If another person asks me if I have a boyfriend, I may poke my eyeballs out.
As someone who has been single for what feels like an eternity, I already know what comes next. I'm told I'm too picky and I should be more vulnerable.
We've all heard it. My therapist sermonizes it. Confidence begets confidence. Vulnerability is the key to intimacy.
And I believe it. The men I fall for are consistently self-assured and open.
Yes, I've read all of the articles out there. I've even started doing yoga, I've looked in the mirror, and I've repeated positive affirmations each morning.
I don't hate myself. I can objectively be proud of myself in a lot of ways since I know I'm not a leper. But there is always a nagging voice telling me "you're not enough."
This keeps me from taking compliments from guys I date. This encourages me to send cryptic texts. This keeps me from opening up to true intimacy.
This voice is supposed to protect my heart, but in the end, it's hurting it.
So, how should a girl actually start "loving yourself" when the story you've told yourself for years encourages the opposite?
Treat self-deprecation like a bad habit because in all honesty, that's all it is.
What if next time you told yourself you're not worthy of a relationship, you could actually stop that thought? It can be done in the same way you stopped sucking your thumb when you were little.
Here are three steps to start on the path to loving yourself so that you can open yourself up to loving somebody else.
1. Take Note Of The Moments When You Get In Your Own Head
Whether it's that PDA-loving couple holding hands on the street or that morning scroll through your ex's Snapchat story, there are things out that will bring up the reminder that yes, we are alone.
But take note of that. Be aware.
Start to identify when these feels of self-loathing come up. At first, it might seem like you're doing it all of the time... because, same. Trust me, it happens.
Write down each negative thought you have about yourself for a full day. Sure, it might make you feel a little bit sad, but you wouldn't end up vocalizing it anyway.
Though annoying at first, acknowledging what you're doing is a great way of shaking the habit.
It gets you on that path to loving who you are, first and foremost.
2. Develop Ways To Stop Yourself From Doing Things That Bring You Down
Now that you've noticed when these thoughts pop into your head, you can take action.
Did you feel noticeably more single after stalking an entire album from your cousin's wedding? Does fifth-wheeling a dinner leave you feeling empty inside?
First, just stop it. Don't egg yourself on with instances that will just have you in a downward spiral of depression.
Take a breather next time your friends invite you along. Take a break from social media. Begin to develop ways that will allow you to connect more with yourself. This is your time to enjoy who you are as a person before you can open up to enjoying who you are when you're someone else.
If you happen to be in the midst of a big family gathering, there are ways to avoid being questioned about your love life. Rather than field questions with fictitious answers, bring up the project you just started at work or that summer trip you have planned.
Trust me, people love living vicariously through your trips.
3. Change That Negative Voice Of Yours To A Positive, Loving One
I'm not talking positive affirmations, but more about acts of self-love.
Every time you feel that negative thought coming on, spin it with something nice for yourself.
I'm not advising to treat yourself to a spa day every time you think you're not pretty enough for a boyfriend, but there are little things you can do to remove that overwhelming cynicism.
It could be as simple as pulling up of a picture of yourself where you look particularly fly.
Yes, accept it, girl. You are that beautiful.
Every time you think you're never going to get married, take that big, deep yoga breath. Calm your nerves and think of the present instead of the future.
Light some candles, relax, use some hand lotion. Silly, I know, but whatever will bring out a smile is all you need.
These simple acts can retrain your brain to associate being single with kind, loving thoughts.
Next time you're preparing for a Bumble date, applying mascara, feeling some butterflies, don't allow that voice to question your appearance. Don't make judgmental calls before you've even stepped foot in front of the guy.
Remember that it's OK to speak highly of yourself, to yourself. Relish in the opportunity to learn about a new person who thinks you're pretty cool, too.
If you start to allow yourself these tiny acts of love, day by day, you will start to project a confident, more open "you."
You'll be loving yourself, and eventually, someone else, in no time.