Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your questioning queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past few months, my love life has become a spiritually taxing train wreck. I suspect that I’d greatly improve my success in romantic relationships and my overall emotional health by taking a deliberate break from dating to tend to my personal development. There’s some serious growing that I need to do, and I think I need to do that growing *before* I can engage in a healthful romance.
One of my core beliefs is that we are all whole and “good enough” as we are, because self-improvement is a neverending journey. I believe that you’ve just gotta love your hot self in your current state, warts and all, because if you withhold love for yourself until you’ve got your whole life in order, you’ll be waiting the rest of your life.
I want to see my desire to grow some more before entering a relationship be reconciled with the belief that I am good enough as I am. Self-improvement is a project that we work on our whole lives; if I plan to keep growing until the day I die, how will I know when I’ve made enough progress to consider looking for a romantic partner again?
Are We There Yet?
Dear Are We There Yet?
It’s never a bad idea to do work on yourself, and it’s responsible and pertinent of you to do that work prior to pursuing a relationship. I’m really glad that you’re recognizing that and making it A Thing. The issue you seem to be having is figuring out how much work you need to do in order to be “ready” to try again.
The tricky thing about growth and change is that we can’t really map out where we’re going. Sure, I can say that in the next few months I will have to pay my rent and reach certain deadlines, but all that personal stuff is just sloshing around at the mercy of the universe. The best anyone can try to do is be aware of what they are feeling and experiencing and to respond instead of react. That sounds really simple on paper, but in actuality is pretty difficult. Self-awareness takes time and patience and no one can be that Zen 100% of the time (btw, if this person exists, they are NO fun to hang out with).
A good place to start is with your ideal self. Who is it that you want to be and what do you value? Give your ideal self a name. What are they doing with their life? Look for themes in your aspirations. It can be helpful to create something to remind yourself of this. Some people make vision boards if they’re crafty like that. Others may wear a piece of jewelry, kind of like a totem. Your ideal self is in there somewhere, and they’re super rad, which if you follow my math means you’re super rad! Awwww snap, see what I did there?
Another helpful route would be to examine your expectations for others. What do you admire in a potential partner? What makes you want to abandon ship? What qualities do you expect out of another person and are you upholding them for yourself? For example, if dishonesty is a deal breaker for you, are you consistently being honest? How about having a car or a job? Ask yourself what it is that matters to you and why. People don’t often hold others to the same standards they hold themselves, which can either play out with no one ever being good enough, or letting way too many red flags whoosh by.
During this process, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. A minor setback doesn’t mean that you haven’t done enough work and are an unlovable failure. Set reasonable goals for yourself and try to build upon them. For example, if you want to be physically healthier, say “I’m going to try to go to the gym twice a week and drink enough water.” As you successfully complete that goal, build on it. Jumping into going twice a day and living off of superfoods alone is neither healthy nor sustainable, and would shatter your confidence once you tried and failed. It’s similar for dealing with emotional baggage. No one can just “get rid of” trauma and heartbreak, but it’s possible to deal with them in ways that are not overwhelming and overly taxing. Like all good things, it takes hella time though.
Overall, trust yourself and take your time. Everybody deserves healthy love and you are no exception.