An Open Letter to Puzzle Pieces

Lauren Cohen

Voices Editor

If there’s one thing that society has taught me, it’s that I am innately incomplete. A puzzle piece, if you will. It became clear to me, quite early on, that “falling in love” would be a milestone I’d have to experience not only to attain a state of wholeness, but also a fulfilling life. The perception that all of my traits – physical and otherwise –  had to eventually be affirmed by a lover was ingrained into my mind by the series of Hollywood and commercial images my LA upbringing exposed me to. I couldn’t be beautiful unless a man treated me so. I couldn’t possibly be worthy of love until someone showed or reciprocated romantic interest.

In this sense, I existed (and still do, to an extent) as a puzzle piece. My first half, ironically, was my whole self: my memories (ranging from traumatic to euphoric), my arsenal of stories, my humor, my music taste, my secrets, my physical appearance, and my deepest fears and my most intense passions. The second half was validation. I often did, and still do, doubt if my first half could truly be good enough if I never fell in love. If no one came along and said “I want her to be mine,” could I still be worthy of love and acceptance? Or is having a lover or admirer truly necessary to know that all of your traits have come together to make you truly beautiful? For much of my life, my response to such questions was, naturally, “absolutely not.” Recently, I have realized how this response is not one that follows truth, but rather indoctrination. From the portrayal of romantic relationships in media and advertisements, I was conditioned to believe that finding someone who would love me is what would make me truly love myself.

But I am here, writing this article, because I have realized, after much pain and disappointment and struggle, how insane it is that I have subscribed to such an irrational and oppressive standard of beauty. Beauty, in all senses, is not contingent upon ratings or perceptions – or any external measure, for that matter. Beauty is inherent. It exists whether one acknowledges it or not. The dandelion nestled in the grass that one businessman rushes by is the same dandelion that the young child runs toward and greets with squeals of joy. Its beauty has nothing to do with the outside world’s perception of it. It is beautiful whether or not a human decides to stop and affirm that it is so. The same applies to people. Our beauty, despite all we are taught, does not depend on whether we have someone in our lives who tells us that or treats us like we are, indeed, beautiful.

So, to all others who have felt like a puzzle piece, excitedly waiting for the day that they fall in love to finally love themselves, this is for you. You are the dandelion. Stop waiting for someone to stop, pick you up, and marvel at you to feel whole. Know that you are gorgeous – dancing in the wind, a ball of light. You, in your entirety, are enough. Your music taste, your most embarrassing moments, your laugh, your arsenal of stories, your body, your favorite foods, your vivid memories, your napping face, your scars and sensitivities, your quirks; YOU are utterly beautiful. I empower you to take today as the day you stop waiting for someone to love you, and begin loving yourself.

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