Throughout our teenage years, we have expectations from family, teachers, and other authoritative figures in our lives. We figure out which expectations we will adhere to and which ones we will move against. Once we truly reach adulthood in our twenties, we have the long-awaited opportunity to set expectations for ourselves. One important part of our foundation and one crucial tool we need to develop is self-worth.
However, it wasn’t until I fell victim to an abusive boyfriend and his final assault on my body and spirit that I began to question my worth. I wondered why I deserved to be physically and emotionally broken by a person who claimed to love me. What was wrong with me that made him hurt me?
His jail sentence and my protection order gave me true time and space to feel safe enough to heal; to rediscover my self-worth and realize that the damage he inflicted on me wasn’t my fault at all. Almost a year passed, and I finally felt whole enough again to try and welcome someone new into my life. I went into the relationship knowing my worth; knowing I deserve kindness, love, and goodness. What I didn’t know is that the self-worth I had reclaimed was still fragile. Fragile enough still that the lies that took place in this new relationship would yet again have me questioning my worth.
Our relationship went cold quickly and unexpectedly.
He told me that because of his circumstances, he wasn’t good for me. Then, he said he was moving away to try and change his circumstances. He cut off all contact with me after that conversation, and I accepted that the end of our relationship wasn’t because of me. I believed his reasons and wished him well in changing his circumstances.
Two months later, I ran into him at the place we met and discovered he never moved away at all and his “circumstances” were the same. Immediately, I internally screamed at myself, “He never liked you, and you weren’t worth enough for him to tell you that!”
Since that encounter, I’m still wondering about my worth. I’m stuck in an endless loop of self-scolding: why did you allow yourself to enter a new relationship before you were ready? How dare you let this cowardly liar make you question your worth! Why aren’t you stronger than this?! I thought you were stronger than this!
With that being said, I know that with relapse comes recovery. And while I’ll allow myself resentment towards the liar who interrupted my progress for a little bit longer, I will not be mad at myself. I’ll be kind to myself. I will remind myself of how hard I worked to seek out my worth after I’d lost it before. I’ll promise myself to work just as hard this time.
Self-worth is too important not to have.
It is one part of the foundation that we build ourselves on; the underlying foundation of all our emotions, thoughts, and actions. Questioning our worth because of someone else’s hurtful actions is easy. Unfortunately, the hard part is regaining that self-worth and making it unbreakable. It is hard, but it is necessary.
If you’re like me, in your early twenties and on your journey to discover your self-worth or if you’re regaining your lost worth, the how-to is the same. The biggest help will be avoiding people, lifestyles, and habits that chip away at your self-worth. Nourishing your body, mind, and spirit is what will make your sense of worth strong and unwavering. I am starting this “recovery regimen” again, with one goal in mind: To truly know my worth so that the next time I feel like questioning it, I won’t.
Image credit by Irene Dávila