I used to hate myself. I hated how I looked, I hated that I was shy, I hated feeling dumb and unaccomplished, and I hated that I was not one of the popular kids. Every time I messed up or disappointed myself a voice inside my head would tell me that I was a failure, stupid, ugly, and worthless unless I could get it together. I believed it. I also believed that if these things were true of me then I did not deserve to be loved until I was “perfect”. For twenty-seven years I allowed these thoughts of hate, judgment, unacceptance, and fear to poison my mind.
Growing up, the love I was most familiar with was conditional, toxic, and selfish. It often left me feeling neglected and shamed. I longed to be seen. I wanted someone to love me no matter how I looked, or what I could or could not do. I wanted to be enough. The emotional neglect I had felt for so long turned into an unhealthy need for attention and a quest to find someone who could love me. I chased after a love that would see me, accept me, and make me happy. However, as I experienced many different relationships, I began to discover that the love I sought was not truly what I desired and was often not enough.
My skewed idea of love had left me broken. I was unhappy and weighed down by the shame of not being “perfect”…
My skewed idea of love had left me broken. I was unhappy and weighed down by the shame of not being “perfect,” and I was constantly disappointed when relationships did not work out. I had chased after love and approval from others for so long, and when all failed I realized that I had no idea who I was. My true self had been hidden away behind fear and shame. I was a shadow of an existence that was not authentic to my soul. I realized I had to choose; would I continue to live my life quiet, unhappy, and trapped? Or would I take a chance and be brave enough to be me?
I was scared. I had never trusted myself or believed in my own goodness, so I had no idea what the other side of neglect would look like. One step at a time, I pushed back and started to say no to all of the negative voices. One step at a time I let go of the need to be validated and loved by another person. Then I turned to myself and promised that I would never again be my enemy. I knew me the best. I saw myself- truly, and if I could not love this human being standing in front of me, I knew I would never experience true authentic existence and love. For the first time in my life, I finally stood up for myself.
At first loving myself was hard. I experienced different forms of negativity as I started to leave behind toxic relationships with people, work environments, and beliefs. But, one of the biggest things I experienced was loneliness. I had been focused on being enough for everyone but myself for so long that when I began to push back, I pushed out and away, leaving me alone and vulnerable to the unknown. Yet, during this season of loneliness, I found strength in the friends that stood by me and showed me true love, and I found that I was enough for myself.
…I found strength in the friends that stood by me and showed me true love, and I found that I was enough for myself.
Today I am different. Loving myself has taught me that I no longer need to define my worth by another person’s standards. Loving myself has enabled me to face myself, see every part of me and completely accept me. And, although I still battle negative voices in my head at times, I no longer believe them. Loving myself has taught me to give myself grace and to trust that there is beauty and goodness in my heart. Through self-love my heart has become more dynamic, understanding, and has found new strength. Today loving myself is unconditional.
I used to believe the only kind of fulfilling love was between two people, but, the purest love cannot exist between us until we have learned how to truly love; and, we will never learn true love until we have felt it from and given it unconditionally to the only person we will ever know completely: ourself.
Next time you go looking for love, instead of searching for another person, find yourself and love you. Because when the day comes for you to let another person into your life, it will no longer be about needing someone to love the parts of you that you cannot, but rather, it will be about finding someone who can love you as much as you already love yourself.