My longest romantic relationship ended in May, during quarantine. After years of being in casual “situationships,” I thought he was the one. He didn’t approach me like other men. He didn’t play games or treat me like anyone else I ever encountered. 

Our story began after hanging out one summer day in 2019. We continued to speak every day, and our friendship grew deeper. I told him everything I was afraid to tell any other guy before himthe things I was ashamed of and didn’t accept about myself, my disappointments with other men and my dreams and goals. 

Since I had never been in a serious relationship, being involved with someone who knew my story was new to me. I didn’t know how to navigate this chapter of my life. I had to care for someone else’s needs while constantly questioning my ability to do so. I had to learn how to communicate my needs and desires while exchanging selfish patterns for compromise and learning to accept myself. All of which proved to be hard.

After nine months, our relationship came to an end. We broke up for several reasons, but by the end of it, I discovered my own struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety and acceptance. These things caused me to constantly seek reassurance from him—something that no guy could give me.

These things caused me to constantly seek reassurance from him—something that no guy could give me.

As I wrestled with the reasons behind my low self-esteem, I started to think back to my younger self. Growing up, I was teased for my weight, height, complexion, teeth and handspretty much everything. I don’t recall hearing the words “beautiful” or “pretty” spoken over me as a child. I don’t recall being told that I was loved.

Instead, I was told that I should bleach my skin or how fat I was. An older lady even mistook me for a little boy once. 

My parents weren’t emotional or very expressive toward me or my siblings. It wasn’t their way of showing love. I can’t even remember them kissing, hugging or telling each other, “I love you.” The words I longed to hear from them created a desire within me for affirmation and love that I sought elsewhere. 

Guys didn’t show interest in me until after high school, and by then, I was desperate for love and affection, which led me to neglect myself. In doing so, I made a lot of risky decisions that had heavy repercussions, like getting pregnant and having an abortion at 25 years old.

My low self esteem only got lower. I remember hating myself and being obsessed with the fear of never finding anyone who could possibly accept me. The truth was, I couldn’t even accept myself. 

The truth was, I couldn’t even accept myself. 

I was so desperate for acceptance that I tried to look my best on the outside in order to hide my insecurities. I hated my body and the cellulite and acne it carried. I was always self-conscious about what I wore or how I was perceived.

With the extra time this quarantine has given me, I sat with my thoughts and began to reflect on ways I wanted to grow after the relationship ended. I wrote:

  • Let go of irrational and unproductive thoughts and habits. 
  • Stop comparing my past to the present. 
  • Be open to learning, from myself and others. 

Now I know that it is my responsibility to take care of myself before I expect others to. It is my responsibility to love myself and tackle my own emotional immaturity. How can I expect to give or show someone the love they deserve if I don’t ever give myself (my body, heart and mind) this kind of care?

How can I expect to give or show someone the love they deserve if I don’t ever give myself this kind of care?

Now I know that it is my responsibility to teach myself this love and grow in self-awareness. I will apologize to myself for the ways in which I have neglected myself. I will be better for myself and repeat the words “I love me,” daily. I will remind myself that I am worthy and deserving. 

I can no longer wallow in self-pity from past mistakes. I must learn from them, apply the lessons and grow. I am thankful for my ex because, although the relationship didn’t last as long as I expected, his love and acceptance helped me to accept myself. He helped me realize there were parts of my heart that were broken and that I needed to put back together, on my own, one-by-one.

Have you experienced a breakup that catapulted your personal growth? How has growing in self-awareness benefited you?

Image via Eva Schwank, Darling Issue No. 24

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