Three weeks after I tattoo’d a declaration of self-love on my hand, I came to the crucial realization that while devotion to loving myself is necessary, it wasn’t a cure-all to live happily. My life’s story so far has been largely characterized my compassion for others, but finding that balance has oftentimes been a challenge.
While it is paramount to draw a line in the sand between yourself and others, so as to not become dependent on their love to validate your own, our relationships are core ingredients rooted in our happiness.
For myself, a way of expressing self-love is by spreading love to others. Sharing a smile, laugh or special moment is how I most brightly feel fulfillment in my existence. It’s hard to think of a better way to spend my day than by making someone else’s better. I’ve learned through personal challenges that I should never depend on this feeling, though. I’ve found myself deriving this love for others from my innermost capacities, a source that should be reserved for self-love. This is where an imbalance between healthy relationships with others versus with myself usually occurs.
Realizing the origin of my inner discord shot me out of bed in the middle of the night like a lighter’s spark. I was realizing how to balance my inner needs while continuing to share love with others. I pulled up my computer and without hesitation bought 100 fake white flowers off Amazon. Several weeks later, I was taking up the entire living room crafting letters to 50 of my closest friends in Eugene, and 50 for complete strangers.
Since I was 16, I’ve preached about how important it is to eradicate standards and expectations from relationships. True love is blind, unwavering, honest and limitless. Everyone deserves to be celebrated for exactly how they are.
Recipients were friends of mine from all different backgrounds and extension of relationship. The common theme among all of them, whether they were co-workers, acquaintances or close friends, was that they “all helped make Eugene feel like home” for me. Moving to a new city as a fresh face isn’t always easy, but it’s the people that built a community alongside me that made my three years in Eugene so incredible. Whether they were my roommates or a friendly face in a vast room, I felt impassioned to tell people what a difference they had made in my life and our community.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting from this project. I simply felt compelled to do it, not just for other’s but mostly for myself. I felt my own love by sharing it with others. Some recipients were shocked, some were unsure how to express their emotions in the moment, others cried tears of gratitude, but all of those relationships felt fortified and more supportive one way or another. In subtle ways, friends and I felt closer to one another. Perhaps we should tell each other more often how amazing we think the other is.
You can never anticipate the timing that little acts of kindness can truly make a difference in. I was blown away from some of the stories people told me after I gave them their gift. One friend was only able to open hers when she was lying in a hospital bed. Another was at the most stressful point of her entire college career. Someone else revealed that they had recently lost a loved one. We don’t share enough with each other or lean on each other for support, as maybe sometimes we should.
This project took from January 2016 to the following July. From hand-writing each recipient a full-page letter to wrapping the flowers and then delivering the gifts (without giving away the surprise, either), I found myself developing it at every spare minute I had. It was one of the most rewarding personal projects I’ve ever done, and I plan to continue this tradition. I hope that this story might inspire others to tell the people in their lives how special they are; everyone needs to hear it, whether you know it or not.