You want to find someone awesome? You need to be a person you would want to date.
You do not need to change yourself if you’re happy with your life. If you’re happy being single, drinking, and raging, good for you. As long as your behavior isn’t affecting those you love or your ability to care for yourself, you’re entitled to live your life however you want.
Check in with the people around you. Listen to the people who want you to be the best you that you can be. Take time to look internally and ask yourself, Am I happy? Is this the life I want?
If it is, go forth and do you. The answer may not always be yes, but as long as it is, you’re doing all right, babe. But consider this: If you wouldn’t want to date a person who’s doing the same shit you’re doing, it might be time to reassess your priorities.
When I was a hot-mess party girl, I figured people should just want to date me. I wanted a stable, sexy, smart, and sweet guy or lady who would be an excellent partner. I wanted someone who had their shit together when I didn’t have mine together in any capacity. An interesting, normal person was not going to date me. I was a disaster. I sure as hell wouldn’t date someone who was as sloppy and self-centered as I once was. So why would they want to date me?
If you find someone you vibe with, you’d better make yourself someone they want to date, and they had better do the same. Complaining about being single all the time, while continuing to be a Blackout Barbie, is not going to fix everything.
This takes work. You can’t just sit up one day and say, “I’m the best version of me now. Here we go. La-la-la.” That’s not how it works. Self-love doesn’t mean accepting all of your crappy, rude, bad behavior. It means growing and learning. Want more for yourself, from the person you love most—you. Self-love requires the ability to constantly improve yourself. Love the hot mess you are, and love the grown-ass person you will become. Love them and nurture them every step of the way.
If you’re going to make changes in your life, they have to stem from a place of self-awareness.
Start by doing small things. Cook healthy meals. Go to the gym to get your endorphins up. Limit alcohol consumption to the weekends. Work on a side hustle. You should always have a project outside of your full-time job, even if you think you’re too tired to handle it. You can. Don’t just sit there. Do things to improve yourself. But if you’re going to change, change because you want to. If you’re a train wreck, stop being a train wreck, because you want to remember what you did at least five of the seven nights in a week. Get it together, because you have goals and want to achieve them.
If you’re going to make changes in your life, they have to stem from a place of self-awareness. The decision has to come from the desire to make your life happier and more balanced. If your choices are making you miserable, you have to think about what you can do to stop making yourself miserable. If you want to find love, you have to be a person who is ready for love. If you come to a place in your life where you decide you’re ready for a stable, healthy relationship, you have to look inward first.
Be willing to grow and change every single day. Evolve.
In the early days of my last (pre-husband) relationship, when I was still a blackout drinker, my partner took me to a comedy show. I don’t actually remember much of the night, but apparently I got so blacked out that I was screaming at the talent onstage. We were thrown out of the club. This is just one of an unquantifiable number of times I did stuff like this. I was so out of control that I had to stop drinking altogether, save for very special occasions, for two full years. I recognized these experiences were not the best representation of who I am as a person. Sometimes I still get embarrassed about them, but every single bad choice I made forced me to become more resilient and showed me what I was capable of once I stopped drinking all the time. When you have a past, you wind up with an attuned sense of empathy for others.
Create rituals to help you heal. Traditional therapy is an excellent way to talk and work through your past mistakes, but you can do more holistic things as well. You can take the power into your own hands. Tuning into yourself and your needs is a daily practice. Whatever the ritual is should feel cleansing. No way is better than any other—unless your way of cleansing past mistakes is to go out and make more of them. Don’t do that.
When you are in the volatile process of healing, you are offered the opportunity to see how your partner deals with your pain.
I stick to a routine that involves a ton of physical exercise and taking immaculate care of my skin. I only have one body, and I love taking care of it. It makes me feel together and centered. I write in my journal or I write incredibly revealing articles on the internet. It’s a cathartic process and helps me move past my own mistakes. When someone who has had similar experiences reaches out to share their story with me, I feel less alone and they feel less alone.
You can write down your mistakes, fear, worries, traumas, or regrets. Make a list and read it out loud, and then tear it up and bury it in your garden. You can burn the pieces, if you feel like that would be cleansing. You can light candles and whisper your transgressions to the universe. Your ritual can be less witchy or granola, if you want. You can call your best friend and outline everything you’ve done that makes you feel shitty. She will make you feel less alone. That’s what she’s there for.
Just don’t live with the bad feelings and let them fester inside you. I’ve often thought I deserved to live with my mistakes forever and let them eat away at me. This suffering doesn’t help you learn. Get those feelings out of you in any way you can and let them go. Forgive yourself.
When you’ve gone through it and are in the volatile process of healing, you are offered the opportunity to see how the person you want to spend your life with deals with your pain. Healing is not an easy process. How they handle your self-care either brings fortitude and durability to the relationship or breaks it. Any love worth having can take the heat of an unencumbered anxiety attack here or there. Being able to love someone unconditionally as a whole, flawed person is the only love you should allow into your life.
Adapted from All the F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life by Gigi Engle. Copyright © 2020 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.
Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, sexologist, educator, and writer living in Chicago.