I take pride in who I am and how I look. Most of the time, before going anywhere that involves being seen by others, I make sure that I look somewhat presentable in order to appear like I have it together.
When I run errands, I try to make myself look more put together than a 24-year-old who spent the last two days lying in bed until (sometimes) 4 p.m. that I am. But sometimes going to the grocery store with no makeup, bedhead, and gym shorts on is inevitable.
Sometimes I don’t care, but other times, I worry: What will people think of me? What if I met my future husband at the grocery store and I’m not my best self today?
I think this relates to a desire we all have: We want to be our best self before we enter a serious relationship. This is important. But what does this “best self” really look like?
In the past, I’ve believed my best self was someone who had it all together. I would embody someone calm and collected. I’d always have a stylish outfit, my break-outs would be minimal, and I’d be really in shape. I’d rarely cry at Disney movie endings, my laugh wouldn’t be loud enough to wake someone 5 miles away. I’d always be patient and strong enough to handle what life throws at me with extreme elegance and grace. Until I had all these traits, I thought, I couldn’t date anyone, because I wasn’t ready to have the perfect relationship.
Sometimes the way we choose to date encourages this way of thinking. You meet someone new and you go out on a date to get to know each other. I think we’re all tempted to only show a certain side of ourselves in order to be more alluring. We try to be perfect and the difficulties arise later, when we decide to reveal our “true selves.”
I suggest two things, or two resolutions, for all of us to commit to when it comes to relationships.
First, we shouldn’t depend on others to make us feel perfect. Last year, I had a sort of mental breakdown. I was overwhelmed by school and not properly dealing with my emotions. After years of trying to sweep the more serious issues under the rug, I became very depressed. I thought that the opinions people had of me determined who I am, because I had such a low opinion of myself. I realized that I relied too heavily on my friends’ opinions; I expected them to fix me. This, in turn, helped me to recognize that I had an unhealthy attachment to being validated and that I genuinely couldn’t be in a relationship until I learned how to love myself for who I am first.
Second, we have to realize that no one is perfect. Cliche, I know. But I realized that if I felt so imperfect in a given moment and overwhelmed by so many emotions, other people probably felt this way too. And if they also felt imperfect, how could I expect them to fix me? How would I feel if someone expected me to be perfect?
The best relationships I’ve had are those in which I’ve decided to really be myself. One in particular really helped me accept myself. Although it didn’t work out, it was the first time I felt genuinely liked, because I wasn’t putting on any airs with him. I was completely myself: loud laugh, no makeup, crier that I am. I didn’t even have to try.
Honestly, we will never thoroughly be ready to begin a relationship. This can be scary but also exciting. Why? Because you get to grow and learn with that person, which makes the relationship stronger. Neither of us will be perfect, but we will be working to be our best selves together.