How Falling in Love Helped Me Love Myself
For years and far into my late teens, I believed in the idea that you have to love yourself first before you can love someone else. I saw this expression everywhere on the internet, from “soft-grunge” Tumblr blogs to calligraphy Instagram pics in black and white, and I thought that thousands of teen girls couldn’t be wrong. Right?
I’ve later realized that they are indeed wrong—at least for me. From my childhood, up until my teenage years I’ve had (and sometimes still have!) my fair share of body issues and feelings of just not being too fond of myself. Looking back, loneliness dominated my thoughts. I was scared that I wasn’t lovable. I was scared that I wouldn’t find anyone who could give me the love I craved. While all my friends had one significant other after another, I stayed alone and worried. Worried about my appearance, my character, and everything that I was critical of myself in the beginning. The quote “You have to love yourself first before you can love someone else” increased my worry. I clearly didn’t love myself. Was that the reason that no one seemed to want me?
I understand that loving someone who is highly self-conscious and insecurity-ridden can be hard. But it’s definitely not impossible! Everyone deserves to be loved, and that's true even if you’re currently having a rough patch loving yourself. But I was still worried, even though I worked on self-care and tried to be positive towards myself.
Then I met my boyfriend. Now, this isn’t a story about how finding a boyfriend suddenly diminished all the self-doubts I carried around with myself for most of my life. I wasn’t missing “my other half.” I was a whole person before, and I didn’t need someone else to validate my value. But meeting him did significantly change my perception about myself. It’s almost baffling how his perception of my character and my body differs so much from what I deeply believed I saw. Suddenly, there was someone who liked all the little things I hated about myself and even told me so. With time, I started to look at myself the way he saw me. My belly rolls, my thighs, my butt: Maybe they weren’t so bad and unsightly after all?
I still have doubts about my appearance. There are still days where I can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror because there’s so much to criticize about myself. But those days have gotten a lot less frequent since we started dating. Love doesn’t cure everything. You don’t suddenly love everything you hated for years about yourself, just because someone says it’s finally OK for you to do so. But my love inspires me to work on myself, to look at myself favorably, to take another step towards being at peace with myself.
This kind of inspiration and support is helping me a lot. It doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic love; there's also the love from friends, family, or anyone who sees you as beautiful as you are and wants to help you see it, too. We’re all so worth loving, at any stage of life. We might just need a little help to realize it.
By Saskia Hieb, 19