Plain-Jane Aaron meets gym-hunk Barry. It all starts out fine and Aaron falls in love with Barry within a week. Barry feels lukewarm about Aaron but does nothing to indicate that. Aaron thinks Barry feels the same as he does and sends twenty lovey-dovey texts a day to Barry. Feeling suffocated, Barry ignores all of the messages and continues to date other people without telling Aaron. The more distant Barry gets from Aaron, the more Aaron wants to come close and Barry decides to run further away. A vicious cycle is initiated. Eventually Aaron stops obsessing over Barry but ends up devastated. Subsequently Aaron’s self-worth dwindles to zero but to everyone around him, it is as if nothing has happened as life moves on with hundreds and thousands of Aarons roaming around.
Sounds like a familiar story? I bet many of us have been an Aaron for at least once in our lives–I sure have. But unlike many I am fortunate to have come out relatively early in my life, which is something that really speeds up one’s growth as a homosexual person. I once read somewhere that all homosexuals have two birthdays–one on which he or she was born and the other when he or she comes out. If you fall for someone aged 30 biologically but had just come out when he was 25, you must realise that you are with someone at the homosexual age of 5. Coming out is the first step to self-love, which is something that can solve almost every problem in your life.
The phrase “loving yourself” has been thrown around a lot but what does it practically mean and why is it important? The chief ingredient in “loving yourself” is knowing yourself, something which is easier said than done. To me this comes with maturity and life experiences eg. one cannot truly understand what one wants in life without going through what it feels like having something one doesn’t want. The best lesson in life is a hard one and without going through a few Barrys, how could Aaron fine-tune what he really wants in life? When you know yourself inside out, you will be able to set specific goals to what exactly you want in your life and then start working towards it. This is when life gets really efficient–when you weed out the things slowing you down and focus all your energies on your target. Life is too short for you to sit around or going about it aimlessly. Being an Aaron at 25 is learning but still being one at 45 is depressing.
Another component of knowing yourself is being acutely aware of your limits. Sure, parents like to teach their kids to reach for the sky but how many of these kids with presidential dreams actually become presidents? However knowing your limits does not necessarily constitute a defeatist attitude–a practical dream is no lesser a dream than an overly-grand one. In the Aaron-Barry story, as cruel as it sounds, Aaron needs to understand that Barry is out of his league. Of course no one should stop Aaron chasing after Barry but time would tell Aaron after much had been wasted that his pursuit will fail in the end. I know this sounds shallow but after resisting it for years on the grounds of superficiality, I finally decided to hit the gym and get a nice body so as to boost my self-confidence and I tell you it works, especially in the gay world. Either Aaron lowers his standard or he raises his own status but he should never fall into an endless loop of chasing after the Barrys of the world and lament how tragic his fate is without realising the root cause or doing something about it.
Once you have successfully tackled the biggest unknown in your life (ie. yourself), you are well on your way to greater things. One more thing to note is that “loving yourself” is not a manifestation of selfishness. I for one would not want to mess around with people who are unsure of themselves. I would rather they take care of themselves and find their bearings in life before knowing them–yes, to me this applies to lovers AND friends. The journey of loving yourself does not stop once you have reached your goal or have found a long-term partner. Take the latter as an example–even in a stable relationship, the two people in it have to still exist as individuals with their own identities and beliefs. Many relationships start out intense and continue to remain so as both parties subjugate their own ideals and ways of thinking all in the name of compromise. Don’t get me wrong–I still believe the hallmark of true love is sacrifice but I also believe that the heart must be in the right place when you make that sacrifice and you can only do that if you truly understand yourself and your needs. Being totally co-dependent in a relationship is unhealthy as one should not let another person define one’s own life. We are all responsible for our own lives and we do that by first taking that big step of starting to love and know ourselves. Only after we conquer that battle can we start to love someone else–they deserve the same strength and confidence that we want our partners to have. If everyone bears that in mind and practise it, the weird everyone-is-searching-for-true-love-yet-everyone-remains-single-and-lonely phenomenon currently plaguing this world will cease to exist.
It took me about seven years to get to the point where I genuinely know myself and since then, armed with all the life experiences and lessons, I have become one of the more well-adjusted gay persons I know of in this predominantly non-gay world (I am not tooting my own horn for my friends can easily attest to that). I am not saying that I don’t falter, of course I do. But when I do make mistakes, I know what the consequences are and have the tools I have previously readied to deal with them. Even if I don’t, I continue to use these mistakes to enrich my book of life lessons and then move on to remain focused on my target or set new ones. To the uninitiated I can come across as pompous and arrogant because of how sure I am about myself but one of the best products of truly knowing myself is being content with what I have yet still having goals to constantly fight for. That to me is the ideal balance I have finally achieved after all these years.
So if you are still struggling with something in your life or have unresolved issues that stop you from living the way you want, why not take a step back and look at yourself in the mirror? Do you really know who that is you see?