Defining Myself for Myself: On Chasing Authenticated Knowledge of Self & Love

There’s a certain attractive, yet destructive danger that comes with seeking definition, footing and stability in others. I know it well. I know the thrill of redefining yourself with every new encounter and with every subsequent relationship. However, I also know the void for sense of self that remains unfilled, calling you back to the last and on to the next.

I’ve done a lot of tiptoeing, walking in straight lines, stretching myself out, and bending over backwards. This sounds more like a description befitting of an hour-long workout tape, but, in actuality, it’s a two-line synopsis of my entire love life thus far. I’ve loved like one of those bad dieters – feeding myself junk and hoping that bouts of activity will neutralize the self-damage being done.

However, rather, I found myself being swallowed, overextended, and in sticky situations. And with a bit of a twist on a saying of the great Audre Lorde, I hadn’t defined myself for myself, so I’d been crunched into other people’s fantasies of me and eaten alive.

I’ve made my love convenient more times than I can count – readily available, on call, flexible. And I’ve been lost in this, broken in this. My voice has been drowned out, silenced; my apprehensions and tears wiped away and muted if only for the sake of keeping them around a bit longer.

So when they left, parts and pieces of me left, too. And the temporary whole I grasped once again morphed into the hole I itched to seal. So I entertained them when they came back, mourned them when they left, lost myself in someone new, and went through the cycle with them, too.

I haven’t been strong enough to demand the love that I deserve, so I took bits and pieces of whatever I was given. And I hadn’t yet found myself worthy enough of anyone’s love, including myself. Rather, I played with and was played by mock imitations of the real deal.

I began to tire of this pattern of loving. I woke up and found myself broken and unfamiliar with the woman in the mirror. And the pieces of my already broken self that I sent out with my various lovers were not worthy of reclamation.

So I began to build, from the inside out. I began crafting, nurturing a love birthed within the depths of my being to be projected outward. I began consciously seeking a form of love that allowed me to thrive in peace, rather than in pieces.

And through this, and this alone, I sought definition. I sought to define myself through thoroughly learning the only person that can love me like me: me.

I became intentional. I became intentional in speaking life and the affirmations I desired to hear from others, to myself. I became intentional in listening to myself, intently to the thoughts and aims deep within me that I could share with no one else. I became intentional in the ways I touched, embraced, and caressed my body. I became intentional in loving myself as a whole.

As women who operate daily within a patriarchal tradition, we subconsciously learn, from young, to be defined by the men within our lives and in the relationships we enter. In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “[we are] expected to aspire to marriage,” and are only truly made whole, by societal standards, within this union.

We are taught to fear singularity and independence and socialized into associating both the former and latter with loneliness. But, there is joy, truth, and beauty in the lone self. We must correctly identify and address the woman inside as the only true source and starting point for authentic knowledge of both self and love.

In a rather cliché fashion, but quite simply, we accept the love we think we deserve. Be critical and attentive in your standards, the partners you seek out, and those that seek you. Never be too timid to say “no” when you mean it, but, additionally, never be too coarse to say “yes.”

Know what you want; but more importantly, know what you deserve and never cease unapologetically fighting to make sure that, in the end, the two align.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Krislyn Domingue is a rising sophomore, Sociology & Anthropology and Comparative Women’s Studies double major at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys reading, writing, and sipping Chai Tea. Email:; Twitter: @krislynsd.   

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