can see from the visual representation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs above, the need to “love and be loved” usually must be fulfilled before a person can deal with esteem & self actualization. Remember that his theory suggests that you can’t get to the next level until you have fully (or almost fully) satisfied the phases before it. And again, this was formulated after tons of experiments were conducted on large groups of people- and majority of people displayed these need requirements. And this isn’t to suggest, that this is the only reason why we may become sad or that everyone feels this way, but it is to say, that love and acceptance truly does play a part in the way we feel about ourselves. And without feeling as if we belong, it is hard to move forward to the next phase of our lives.

MY DATING STORY When I was younger and first “dating” (at the age of 16), I was probably the dumbest girl in the world. And of course, that’s easy to say now. I gave my all in every relationship, whether that was my whole $200 paycheck that I got every two weeks at my first job or whether that was my time that I sacrificed while putting what I needed to do on the back burner. I was head over heels for the men boys that I “dated”, only to be left alone because they had found someone else — during the times, that I was busy creating notecards for them to study with. I found myself on many occasions, unable to eat and unable to sleep, and although I tried to shake it, my soul just wanted to mourn. You see, a lot of times we go through relationships that are hurtful and ugly, but they are necessary so that we can appreciate the one that will eventually come along. A lot of the heartaches I went through, helped me see the type of men boys I didn’t want to date. It wasn’t until I decided that love was no longer my first priority that things around me started to change. I spent about 6 months dating myself and those honestly were some of the most memorable times I have today. There were things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, food I wanted to try – and I always knew that I could do that with and for myself. I wasn’t dismissing the dating thing and I never became the proclaimed, “Angry Black Woman”, but I just decided that I wanted to find happiness within myself before expecting another person to build that happiness within me. This led to me deciding to rebuild myself. I learned how to do my own hair, I mastered doing my eyebrows, I read about personal hygiene, and I made certain health decisions. This not only helped take up my time but it also helped me learn what works for me and helped me form my own opinions! I finally was able to create my perfect date, because it was me. And that’s when I began to actually realize more things when it came to my interactions with men. I would go on dates and know exactly what I liked and didn’t like. And no matter where I would go, I would always have things to say because I was able to speak more eloquently on what I had seen, wondered, and experienced. You see, “when you don’t know you can’t be– a short quote that I came up with when I was 18, that is now the basis of my understanding. The more you know the more you can protect yourself, teach others, be an asset, and make better decisions. You can be so much more just by knowing so much more. You don’t like something about yourself? Learn why it’s the way it is and learn how you can change it and you will not only better yourself but you’ll also be able to better someone else. This makes you well-rounded and will open you up to way more people. And this, really, is the reason why I am the way I am – always wanting to learn, read, research, mingle, and most importantly, share. Being able to have a mind of my own and being able to learn how to love by first loving myself is what allowed me to connect with the man that I’m with today.

FIRST Love no longer a first priority, never dismiss dating and don’t become bitter, rebuild self and learn what works for you.
THEN Do all that you’d like to do, for and by yourself and form own opinions based on personal experience.
THAT WAY YOU’LL HAVE A voice, opinion, and something worthwhile to say.
THUS ALLOWING YOU TO attract a broader range of people which will, in turn, allow you to be an asset to those wanting to be an asset to you.

Heartbreak is never easy. But just know that when you can’t eat and can’t sleep at night it’s because the inner you is saying: you neglected me. Your body will turn its back on you when it feels like you turned your back on it. Don’t stop loving yourself, even in the midst of loving others. And don’t forget the greatness you have within you. Your light will shine brighter, if you just take the time to polish it’s bulb. We neglect defining ourselves by failing to not wipe off the dust that lies on the light within us. Which, in turn, causes us to become tainted and hard to see by the eyes and hearts of others. Sometimes the best love comes as a result of not looking. What’s meant to be, will always be in the end.

So don’t be discouraged, love will find you. But if you want it to find you, you must first, find yourself.