It's been on my heart to write on this topic for awhile now, and honestly I've been fighting it because I needed to have a certain level of transparency to do it. But, I know that I am not the only person who has struggled with this, and it's such an important (but hard) thing to talk about. I also heard someone say that other night "our stories are not for us, they are for others." So here we go, I'm just going to start it off being completely real.
I have always found my self-worth in how guys view me. Period. It didn't matter if I liked the girl in the mirror starring back at me, it only mattered if others were pleased with her.
For me, this started at a very young age. Uncomfortable and unwanted male attention became normal for me. It was so normal that my mind was trained to think that was the only way to feel like I was worth anything. So from the time I was about 13 years old, until now at the age of 23, I've been carrying around this extremely flawed image of myself. And man, has it been painful. And honestly, I didn't even realize I was viewing myself like this until about 3 months ago.
Sometimes we can't help the things that have happened to us. There is so much that I wish I could have been protected from, but learning to let go and look forward releases the chains and brings freedom to the heart. Forgiving yourself is step one. Then finding the courage to forgive others - even if you feel like they are the ones that actually owe you an apology.
For such a long time, I would always find myself looking back at photos where I was wearing a huge happy smile on my face and in my mind I would think "Wow, that girl looks SO happy, I want to be her!" But I also knew that in those specific moments when the photos were taken, I was heart broken and struggling so badly. I looked happy, but I wasn't. I was hiding.
So, to fill the void I did my best to get attention. And not that I did it knowingly, it's just that's what my heart was used to. I didn't feel good enough, so I looked for someone to tell me that I was. Whether it was using social media, or partying, or even how I dressed. [I figured out that there is a difference between dressing to feel good about yourself, and dressing to feel good about how other people feel about you.] And I didn't even notice I was doing all of this until I realized that I was. I know that is a very redundant sentence but sometimes the most obvious is the hardest to see. It's easy to get used to feeling and living a certain way, and even though you absolutely know something is missing you have no clue where to start to fix it.
So here's what happened...
A couple of months ago I found myself laying on my bathroom floor crying my eyes out, because once again, I was going through a horrible break up with a guy I knew better than to be with from the very beginning. Another "I knew better" situation, but I had managed to make enough excuses up in my head to convince myself to except it. There is always that voice (for me, it's God), that tells you "No, this isn't right" but it's so easy to ignore, and I had always been so desperate to feel love (because I couldn't love myself and couldn't see how much God loves me) that I always ignored it every single time. I'd let guys tell me everything I wanted to hear, I'd lie to myself and tell myself that that was ok, and then I'd feel even worse about myself deep down. It was only a temporary fix. That night on the bathroom floor, it hit me - "I can't keep doing the same things and expect different results" As in, I can't keep attracting the same kind of guy and expect them to love me differently. Especially when I can't even love myself first. Here is where it got hard: I realized that my definition of what a guy loving me looks like was severely flawed. Severely. And it all stemmed from how I looked at myself. The pattern was simple; I didn't look at myself with any value except for what my body had to offer, which lead to only being with guys who felt that same way about me. To me, the action of "I love you" was being wanted. Every. Single. Time. Each time that I found myself in this situation, I'd know it, and I could feel it wasn't right. But I wouldn't do anything about it because in my mind, what else did I really have to offer anyway? At the time, I thought nothing. So this vicious cycle of bad love finally, finally, came to a halt on the floor of my bathroom one Monday night - I was SO exhausted from making such bad decisions for myself. I was just broken.
So. I made a new decision. To just stop. To resist trying to fill a void, because I knew that what I had been experiencing for so long is not what love is supposed to ever feel like. I let go of my past (HARD!) and decided I was going to move on and only make the best decisions for myself from here on out. I was SO tired of attracting the wrong kind of guys in my life, and I knew that learning to love myself first would completely change that, and that sparked excitement in my weary heart.
I started setting goals for myself in fitness, in my business, in my friendships, and ultimately I really started taking time to learn about the girl that I actually am, not the girl I've been letting guys define me as. At first, I was really overwhelmed with feeling like an idiot and a failure, but slow and surely I started seeing and loving myself in a true and deep way. I started re-training my thought process about myself, too. I didn't have to drink, I didn't have to dress provocatively to get noticed (I know this sounds corny, but it's a struggle!!), I didn't have to post on social media when I felt bad about myself, and I did NOT have to let guys talk to inappropriately to me. No. This girl did not have to see that as love anymore. And because I started seeing myself in this new light, I am changed. I am free. The smile on my face is REAL. I feel closer to God, closer to my family, closer to my friends - and it's actually so much easier to support my friends now because I am not living in a negative mind set about myself. It's hard to be happy for others if we're unhappy with ourselves. I finally know what true joy feels like.
I wanted to share all of this because I know that I'm not the only one who's had this struggle, and for anyone going through it right now, you will absolutely get on the other side of it. I promise.
Finding our value comes from within, we cannot find it through how other people view us. Love was never meant to be given for a price, and I will never again tell myself that it is.
Whoever you are reading this, embrace yourself. Literally give yourself a big bear hug. Because you are one beautiful soul and you deserve to be loved in the most full and authentic way.