By Shanda Snyder

We all do it. We all have a tendency to search for someone who will adore and love us in hopes that this will make us feel desired and special. Amid our concern to impress other people with our physical traits and our quick wit, there is an underlying expectation that a relationship will somehow make us better, or that we will learn things about ourselves.

Personally, I’ve always felt more complete and confident when I have a man by my side reminding me that I am beautiful and smart. Receiving these daily compliments, especially from a member of the opposite sex, can foster an addiction. And if the unthinkable should happen, and we find ourselves single, detached from our significant other, missing those compliments about how appealing we look, we find ourselves lusting for those reassuring words.

Who doesn’t like to hear how important they are, how attractive and strong they look, to be reminded of our special talents and abilities? It’s safe to say: We all do.

But is that the only way to go?

After all, there is something called “self-love.” And another person, aside from you, isn’t required for that. Since when did a constructive self-image require others for positive stimulation? This isn’t sex we are talking about-it’s something you do entirely by yourself.

Relationships are great for intimacy and developing ties with the opposite sex. They are a doorway for companionship and sentimental memories. But relationships shouldn’t be the only permission slip that allows someone to feel better about themselves.

The thing is, so many of us use other people as a mirror. This mirror reminds us of our importance and significance in life, our beauty, where we stand in perspective with the rest of the world, and how we perceive ourselves.

But there comes a time when enough is enough: Quit checking yourself out in the damn mirror.

Is there ever going to be a point where we, somewhere in our subconscious, find the ability to feel good about ourselves? When was the last time it didn’t take the attentions of some other girl or guy for you to recognize yourself as beautiful or strong, important or extraordinary? Our confidence is sadly derived from members of the opposite sex. And this can be an unhealthy habit to embrace.

Confidence never appears in one ideal moment, it can take years to understand.

Every one of us has those days when we wake up and our first reaction when we look into the mirror is to wonder: “Shit. Do I always look like this?” Heaven forbid, should we go a day without receiving any recognition from the opposite sex that we automatically plunge into depression, feeling unattractive and irrelevant.

It is no secret, and although many would hate to admit, we all check each other out. Females look to see if the girl living next to you has more perfect hair. Guys check to see if the dude to their left has larger biceps. We all compare ourselves to one another, and we all wish that our appearance, our talents or our personality would resemble those of someone else.

If only we could dedicate ourselves to improving and tweaking every element of ourselves to meet others’ standards, then we could get that confidence boost that we were so desperately searching for.

I will let you in on a secret: confidence is sexy; independence is sexy; the ability to be happy without needing a boyfriend or girlfriend to remind you that you are sexy is, in fact, sexy. Dating, one-night-stands and even marriage, are all fantastic, but perhaps the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. There will never be a more intimate bond than that.

The prize is when we come to the realization that there is no universal doctrine for perfection. There is no general portrait for beauty. And there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to feel content all on your own. The day you finally realize how striking you really are, inside and out, is the day the world will realize it too.