This is part 1 of how to find happily ever after, starting with attraction and the very first steps of love. So many people never find true love. For others who do, they often fall out of love or end up getting divorced or just being dissatisfied in a relationship. 7% of married couples have exceptional marriages where they are extremely happy, fulfilled and growing as individuals.

So how do we find true love? How do we keep it and make it work long term? This is the Pathway to love.

I worked at a restaurant many years ago, and one day, out of the blue, a woman came up to me and blurted out: “Hey Bryan, you want to go to hell? Get married!” Apparently, she wasn’t done as she continued: “You wanna to go to a deeper part of hell? Have kids!” I replied: “Um, thanks for the tips!”

The truth is this was my understanding of love also. Most everyone I knew were unhappy, unfulfilled and marriage didn’t seem to be everything it was cracked up to be. Very few people, if any, seems very happy and fulfilled in marriage, so why do people get married at all? Why go through the pain and heartbreak?  I wondered how to find true love if even such a thing existed.

That was about two decades ago. I have learned a lot from the experts since then, and I hope to share what I have learned in this series with you.

The truth is: There is only one true love but many counterfeits. One way to exceptional happiness and detours to heartbreak. So, let’s walk that path to Love. But before even embarking down that path, we must establish a firm foundation, and it is loving ourselves. We must grow our self-esteem and our self-confidence in who we are.

You have to love yourself. You have to know yourself and what you have to offer. Many people, and I call them the oxymorons of love, are seeking to find love. They’re seeking a relationship so that they can be happy. If I could just find a girlfriend, or if I could just find a boyfriend, or if I could just get married, then I would be happy, just to have someone to keep me company, etc. That’s literally the opposite of love. Love is not selfish and self-seeking, love is selfless and self-serving. It gives to others, it doesn’t take. And so, by looking for love and just trying to get it for yourself, you’re actually losing it and you’re not going to find it that way. It’s kind of funny how that works sometimes.

Many of us have a low self-esteem. We just struggle with loving ourselves, or with thinking if we are worth or good enough, even in God’s sight. In the sight of others, we are always comparing. Maybe you love yourself, maybe you do not. Maybe like most people, you like part of yourself but not other parts. You like the good parts, but you hate the bad parts and sometimes you wish you could be someone else, more like her, or more like him.

The reality is no matter who we are, we are always comparing ourselves to other people. We are always looking at others and thinking: “I do not measure up,” instead of saying: “I like myself the way I am.”

It starts actually at a very young age, if our parents are mean, or they put us down. They criticize us and they tell us that we are not good enough for them or we will never measure up. This really creates in our minds an identity that we are not good enough and we spend the rest of our life trying to and failing to measure up and wishing we could.  5It could also start at school when we are bullied a lot and other kids make fun of us and we develop this low self-esteem.

What is interesting is that we take what mean people say and we internalize it as if it was true.

Even as adults, sometimes people are really mean, and we believe them. Why are we believing emotionally broken people who do not even see the world in reality most of the time? We often do not believe the people who love us, and their positive feedback but we are quick to believe the negative feedback.

Growing up, I had rock bottom self-esteem. I did not even look in the mirror for 7 years because I hated what I saw. I thought I would never get a date and I would never get married and have a family. No girl would ever like me, because my neck was too long, I was too skinny, etc. I tore myself apart. But the reality is that the low self-esteem only came from things that have formed in me from an earlier age. The reality is, I looked fine. I am married now, lots of girls ended up liking me and I even met a woman who had long blonde hair and big blue eyes and she said, I actually am attracted to skinny guys!  We all have different body types, and no matter if you love or hate your body type, you have the ability to change the world in some way.

If an old woman with a bag of groceries fell while crossing the street, you are not going to say: “I am too fat or too skinny to help.” You would run over there, with whatever type of body you have, and you would help her and show her love, and by doing so you would communicate the love of God to her. So, it does not really matter the type of body you have. You have the ability to love.

I came to find self-esteem in college, and it was in a very interesting way. I remember going back from class and I was in a really bad mood, and I had my angry face on, just stewing.

A little group of people came by me, and they said: “Bryan how are you doing today?” And I said: “Not too good.” So, they answered: “That is wonderful. We hope you have a great rest of your day, and we will see you later.” I was very confused, and I thought: “Are they blind? Can they not see that I am in a very bad mood? Do they not love me enough? They do not even care about me?” Another couple passed by holding hands, and they said: “Bryan how are you today? It is a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I said: “No, I am not doing well.” They replied: “Oh, that is too bad, we hope you have a good day Bryan.” And they just kept walking on. I am thinking: “Are they blind?” And I started really getting angry now. The next two people I saw asked how I was doing, I replied: “Bad.” They replied: “Oh, that is too bad, we hope you have a great day.”

Why in the world was everybody smiling at me when I was pouting and had a frown. I ended up going back to my room and throwing my backpack, kicking stuff and in a really angry mood. And then it hit me: Every single person that I met was smiling at me, their faces lit up and it is almost they became really happy when they saw me. I did not know I had any gifts or talents or that I was special, but it made me think that maybe I had a gift that I do not know of. Maybe I have the ability to make people’s lives happier. I might be the ugliest person on planet Earth, and I may not get married, by I could be a good person. I could make people’s lives better and happier just by being nice and being myself to the full.

That day I decided to do something. I went and I looked in the mirror for the first time in many years. I hated what I saw, and it was so difficult, but I stared at myself in the mirror. I thought God does not make junk. There has to be something good about me. I started to think about how I made people’s lives better. And I thought if I was the ugliest person in the world, I will make up with it with my personality. At that point, the movie Ninja Turtles II had come out. A scene in that movie came to my head. This big ugly bald guy came to the Ninja Turtles who he had tied in a rope and started growling in their face. The Ninja Turtles said: “If I had a face like that, I try to make up with it with some sort of personality.” It resonated it with me so much. Maybe I am ugly, but I am going to be nice. I am going to love people for who they are and if they are down, I am going to cheer them up. If they are having a bad day, I am going to listen. I am going to give many hugs and many smiles. This is what I spent the rest of college years doing and ever since, I quickly became one of the most popular people on my campus. Everybody loved me. My life went from I am ugly, and no one loves me, everyone hates me, and I am not going to do anything in life to Bryan, you are great. You have a great smile. You are loving and kind and you are always there for people. I did not make that much of a difference in my life. I just stopped focusing on those things I did not like about myself, and I started focusing on the gifts that I had and on what I could control and what I could do on my part.

This is one of the greatest keys to self-esteem. Focusing on the good parts of yourself. Those gifts that God has given you to change the world in some way. Make no mistake. Everyone of you has a gift or a talent or many, to change the world in some way and you are going to make the world better and that is going to fulfill you. It is so amazing that when I am giving parish talks and seminars, I ask the audience to write 10 things about themselves that they do not like, and they write them in a second. I say write down 2 things, you love about yourself, and people are sitting for 5 minutes trying to think of something to write down. We are so programmed to look at the parts in ourselves that we do not like.

There is so much more I can say about this topic. Many more stories that I have to share. Many more lists of things that actually create low self-esteem and how to avoid them and overcome them. I would like to direct you to a CD on our website called: How to increase your self-esteem and your self-worth. Some stories in this CD are going tor revolutionize the way you think about yourself and the way you think about the world.