I should have loved myself first.
I was 23 before I was in my first relationship. I hadn’t dated at all in high school or college. I was solely focused on my academics and athletics since I had a track scholarship.
My whole life up to that point had been just following the path laid out for me.
When I graduated from college, I was still very confused about what to do with my life. I moved to a new city and wasn’t sure who I would be. I felt like this was the best time to make any changes to myself.
I envisioned the kind of young woman I wanted to be and hoped to make new friends and flourish into her.
Entering the real world without the structure of school is a transformative period. Who are you after being a student for so long? What do you choose to do when there’s no one telling you what classes to take and which internships to get anymore?
I left all my friends behind and felt like I was starting over.
I was still insecure about my body and my style. I didn’t know how I should dress to be pretty. I didn’t appreciate my long curly hair. I just viewed it as a mess.
I became a personal trainer. After being an athlete for so long, I figured that I could just help other people get in shape. I fit in well. My clients liked me. My bosses told me I was doing a good job. Men were constantly telling me I was beautiful.
But despite all of the compliments and outside validation, I still wasn’t completely confident in myself. I still didn’t love myself unconditionally.
Just two months after moving to Chicago, I met the man who’d become my first boyfriend. He made me feel special. He made me feel loved and appreciated.
During a time when I still wasn’t sure who I was, his attention assured me that I was doing something right. Whatever I’d lacked in the self-love department was filled up by his love for me.
It felt amazing to be loved, but I gave him too much power in looking for my self-love in how he saw me and treated me.
Everything was fine when his attention was on me, but when his eyes started to wander, it immediately affected my self-esteem.
I didn’t have my own confidence and validation to fall back on. Because I still lacked self-love, I did all that I could to try to win back his affections.
If I had gone into the relationship with confidence and independence, I wouldn’t have struggled with the breakup so much.
I found out that he cheated on me and it completely broke my heart. Cheating hurts most of the time, of course, but I think that it hurt me more because I’d based so much of my worth on that relationship.
When he broke up with me, I went through a period of feeling lost. I didn’t know who I was without him, because I’d built myself up in his vision of me.
I was happy to be his girlfriend. I felt beautiful when I was around him.
When he left me, he left a void in me that I only I could fill. Never expect anyone else to make you whole.
It is so important to love yourself before giving all of your love to someone else. Never give away your power to another person.
It wasn’t until I found my confidence and my self-love that I was able to finally leave him alone. I stopped wanting him to take me back. I no longer questioned what I did to make him leave.
It didn’t matter. It had nothing to do with me.
I realized that I deserved so much better and refused to ever settle on someone who treated me that way again.
I wish I’d found myself sooner, but every experience in life is a lesson. That relationship taught me a lot and how important it is to love myself.
In all of my relationships since him, I’ve chosen myself before my partner. I know that I can’t truly love anyone else in the best way without taking care of myself first.
When you love yourself unconditionally, you will always be strong and you won’t allow anyone to ever take that power away from you.