“Quality means doing it right when no one’s looking.” –Henry Ford

We all go through periods in our lives when our faith in love is tested. We begin to question if we will ever find the right mate, especially if we’ve been single for a number of years. We manifest these frustrations in the form of rants, sighs and fits of rage at the fact that we “keep running into no good people.” But how many of us actually take the time to be the wonderful person we seek? How is your internal environment?

I was 21 when I met my first true love. He came into my life six months before I was set to graduate from college and my life was quite stressful at the time. I desired love, but was not actively looking. But like most life desires, it came on its own terms. C.J.* was quiet, patient and mature. He was different from everyone in my past, but despite that, I almost destroyed a great relationship with my skepticism.

See, up until meeting C.J.*, I’d only dealt with sneaky, lying, conniving romantic partners. I was absolutely nothing like the individuals I chose to date, so how and WHY did I keep running into these types of individuals? Better yet, why did I allow myself to get involved with them?

The truth was that I did so because we had one thing in common: we were comfortable in exhibiting our flawed behavior. No, I wasn’t a dishonest, manipulative person, but I rested in my chaos. I outwardly expressed I wanted a quality relationship, but that was not the truth. The truth was I had become accustomed to functioning in chaos, had set up shop there, subconsciously sought out individuals who were like me. I was terrified of an actual relationship through which I would experience raw, genuine happiness, so I dated partners with whom I knew I would have no future. I dated people who were dramatic and dysfunctional.

It was a well-crafted lie that pacified me. I had the luxury of being able to say, “I tried,” knowing that the relationship wouldn’t work to begin with.

I met C.J.* when I decided to become the best version of myself. I did not run away from my flaws, and I was finally ready to take responsibility for allowing past experiences to shape my present. And the universe took note of that and blessed my life with his spirit for more than three years.

Our interactions weren’t easy initially. While I was making changes in my life, letting go of chaotic practices was still a struggle. Despite realizing how negatively my current behavior affected my love life, I still felt comfortable with those practices. They were familiar, and allowed me to “control” my feelings, or so I thought. When you’re used to negative feelings and patterns, it becomes easier to navigate, but you never really have control of anything.

I eventually got a grip on my demons and saved my relationship from self-sabotage. I became comfortable in experiencing real love, and with being treated with respect and dignity, how each and every one of us should be treated. I let go of old ways, and my commitment to becoming a quality individual resulted in me attracting someone of equal frequency.

The phrase “You are the company that you keep” isn’t just another cliché. Someone who is of substance will experience fewer instances of interacting with those who are not. This does not mean that people who are not on your level will not approach you; it simply means that you will not spend time, feelings, affection or any other investments on them. Quality individuals can spot other quality individuals because they know who they are, what they have to offer and are honest about what it is that they truly want. They are not perfect, but they understand the power of energy, and simply do not have time for madness, chaos and confusion. They are bold enough to ask themselves the questions: “Who am I,” “Who do I want to be” and “Who do I wish to attract?” They are even bolder when answered realistically.

While C.J.* and I are no longer together, we both taught each other the meaning of true love, having a partner that is of substance and the importance of dating worthy people. He showed me the truth, but he wasn’t able to until I revealed it to myself. If you’re constantly entertaining people who are not worth your time, then I encourage you to take a closer look at what it is that you really crave. If it’s authentic, true love then I hope that you are bold enough to start loving yourself first.

*names have been changed

Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self.”