>Q: I am at my wit's end in regards to my love life. I have been single for so many years that I don't even know where to begin. I am completely out of shape, I am starting to look old, and my self-esteem is in the gutter as a result. I feel like throwing in the towel all together and accepting the fact that I will never find someone. I know Mr. Right won't come knocking on my door, but I feel like I have lost my sense of self. Is there any hope for someone like me? I want love in my life.
-- G.F., Amherst
A: Before you can find love, you have to figure out who you are. You have to get to know yourself as if you are meeting yourself for the first time. It might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don't have any clue as to who they are, and many of their problems -- especially with dating and relationships -- are directly related to not knowing themselves, or how they come across to others.
Self-esteem is directly related to self-image, and we know how incredibly important it is to have positive feelings about ourselves. Liking yourself and feeling valued for who you are as a person, and accepting who you are not, is what self-esteem is truly all about. Self-esteem is one of the most important requirements for a healthy core. Before you can begin to improve your self-esteem, you have to know who you are, which includes understanding what demons from your past need to be faced.
Most people are afraid to look at themselves too closely. In fact, a lot of the clients I have worked with have spent much of their lives avoiding themselves, and doing anything else to avoid looking inside to try to understand who they are, and why. Fear is usually the biggest obstacle. People are afraid that what they will discover about themselves when they look inside is so bad they would rather avoid it all together. They shut down, and start to look to other people for validation.
Denial is another way people avoid themselves. They might look outwardly at themselves, but when they don't like what they see they decide to simply ignore it. Many of my clients with weight problems or other appearance-related issues are in denial. That denial and avoiding themselves keeps them from fixing the issues.
Some people think the reason they're alone is because they are unattractive, but I think the reasons they have let themselves go -- hurt, anger, sadness -- are usually the real reasons they are alone.
Getting to your core and seeing yourself fully will help you begin to build the life you are looking for, a life that includes love.
You have to be completely honest, straightforward and truthful with yourself. You need to identify your weaknesses and problems and be able to acknowledge them and work on fixing them. You indicate that you feel out of shape, that you look old, and your self-esteem is practically nonexistent. Physical manifestations of emotional problems are what is holding you back.
If you are serious about getting some control and confidence back in your life, you have to be proactive. If you feel out of shape, get to the gym or consult your doctor about a nutrition program. Looking older is not a bad thing; it is inevitable and natural. Get to a department store makeup counter and find someone who can help you accentuate your good features. Spend the time and the effort in becoming the best you that you can be, and when you commit to healing yourself, and you believe that you deserve it, you will be more likely to find love.
Patti Novak owns Buffalo Niagara Introductions (www.buffaloniagaraintro.com). Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your initials and hometown.