Single at 46 years old, I have often been asked variations on the theme of Why?: So, why aren’t you dating anyone? Have you ever been married? Why not?

As much as I cringe at being asked relationship-status questions, I’ve asked myself “Why not?” over the years as well. While I’ve never been opposed to the idea of getting married, I chose to live and work in 3 different countries over the years as my peers were getting married, settling down, buying their first homes and having children. Those were my decisions and I stand by them. What adventures I had!

But, again, why not? Why didn’t I meet some adventuresome type like me while working and traveling overseas or while living in a thriving major US city? Was there something wrong with me? If so, I had no idea what it was. I felt absolutely fine about myself and my accomplishments. I’m bubbly and vivacious, positive and fun to be around. I’m a catch! Nothing to change here! Or so I thought.

After I moved back to the US from living in Japan, I got hooked on reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul ended every show with,
RuPaul's Drag Race

“And remember, if you can’t love yourself, how the HELL can you love anybody else?! Can I get an AMEN up in here?!”

Alarm bells went off. How much did I love myself? I had a hunch I had some issues around this, but at the time I didn’t want to explore the dark side…so I ignored it.

But RuPaul didn’t ignore it. Week after week, season after season, he reminded me,

“Cause if you can’t love yourself, how the HELL can you love anybody else?! Can I get an AMEN up in here?!”

Several years ago when I chose to turn off the traditional trajectory and live a more divinely inspired life, I began to confront my shadow side as part of my spiritual work. These were aspects of myself that I had tamped down and tried desperately to forget about. These were aspects of myself that I didn’t want to see – the negative emotions that have surfaced frequently throughout my life and caused me pain and discomfort. My shadow hit parade includes shame, fear, judgement, guilt, anger, anxiety and sadness, all the parts of myself that I wish to keep hidden from view. It’s not pleasing to show these parts of myself, but it’s not authentic either.

Saying “Yes!” to God and Divine Guidance was easy relative to the internal work that’s involved on the spiritual path. I peeled back layer after layer of my shadow side, but eventually couldn’t progress any further until I addressed my issues around love: self love, unconditional love, receiving love, all of it. It was time to look under the rock and see what was there. It wasn’t pretty; I found self hatred and loathing staring back at me. While it was tempting to drop the rock, walk away and pretend I hadn’t seen anything, but I could no longer fool myself into thinking I didn’t have any issues around love, specifically self love.

I didn’t love myself…at all, it seemed, so how the HELL could I expect love anybody else? No AMENs up in here, please. I had some serious work to do. It was time to finally meet those shadows. On closer inspection, I found unworthiness. I believed I was undeserving of love, respect or happiness. I believed I had to construct a huge protective wall around myself to avoid vulnerability, abandonment or hurt. My entire being was on lockdown and no one was getting through. “I am a rock, I am an island,” I say! “And a rock feels no pain; an island never cries.” That was me in a nutshell, by way of Simon and Garfunkel. Is it any wonder that over the years no one could get through to me? It’s absolutely no wonder that I avoided relationships, and the ones I did have only reinforced my negative beliefs.

The first step towards dealing with my own issues around love involved doing a deep dive into understand what the issues were. I tried to do this with as much objectivity as possible because, after confronting these shadow aspects of myself, it was really tempting to play the blame game. Blame is like quick drying-cement; if you begin to blame everyone and everything for your shadows, you will never be able to move from that negative, angry spot and anger takes on a new aspect called rage. My advice is to try your very best not to think of or create any stories around your shadows. For me, it’s hard to admit I have anger. The last thing I want to be is an angry person, but I do have to acknowledge that anger is one of a myriad of aspects of who I am without assigning blame or trying to will it away. With all objectivity, it just is.

After that deep dive into the shadowy world of self, the next step is to swim back to the surface, where positive and negative emotions of our personalities meet and make us who we are. From this place I began consciously changing my beliefs about love: I am loved, I am safe, I am whole and I am worthy. All of these beliefs that were lacking needed regular reinforcement, much of which I did through mediation, through reading affirmations and through listening to inspirational thought leaders. I wish I could say that reprogramming negative beliefs around love is easy. I wish it were a “one and done” kind of process, but it isn’t. Like all spiritual self-work, it’s a lifelong process. I can affirm however that positive results of consciously changing negative beliefs become visible, not just to yourself but everyone around you. From positive energy comes more positive energy and reinforcement. Let this be the incentive to keep going with this positive self work.

It’s been quite a journey towards love – self love, receiving love, unconditional love and all other aspects of love – , but I can say with all certainty that I have come a long way from where I began. It came from a dogged determination not to settle for being a rock or an island, too afraid to be vulnerable or too afraid to give and receive love. That commitment to changing those beliefs has changed everything. I love myself. I can finally say that without flinching.

Can I get an AMEN up in here?!