As a young girl, I was convinced that feelings of loneliness and a jaded outlook on love would eventually earn me a solid, healthy relationship with a wonderful and caring man. That line of thinking sounds pretty absurd when I say it out loud, but as a teenager I spent weeks with Adam Levine crooning “She Will Be Loved” on repeat, mourning over my algebra homework, and anxiously awaiting the day I turned eighteen. I was certain that come adulthood, my moodiness would prove endearing. Adam Levine would show up at my doorstep at last, praising me for my evident insecurity and assuring me that he’s there to “make me feel beautiful.”
This was a backwards mentality. This was a waste of time.
But I was hardly alone in this frame of mind. The image of the “lonely queen” has been placed on a pedestal and so many of us have, at some point or another, found ourselves embracing self-loathing in the name of romance or because we imagine it makes us stronger, more complex, and mysterious figures.
So we minimize our laughter and cut back on our smiles. We take it upon ourselves to be aloof, to put off joy and contentment. I remember experiencing tragedies as a younger woman but refusing to talk them through with friends or family simply because I didn’t want to appear weak or willing to wear my heart on my sleeve. I perceived vulnerability as a fault and the longer I kept it hidden, the more fearful I became of opening up and allowing myself to be surrounded by support.
Perhaps our inclination to dwell on our darker sides stems from messages found in the music we listen to and the movies we see, many of which revolve around an angst-filled woman, stumbling through a life of despair and apathy, only finding her footing when she finds love. I, for one, took my queue as a lonely queen from my favorite Maroon 5 song—that girl would never have asked her friends to lend an ear. She would never cry in her mother’s arms. She was too busy keeping it all in and flaunting a broken smile. And today, artists like Lana Del Rey continue to express their dependence on men through sultry ballads that glamorize abusive partners and unceasing feelings of inadequacy.
Some insecurity is, of course, inevitable. But more and more I’m coming across girls who identify with their flaws in every sense and, perversely, wear them as badges of pride. They post their inhibitions on social networks for the world to see: selfies with self-deprecating captions, vague tweets that express shame and worthlessness, and other typed-out pleas for validation and approval.
And what’s the payoff of this sustained exercise in self-affliction? That some man will notice, kiss our wounds, stick a Band-Aid on our heart, and assure us we deserve better? That our friends and colleagues will find us terribly intriguing?
This is unfair to men, who are likely not on a mission to “fix” every broken girl on the planet. And it’s not fair to our friends who are not tasked with “solving” us. But more importantly it’s unfair to ourselves.
Playing the role of the lonely queen is just that: lonely. Sad. And damn near impossible to pull out of. We are not made to provide intriguing troubled figures for our friends to wonder about and for emotional songwriters to serenade. We are made to co-exist and be happy—and there is a great deal of strength and maturity to be found in the person who unapologetically speaks of their struggles and desires. Through sharing and listening, we become more complex than we ever would by carrying our every burden alone. We learn to identify with the qualities that others bring out in us—our wit, our humor, our bravery, and our compassion. We become warm and approachable rather than cold and troubled. We find ourselves in every pair of eyes we look into.
Rather than embracing the art of uncertainty and isolation, try wearing your heart on your sleeve. Laugh more. Invite everyone into your soul and share the things you have to say with the world. You may find that in addition to capturing the admiration of others, you learn to admire yourself.