I should have loved myself with the love I gave to you. I should have told myself the encouraging things I told you when you were most vulnerable. I should have given myself the same chances that I gave to you.
And I didn’t.
If there’s one thing that I have learned within the span of high school and college years combined, it’s that I’ve sold myself short of opportunities. I’ve let myself become so engulfed in giving bits of myself to everyone else that I let my own well-being wear thin. I didn’t really know how to take all the love and compassion I’ve stored up for others and extend it to myself.
From the get-go, I have always been about giving others more than I was able to give to myself. For some, it’s human nature to do good for the sake of others. It’s called selflessness. It made me feel like I had something to offer, not only to my boyfriend at the time, but to everyone in my life as well.
It’s scary to think how destructive it can be to think, feel, and act this way.
We’ve grown to believe that treating others the way you want to be treated is the best way to live life, and that giving up our time, talents, and resources will allow us to reach all kinds of personal goals… But I was wrong to keep living this way for so long.
I met him when I was in the 8th grade. He was a sophomore in high school at the time. We all know how middle schoolers can be. I wanted to make a good impression, and after some odd number of months passed and I got to my freshman year of high school, we were an “unclassified romance.”
All I wanted to do for years was make him happy, make him realize how much he was worth to me. I always looked for outward affirmation from him (and others) that I was doing well in life and was respected. I didn’t brag, I didn’t flaunt anything in our relationship, and I didn’t ask for much other than a little validation here and there. Getting the right responses from people made me feel good. And even when it was just something I did out of habit, the praise still made me feel good…for a while.
Seeing myself only through the eyes of others is a habit that took me years to understand.
Because of it, I never really knew what pleased me, what I enjoyed, what I absolutely loved to do. So, after eight years of friendly romance, when he had it with me living that way, he began to distance himself. And it tore me apart. He had become my best friend from 8th grade to college and beyond. Losing that confidence that eight years had placed in me, I knew I had to take a firm hand on my life and begin reevaluating my attitude and behavior and discover what I was worth to myself.
Self-awareness is one of the most important things you can learn to incorporate in your life. I was clueless when it came to loving myself, loving my life, and relying on self-affirmation when it was needed. But taking that step to loving yourself is crucial. It’s the first step of not basing your self-worth on others’ opinions of you.
In the last year or so, I’ve taken the time to get to know myself. I’ve learned what I like, my strengths, my weaknesses, what brings me pure joy and what brings me to tears, what I believe in, what and who I truly care about, and the things that will bring me success and comfortable happiness in the long run.
And you know what? The more you become yourself, the more often the right people will gravitate towards you. I found the people who I really wanted around in my life. I lessened the grip on positive attention (and at times negative attention) and tightened my grip on learning to love myself first. Sometimes you will stumble and fall, but you have to put yourself before others to learn some of life’s biggest lessons.
I know there are still people out there that have their shortcomings when it comes to how I live my life now. I know there are people who still just won’t like me at all.
But, I’ve become so comfortable with myself that I couldn’t care less about those opinions. It’s the opinions of the people who have moved my life in such a way this year that I couldn’t imagine living this life without them around. I couldn’t imagine being myself, the way I am now, had I not had those positive influences on my time of growth and realization. It may seem cliché, but I would rather be hated for what I am than loved for acting the way I had for years.
I should have told myself all the things that I said were wonderful about you. I should have given myself the same pat on the back when I succeeded at something I enjoyed. I should have given myself the chance to change-up my state of being instead of going through the motions of life without self-purpose.
And I did.
For once in my life, I can finally say I love myself for being and not for doing. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Featured Image via Brandon Woelfel.