How I Learned to Love Myself6:16 PM
I think every woman goes through it at some point or another, the self hatred, the fear of clothes shopping, or even looking in the mirror. The comparisons to others. The first time I remember feeling self conscious about myself was in the 4th grade. I realized that I was curvier than my other classmates and I was embarrassed by it. I remember feeling self conscious in a swim suit in the sixth grade and I started swimming less. In the seventh grade I went through a major growth spurt and developed stretch marks on my legs. I would spend hours in the mirror trying to cover them with foundation so I felt confident at the pool. Around that time I stopped swimming all together, which broke my heart. I've loved swimming since I was about 4 years old and spent every summer day in the water up until that point.
As a freshman in high school, I had a tumor removed from my stomach and was left with a six inch scar on my stomach. I thought it was pretty cool, but I also felt embarrassed that I didn't look like everyone else. All through high school and college I hated myself. I hated when I couldn't wear the latest trends (tunics and a J-Lo booty don't mix) and always felt like the odd one out. I let the way I feel about myself influence the way I lived my life. I skipped events when I didn't have any clothes that I felt good. I cried myself to sleep. I tried every form of diet there was. I spent a ridiculous amount of money trying to drown my troubles in shopping. I just wanted to look like everyone else! At times, I would lie in bed at night and wish that I could be anorexic so that I could feel better about myself. I was a horrible/crazy girlfriend because I looked to whatever person I was dating to make me feel better about myself. If they didn't say something on a regular basis, I would feel that there was something wrong with me and it made me hate myself even more. And it wasn't just my body, either. I changed my personality and interests so many times in an effort to be liked. In high school I worked hard to always be loud and funny so I could be known as "the funny one". Truthfully, I think I came across more like "the obnoxious one". What gets me is that the whole time I felt this way, I constantly read self confidence books and the Bible. I KNEW that God thought I was perfect and that I was made in his image which is a glorious thing. That alone should have made me feel like the most beautiful person in the world. I knew it in my mind but my heart didn't get the memo.
There were two other things that contributed to my self-loathing. The first was my health. Since I was in middle school I have been sick on a regular basis. I have seven medical conditions--SEVEN! I missed a great deal of high school due to a stomach illness I have. I couldn't be a normal kid and missed out on a lot of the fun. The same thing happened in college. I hated that I was handed this lot in life and didn't think it's fair that I had to face all these health troubles. I felt alone because nobody could possibly understand what it felt like to be sick all the time. I got ANGRY at people who dared complain about throwing up or a stomach ache. That's what I dealt with on a daily basis; they didn't know what it was like to be sick, and I didn't know what it was like to give grace.
The second was my friendships. In my freshman year of college I had an amazing, tight-knit group of friends. It was the best and I had never been so happy. Sophomore year came along, and eventually those friendships were not reciprocated. The only time I saw these people was when I initiated it, which felt terrible. I decided to retreat into a romantic relationship I had at the time and cut myself off from the world. Terrible idea! A few friends that I had left knew how hurt I was and promised to never do the same thing to me. They did. I'm not calling myself a perfect friend (in fact, I can be a terrible one. It's hard to be friends with someone who is sick all the time; I tend to bail on things a lot. I can be a whiner too, and tended to be a little over the top in the boy department), I'm just saying that it's difficult to have that repeatedly happen. The only common factor that these relationships had was me. I had to be the problem. I walked out of college with a number of friends that I can count on one hand. It ended up being a terrible experience for me because I associate it with abandonment and loneliness.
When I was old enough to live off-campus I moved to Oregon City, where I worked at a Starbucks. It made sense because I had started hanging out with my coworkers there and it was a safer/cheaper place to live alone than Portland. I developed friendships with my coworkers, most of which I still have to this day. They showed me kindness, love, and grace and I feel so grateful to have them in my life. Two in particular are some of the best friends I've ever had and I am so grateful! That helped a little bit with the hurt I felt from college, but, to be quite honest, I still feel that pain to this day. At this point, I had a few friends but I still felt terrible at myself. I had been in a relationship for 2 years that I thought I was blissfully happy in, even though nobody in the world thought he was right for me. He unexpectedly broke up with me, and all of a sudden I was alone. I thought I would be alone forever and didn't know how I would meet a guy. I literally just drank beer and ate cheetoes for two weeks. I drowned my pain in food and gained weight. Several months later, my thyroid went bezerk and I gained TWENTY POUNDS IN ONE MONTH. That's nuts, y'all. I felt like a monster. I didn't want to post pictures of myself anywhere because I didn't want my high school classmates to see me and say "Oh wow, she's gained A LOT of weight".
So there I was, alone and miserable. I would look in the mirror and call myself things I would never even say to my worst enemy. It was a dark and awful time! What changed? I'd like to say that I got my act together and realized the value I had in Christ. Unfortunately, it wasn't that. It was a man.
|Michael and I about 2 weeks after we started going on dates|
I met this man and he thought I was incredible. He thought I was smart, funny, and the most beautiful woman on the planet. It took me a long time to understand that. I thought people would stare at us when we went out, thinking "What is that gorgeous skinny man doing with that fat and ugly girl?". I was self conscious of the way we looked together. I constantly needed affirmation and he gave me an abundance of it. Everyday I was told how beautiful and gorgeous I was and somewhere along the way I began to believe it. He had dealt with Cerebral Palsy his whole life and knew what it was like to be different and to constantly have health struggles. He saw my looks and thought they were beautiful, and he saw my soul and my heart and thought they were special. No one had ever treated me like that before, or made me feel so loved. It was the way he loved me in Christ that made me begin to love myself. He forgave me and loved me as I believe Jesus does. That tangible example of Christ's love made me realize a taste of the depth of the love God has for us. Through that lens I began to realize that I am pretty darn great. I am smart, funny, and talented. I have a gift of expressing myself through paper. I am great at color coordinating my clothes and I know a wealth of information about pop culture. I am BEAUTIFUL, inside and out. When I wear sweatpants and a baggy Mr. Rogers shirt I am beautiful. When I wear a dress and heels I am beautiful. I am confident in myself in a way I never have been before. There still is hurt from the past, but with each passing day it weakens. I am learning to forgive those who hurt me, and to accept some of the responsibility. I still only have a very small amount of close friends, but I am learning to be okay with that. I don't look in the mirror and call myself names, I say "Wow, I look good". It helps to have a cheerleader. Michael has cheered me on as I've lost about 30 pounds this past year. The times I gained a little bit, he cheered me just as much. I know that I weighed a 100 more or a 100 less lbs, Michael would love me the same. I wish it hadn't taken a man to make me realize that I am perfect as I am. But it was that man who showed me a bit of Christ. So there it is. If you hate yourself you are not alone. It is my hope and prayer that you will one day see how incredibly perfect you are. It's never too late to start loving yourself.