Certainly one of the hardest and longest lessons for a person to learn throughout their life is self-love.
Whether a person has low self-esteem, on the verge of depression, poor body image, or more, self-love can be one of the hardest internal tasks for a person to overcome in their lifetime. Although there are many that overcome their internal obstacle of self-love, there are just as many that do not.
"Regard for one's own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic)" - definition of self-love
The story below is my journey through self-hate, self-acceptance, back to self-hate, to finally arriving at self-love.
I cannot tell you where my story beings. I have about no memories from before the age of 13 - apparently I have blocked those out for one reason or another. But I can tell you, from the age of 13, I have struggled with loving myself and knowing my value. I do know that my parents divorced when I was young; my father remarried quickly and my mom was in and out of relationships until I was 13, when she met my step-dad.
All I knew while growing up was "being in a relationship" was something that you just do to "be whole." Cinderella grew up and got married. Ariel grew up and got married. Snow White grew up and got married.
As a Disney child, knowing that you grow up and get married is what you do. It's as simple as having your prince charming put a glass slipper on that was provided by your fairy godmother (not a complex at all, righttttt?).
But having now grown to realize what the similarity between all of these situations is that: you have to change yourself to suit others in order to become happy with yourself, your relationship, your future and your life.
Age 13 - 16: My Definition of Self-Hate
I cannot describe to you how excited I was that my mom was marrying my step-dad; I probably wasn't too happy about getting 2 more brothers (making the total 6 to 1, them), but I was so happy for her to be happy, which she was (and is.) And of course, I love my step-brothers. :) One of my most memorable self-hating situations comes recently after my step-dad proposed to my mom. The dreaded dress shopping.
I was the only female growing up in my house as a child and the youngest child at that. So naturally, I was the one that got made fun of. From being fat to being dumb/weird, the insults never stopped. So when we went dress shopping for bridesmaids dresses, the size of the gown made the biggest impact on my emotional state.
I don't even know the size at this point in time, but what I do know is that it devastated me. I was FAT. I can now see how terrible it was to be 13 years old and feeling like my body was disgusting.
I'm told that I set out on a mission: I fully stopped eating meat (teenage rebellion), exercised a lot throughout the week and was conscious about what I ate. I don't remember any of this, but what I do remember is going for the first fitting of my dress and having to order a completely new dress because I had lost so much weight. I could be happy in my own body again. And all because I had changed myself.
Ages 14 - 16 was nothing more exciting. I spiraled downward into depression, so much so that I had to start taking anti-depression medicine.
Age 16 - 18: A High School, College Girl Coming into Her Own
16 was quite the age - I had a few different boyfriends throughout year 16 and year 17. I changed myself to appease them and made sure they were happy. I never lived for myself.
I was a teenager, I should have been running around having a good time. Yet, I was working essentially full time at an awesome shoe store and spending all my money on boyfriend after boyfriend. One of which:
That's where I met him. The boyfriend that I would try to completely change myself in order to fit into some "perfect fantasy" of love. Because that's what I thought self-love was—being in a relationship with someone defined me as a person.
I thought happiness came from the love (or lack thereof) from someone else. I thought my depression and reliance on medication would end simply because I found someone I thought I loved. This didn't happen with the first round of dating, roughly 6 months, but it certainly set a seed into my mind.
The story first truly starts after we broke up. I started dating someone new. We dated for nearly 2 years and throughout the entire relationship I tried to appease the man I thought I "loved." I changed myself constantly. I drove to and from my college town to my home town (roughly 75 miles one way) to see him every weekend.
He rarely reciprocated. Little did I know that he had been cheating on me the entire time. Man - did that break me. I thought I was the lowest form of woman there was. Someone who couldn't change herself enough to please the person she was with—so how could I love myself?
Luckily - that feeling did not last too long. It's interesting to see with the Facebook "On This Day" app how much my depression decreased and happiness increased as I moved out of that relationship. I started living the "college" life. I worked after class, made some friends and really connected with some great individuals who helped pull me out of my depression.
That included reconnecting with him, the guy who stole my heart.
Age 19 - 20 Years and 331 Days: Self-Destruction and Loathing
Little did I know that reconnecting with someone I thought I loved would be a spiral back into self-hate and self-loathing. I had not realized yet that being in a relationship with someone was not the way to find yourself and start to love yourself. The time I spent as a single college girl made my life worth loving. But then I found myself in a relationship - yet again.
Changing myself to fit an ideal that he had (of a previous girlfriend) and hating myself when I could not be her. I could not change myself enough to make him truly love me. I didn't know that self-love came from outside a relationship. It comes from within and it comes from knowing your worth. In this relationship - I did not know any of that.
But I was in love. I was going to spend my life with him and that's just how it was.
Age 21: A Turning Point, Journey to Self-Love
I was living with my brother and sister (brother's girlfriend, bus she's basically my sister.) A few days before my ex's birthday - we broke up. I started to realize that simply settling in a relationship, in which I hated myself, couldn't be how life was meant to be lived. I spent the next month in a broken state—and man do I mean broken. I wanted to go back because I didn't know how to live without him.
But I made it to my 21st birthday and my whole group of friends made it one of the most wonderful nights of my life. It was a sincere turning point for me. I realized, for the first time ever, that I didn't need to have a boyfriend to make myself happy.
I started coming off my anti-depressants, was dating some weirdo guy (that happened to introduce me to some new great friends), and started to love myself. I began looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself that I was enough. I didn't need someone to justify my love for myself. I was beautiful, I loved my physical self and I was starting to re-love my inner self, too.
My mom, brother, amazing family-friend and I joined a bowling league the fall prior. It was such a nice change from work and school, getting out for a change. I was introduced to a bunch of wonderful people - one being my current boyfriend and life-partner.
Age 22 - Now: Self-Acceptance and Self-Love, A New Journey in Time
I know - it's a bit backwards from what I've been saying. I'm in a relationship and I love myself - how crazy right? But I haven't had to change myself to appease Joe. He has been a saving grace, even if he doesn't want to think about it.
I haven't had to change ONE bit. I am who I've found out that I am and nothing more, nothing less. I don't want to change - and Joe doesn't want me to. He accepts me for the person I finally found out that I am.
He doesn't try to change me (except maybe going to the gym a bit more, but that's for my health.) He believes in me, he supports me and he cares. And I do all the same for him. It's amazing how relationships can be once you've found out the love for yourself.
A Few Tips on How to Help Increase Your Self-Love:
Change the way you speak to yourself. Don't tell yourself you're "ugly," "fat," etc. Change that - start to realize that you ARE beautiful and just because the media doesn't see it, doesn't mean it isn't true.
Ignore the media's image of "beauty"—it isn't real
Do NOT compare yourself to other people—You are YOU and no one else
- Set daily affirmations and repeat them to yourself ("I will have a good day," "I AM a good human being," etc.)
Now that I have a new found self-love (still growing every day), affirmations that I tell myself daily, a frequent gym routine, a good diet, and more, I have come into my own and am a better self for it. I am passionate about myself, my education, my job, my body and more. My passion for me is my passion for the world, my boyfriend, my life in happiness.