In high school, I was the kind of girl who always needed a boy’s attention self-esteem. I was the one who always had a backup boy in case the one I was talking to decided I wasn’t worthy of his attention. This was a dangerous pattern that fed off of my dangerously low self-esteem and dangerously high depression. Senior year I met some friends who showed me the beauty of being a woman; they showed me feminism and what it looks like to love yourself. I used this time being alone to build my self-confidence and go to intensive therapy for my depression and self-esteem issues. I didn’t have a boyfriend for all of senior year or the first two years of college.
I met my boyfriend when I transferred to my college a couple years ago. We were friends and then we finally had a ‘caf date’ and became more. The rest was history.
Fast forward to the present and we have been dating for almost six months. I can say with 100% certainty that this is the healthiest and most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever been in.
I’m not going to do that cliche thing where I thank my boyfriend for his stability and love and rave that he “fixed me.” Because he didn’t. I worked hard, and I am contributing to this healthy relationship just as much as he is.
The point, ladies, is that I learned a few very valuable lessons over my self-love and mental health journey that I would like to share. Here goes:
You are enough. You can do everything you want without a boy texting you telling you that you look great, or that he misses you. You are a whole person.
If you feel as if you are not a whole person, or you find yourself seeking attention from males (healthy or not), read on:
Self-esteem can be a real b***h to fix. It takes a long time to unlearn the concept that your body needs to look like that girl’s in the magazine, or that you need to have the brains, beauty, and composure of Emma Watson. If you feel yourself constantly tearing yourself down with negative thought cycles in your head, there is NO SHAME in going to therapy. I have no problem admitting that therapy saved my life. Literally.
Once you work on self-esteem for a while, you will finally feel worthy of receiving love.
And THAT, my friends, is what healthy relationships stem from. Of course I still struggle with myself, that’s just a part of who I am. But therapy gave me the coping strategies to turn my negative thoughts into happy and thankful thoughts.
Try this: the next time you tell yourself “I look so fat in this dress” or “why did I just say that in front of that hot guy”, instead recognize that those thoughts are detrimental and tell yourself, “I think I’m gonna put on red lipstick tonight, because that always helps me feel confident” or “OMG that was awkward lol I can’t wait to laugh about this with my friend.” Obviously, this can’t be easily done if you have a lot of work to do. This is simply the maintenance that is needed for a healthy self-image.
If your reflex is to turn down a compliment, work on accepting it! There’s nothing wrong with a simple, “Thank you!” Remember you deserve it, and compliments are people’s way of telling you they care.
While we’re at it, can we stop putting other girls down? One thing that took me a while to unlearn is the fact that all girls are competition. Feminism helped me understand that we are all on the same team. When you aren’t constantly comparing yourself to other women, and instead appreciating them for who they are, you are able to simply better yourself for the sake of happiness. Also, your positivity can spread to other women, which would better the world!
Try this: If you find yourself getting jealous of a hot girl at a party or bar, turn to your friend and say, “omg her dress is to die for! What a badass.” Usually when I am jealous of a girl, I have to dig internally for a moment, and then I realize that I simply looooove her jeans, or her smile, and that my jealousy has been indoctrinated by the patriarchy to pit women against each other! Don’t let that sh*t happen!
These are just a few of the many things I learned during my transformative period of ‘single-dom’. It was probably the most life-changing process I’ve gone through, and has made me a much happier person.
I no longer get jealous when I see my boyfriend having a conversation with another girl. I also waited for a man that would treat me the way I knew I deserved to be treated: with respect, love, and understanding.
The respect you deserve is worth waiting for. And while you’re at it, get to know yourself and work on loving yourself and others!