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Before Two, There Was One: How To Love Yourself First

A few months ago, I wrote a ‘TED talk’ style article about ‘Love in College. It was a product of receiving multiple DM’s encouraging me to cover the topic, which was hilarious because the whole article had come with a huge caveat. I have never been ‘in love’. College romance for me had been more akin to bottleneck traffic rather than a freeway. But as of a few months ago – you could say the ‘traffic’ eased up. I felt lighter. I could breathe easier. I met someone that appreciated me, especially the things that others before him had belittled. No dream sounded too big when I articulated them to him.

“If there’s someone that can achieve that Rikhi, it’s you.”

Suddenly, I had a renewed sense of confidence in my hustle. He was bewildered at the ‘simple’ things that I had taken for granted about myself, like being a ‘personal growth junkie’. It had just felt so natural to me, but with him I felt validated and seen.

Sounds ‘perfect’ right?

Not quite.

Newsflash: Being in a relationship doesn’t magically solve all your problems. You just get new ones.

Now you’d think this was an easy concept to understand – obvious almost - but a few months ago, amidst the peak Junior year slump at college, all anyone could ever talk about was being in love or wanting to be in love. I’m talking about the smartest kids – your future brain doctors and astronauts all consumed by a singular thought – “man it’d be nice to be in a relationship right now.”

What I’d discovered then was that within this demographic - we cared- we cared because love is something that we can all relate to – either you are a college student who’s experienced it or wants to experience it or you were a college student who has experienced it.

And perhaps it mattered because the metrics by which we were defining our happiness or the ticks on our checklist went something like this – a job, good grades, fitness, a robust social and extracurricular schedule and a significant other – in no particular order.

When one remains incomplete us high achievers feel unsettled – restless.

But here was the catch – I didn’t become less restless when I got into a relationship. I instinctively found another metric to obsess over. Even though the truth was that I already had everything I needed right now to move closer to living a life I was proud of, I couldn’t shake off certain self-limiting beliefs.

Our self-limiting beliefs are lies that we've been told or inherited that keep us playing small and fearful of stepping too far out of our comfort zone.

No amount of validation from his end could make me feel good if I didn’t rid myself of the limiting beliefs I had about not being good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or committed enough. You see, no one can really teach you to love yourself. It can only come from within. He couldn’t reaffirm the faith I had in charging towards the things I wanted to accomplish if I didn’t believe I could ….myself.

In my quest to change that, here is what I learnt:

No matter how good or bad things around me are, the most important factor influencing me is me.

My confidence, my energy, my perception of my health and physical attractiveness is all a product of my inner voice, and the version of the story I narrate. Yes—people can say or do things that influence how you perceive yourself, but ultimately, my relationship with myself, my acceptance of my gifts and faults, is what drives my perception of self-worth. The nicer I am to myself, the more I surround myself with thoughts, people, and beliefs that promote a positive self—and the better I feel.

And here’s the thing – no one else can do that for you.

Slow down, look into yourself. Do you love you? Do you even like you?

My personal answer to this thankfully was yes - I was secure because of who I’d grown into and the world that I’d so diligently built for myself...the relationships I’d honed, the investments I’d made, the standard I’d set.

And keeping these standards in mind – I looked back at the environment that fostered that Junior year college slump and searched for the individuals that were similarly secure – in themselves and the life they’d built for themselves, including their relationships. I asked them the following questions:

  1. What are your tips in 'being yourself' and preserving your identity in a relationship?

  2. As you change in the relationship how do you make sure it is positive growth?

These were the takeaways.


Product Technical Program Manager Intern at Facebook

What are your tips in 'being yourself' and preserving your identity in a relationship?

For all of the categories below, make sure both people can vouch for a set. Having far too many personal intentions likely mean there is little compromise in the relationship and having too many relationship intentions means you’re likely compromising too much in the relationship. Relationships are an easy and great way to personally develop yourself quickly in multiple contexts, but it’s always important to understand you are your own identify. Explore new paths together as a couple, but make sure you could still be fine and still have a personality if the relationship ever broke.

1. Identify personal values and relationship values

2. Identify personal friends and overlapping friend groups

3. Identify personal interests and shared interests

Throughout a relationship, make sure you always have a support system of friends and family as well that can vouch for the health of your relationship. Keeping people involved and aware of any major positive or negative steps in the relationship help them provide resources and take advice as necessary.

As you change in the relationship, how do you make sure it’s positive growth?

1. Identify what aspect you want the relationship to help you grow in versus keep the same. Thinking about this in advance when dating multiple people can be useful. Two people might be getting into a relationship for very different reasons. Keep your intentions in mind when evaluating how you want to grow and to what degree.

2. Consistent check ins. This is something I do often. Evaluate the relationship on a bi yearly or quarterly basis to make sure goals and fulfillment is evaluated. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to do but it keeps confrontation feeling like normal conversation. Relationships can be a blur and time passes quicker than you know it. By checking in, you don’t take things for granted and can actively evaluate the little things.

3. Communication is key. Talk about any and all issues or positive things as they come up. Keeping open discussion makes the hiccups way easier when they arise.

4. Discuss what commitment means. Two people may be on very different pages in terms of commitment. Whether that be exclusive or open, or dating for fun or for marriage, keep the long term goals in mind. This ensures no one is taken by surprise when the future comes up in conversation

5. Challenge yourselves by solving relationship concerns TOGETHER rather than with separate friends and trying to make sense of different perspectives. Don’t try to outlet problems to all the other friend groups and besties when they come up. Challenge your partner and yourself to confront the question at hand, take a stance, and calmly discuss it. Running away from the issue just creates a new stream of problems in the long run.

6. Make sure there’s mutual benefits and both parties are on the same page. Through check ins and open communication this should be happening. But make sure both people are being rewarded and taken care of through the relationship.


Program Manager Intern at Microsoft

What are your tips in 'being yourself' and preserving your identity in a relationship?

I’ve always had this notion that you are still your own person before, during and after a relationship. I’ve stayed myself by bringing something to the relationship and letting my SO’s activities add to my life, but making sure not to do everything together. As Kween Ari would say, I just need space. I would also say have confidence in yourself and some core tenets of who you are. Don’t let your relationship consume you or define you. If it’s healthy, you should be able to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But your purpose of living should not be just for the relationship and trying to always make that person happy. You have a life to live too, and healthy communication means you will talk about this and understand each other’s goals and not suffocate one another.

In terms of preserving my identity, I usually do a reality check with myself and ask myself is this what I really want, or is this something I do because I think it will make someone else happy/think better of me? I think positive growth shows itself in ways that you feel empowered to be a better you.

As you change in the relationship, how do you make sure it’s positive growth?

I think negative changes manifest themselves in ways where you as a couple close yourself off to the world instead of feeling energized to do more in the world together. So like obsession with each other, spending way too much time with one another to the point of cutting off your friends and forgetting about hobbies and dreams you had before a relationship. And I understand that during the early stages of a relationship those honeymoon feelings are really strong, but it’s learning to be okay apart that really reflects trust and an understanding that you care about someone beyond their physical presence or physical appearance.


Being in a relationship has taught me and reiterated more than ever before – you need to work on yourself. Regardless of who you’re with, where you are - You’re not going to be able to show up as yourself and do yourself justice if you don’t know who you are.


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