This I Believe

Danielle - La Jolla, California
Entered on September 22, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in loving yourself to find love

I grew up in a large, loving, Catholic family. My parents married as high school sweethearts and spent the past 37 years raising seven children—their union is impressive. In particular, I’m inspired by their ability to grow and change, keeping life interesting, and supporting each other through good times and bad. Throughout my childhood, my parents took the time to teach me about love, respect and communication, all necessary components of a healthy relationship—as a result, I looked forward to finding that kind of love too.

Despite my burning desire to find a soul mate, my own match eluded me for many years. I thought that doing everything I could to make my partner happy should be enough. Obsessed with the idea of a successful relationship, I spent a long time in a bad one, where each argument felt like a failure and every compromise brought me closer to bending past my limit. After that particularly hard break-up, I found myself sitting on the floor of my dark closet, feeling worthless. I refused to respond to my friend Jake who sat outside the door, encouraging me to look on the bright side. When I came out of the closet, I found a piece of paper with a large happy face written in blue pen, propped up on a pillow. I smiled in spite of myself.

Jake is a very insightful and understanding man. He sympathized with my disappointment and self-doubt, but continued to believe in the person who would inevitably emerge from the closet. We talked about everything, from my failed relationship to what we wanted to do in life—we wrote haiku poems in magnets on the refrigerator, and he brought me blocks of chocolate. As we grew closer, I felt more love from this man who challenged me to love myself than I ever imagined receiving. I learned a lot in those first few months: about the importance of taking care of myself, about how to appreciate the world around me every day, about singing country love songs on the bench seat of his pickup truck, and not walking away when you’re mad, so you can come away from an argument feeling like you learned to better understand each other. After years of trying to make someone else happy, I learned to be happy with myself.

Engaged to be married, I feel better about me than I ever have before, not because I finally found the love of my life, but because he helped me to find myself in the process. Now, I believe that I’ll always have love in my life. I believe that I’m a valuable individual, who deserves to be loved for who she is—and I believe in Jake. Without him, I might still be trying to change.