I got a text from my good friend, Laura, four hours before the clock struck midnight for Valentine’s Day. She had been absolutely destroyed by the person she loved just the day before. She sent, “HELP!!! I need a Valentine’s Day picture idea. I want to do something about loving myself because this week has been hell and I love myself.” She never apologized for the necessity of self-love that everyone should have; she was never shy. She quickly came over, and we shot in my pajamas while eating chocolate and ranting about boys. I laid all my clothes and backdrops out for Laura, letting her pick. This was her shoot, her way to cherish herself. It was unlike any shoot I had done before. Maybe that’s why it means so much to me.
She then shared some writing of hers that she created seven days after Valentine’s Day. One line really stuck with me. It was the kind of line you want to use in your Instagram caption and write on your mirror: "I want to be a woman of substance; I want to be able to feel vulnerable.” And that’s what she taught me: to cherish my complexity and to be transparent.
It’s the friends that show their innermost self that you should give the most love.
February had been a terrible month for love.
I sat down as the person I loved told me they didn’t see a future with me anymore. It came out of the blue, no gradual hinting that something had died in the relationship, no moments of doubt expressed, just a sudden “I feel like something is missing” that was enough to make me feel as though I had gotten punched in the stomach.
Relational conflicts are a rather taboo subject, I feel. Women in my family were not encouraged to share their feelings or discuss problems in their relationships, it just wasn't “right.” As I grew up, I began to transform into the young woman I am today. I now realize that I want to be a woman of substance; I want to be able to feel vulnerable. Maintaining a reputation is only difficult on the individual trying to uphold it, so why try and act as though I have everything figured out?
The conversation about our relationship lasted hours, but I distinctly remember looking at the body of my best friend and seeing someone completely different. I recognized all their features; the scar on their eyebrow, their blue eyes which they had gotten from their father. I was looking at such a familiar face, but almost in an instant my emotional attachment seemed to fade, making them feel like a stranger again.
My best friend told me they were unsure they wanted to be together because of their fear for the future, that they had been thinking about this for months and just finally came to the conclusion that it was the right decision. My initial thought was to play the blame game and fixate all my frustration on the fact that all the times we were together prior, all the days I felt were great, were times that someone else was deciding whether or not they wanted to be with me. It all seemed so falsified now. I felt like I was somehow to blame, too, because I hadn’t noticed a disconnect. I began to fall back into the pattern of turning someone else’s problem into my own, carrying their weight on my shoulders.
The night had ended, and I realized the one thing that needed repairing above all else was my own personal growth as an individual. I was tired of feeling this immense load of anxiety about situations that were beyond my control. Instead of devoting my time to others, I needed to learn how to focus on myself and develop a sense of independence that had become so foreign to me now.
I spent the next few days thinking about my personal goals as an individual. Was there anything I felt I hadn’t completed? Anything I promised myself I would take up but never did? It all started with the idea that I am in the beginning stages of learning and growing and that it’s alright to be unstable at this moment. Vulnerability and acceptance now would only lead to a more secure sense of self in the future.
I listened to someone tell me I wasn’t the one for them and that hurt so badly, but it also reminded me that I needed to focus on fixing my relationship with myself before any other.
February was an incredible month for self-love.
Prose by Laura Popescu