I hadn’t been single in nearly 20 years, since I was 15. Classic serial monogamist.
After each breakup, my girlfriends offered their two cents: “Maybe you should be single for a while?” Maybe, yes, I thought. But it just never happened that way. I’d soon meet someone and we’d be in-it-to-win-it, in no time.
When I met my ex-husband, I was 25 years old. He was 30, a musician, a kind and loving man. At that time, I was climbing the ladder in the cosmetics industry, fantasizing about traveling the world, and having a career that felt meaningful and inspiring. He had the life I’d dreamed of, and I looked up to him. We fell in love quickly, and every time we were backstage at a show, I was so proud to say, “I’m his wife.”
When we divorced, I felt an ache that a piece of my identity – being his wife – was dying away.
But I quickly fell in love again, this time with a famous entrepreneur. When we met, my business was soaring. I was traveling more and more, and I was excited to do even bigger things in my career and life. He was at the top of his game, truly contributing to the world and living his life at an extraordinary level, and I looked up to him. We, too, fell in love quickly, and at every event we went to, I was so proud to say, “I’m his girlfriend.”
While I fell in love with the men themselves (not who they were in public, but who they were in their hearts), I still felt a sense of validation from being able to say, “I’m with him”.
It was as if the fact that he was talented, brilliant, powerful, and successful meant I was, too. After all, he chose to be with me. Which was saying something, right?
He chose me, and he is important, therefore I feel important.
This cycle of seeking external validation that ran in the background of my consciousness for so many years (decades, even) was never forced to be resolved because I was always in a relationship. Until the day I wasn’t.
The day we broke up will be imprinted in my memory for a long time, I’m sure. I was devastated. I was in love, and the ache of losing that felt too much to bear. While my heartbreak was fueled by my love for his heart, not his celebrity or achievements, there was a small part of me that wondered, “If he doesn’t want me, what does that mean about me? Will anyone care about me if I’m not standing beside him?”
The thought sickened me, and I was finally forced to face the truth: I was allowing my partner’s brilliance to validate my sense of self-worth.
I knew it was time to finally take my girlfriends’ advice and be single for a while, and I did.
I had to learn to choose myself.
To be myself.
To trust myself.
To love myself.
But that process – the one-year journey to discovering deep self-love, not derived from anyone or anything – was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. There were many desperate moments, dark nights of the soul, and oceans of tears. And I didn’t do it alone.
It was hard to do, but I forced myself to lean on girlfriends, even when I was afraid they would reject me or get tired of hearing the same stories over and over, and even when I was embarrassed that I hadn’t figure it all out yet. They midwifed me home to myself many times. Leaning on them saved me.
Sisterhood taught me that I am worthy of love, not because I am with him, not because someone else thought I was special, but simply because I exist.
For once, I felt like enough, because I was enough for myself.
No validation needed. No qualifier. No explanation.
When we see ourselves for the goodness that we are, it is a gift to the world. It opens us up for deeper and more connected relationships, a more solid sense of purpose, greater levels of success, and more meaningful and aligned contribution.
So, does your lover (or kids, career, wardrobe, or appearance) validate your life?
Find the courage to lean on your sisters and ask for their honest and loving reflection. What do they love about you? Melt into their embrace, and absorb their strength and love until it radiates from within.
And when you don’t want to go to them, afraid that you’ll be too much trouble, or take up too much space, seek them out anyway. Because a free world is one where women are able to receive all the support they need, so they can find the energy to be of even greater service. Let sisterhood be your salve.
—> In the comments below, share how you get your validation “hit” and what you’re committed to healing so you can come home.