because I didn’t love myself, I couldn’t love you and that was a large reason why our relationship failed.
We’ve all been there: constantly checking your phone to see if they’ve texted you. The butterflies in your stomach flutter relentlessly when they’re around and my gosh, when they look at you, the world spins on its axis. What I’m talking about is my first infatuation; not to be mistaken with first love. As a woman now in her twenties, when I look back to my seventeen-year-old self, I know that I cannot call you my first love because I didn’t love myself. I’m not naïve, there were other reasons why our relationship couldn’t progress, but you see, you were doomed from the very beginning.
You asked me on so many occasions why I would become so angry whenever you uttered the words “I love you” and why I would never say it back, Whenever you would compliment me, I scoffed. I remember at the end of the day my eyes would hurt because I rolled them so much. I could not understand why I did this then, however with time and age, I’ve become a little wiser; emphasis on a “little wiser”. In fairness, I never said I love you back because, well, I wasn’t in love with you. I didn’t mean for that to be harsh, it was the honesty that I denied you in our relationship. I was not capable of loving you, because I did not love myself.
You called me beautiful and I rolled my eyes. No, it wasn’t because I had an attitude. Okay, that’s untrue, but I didn’t have an attitude with you. It’s simply that I couldn’t believe you when you said those words because I sure as hell didn’t love myself. As a person with a physical disability, I had very poor self esteem. Despite my best efforts, I stood out in a world where all I wanted to do was fit in. If I could walk across a room unnoticed, I would have thought I won the lottery. If I woke up tomorrow morning and every surgical scar on my body suddenly disappeared, well someone take me to The Vatican because that would be the biggest miracle and blessing. I hope you forgive me because in the wake of everything you did wrong (the cheating, the lying, the embarrassment you caused) you did care for me, but I wasn’t ready to receive that attention.
I have been single for arguably too many years since, but after you I made myself a promise: I wouldn’t allow myself to be in a relationship with anyone else unless and until I learned to be in a loving relationship with myself! I only gave parts of myself to you because I wasn’t ready to love and accept everything that makes me, well me. In the short time that we were together, what you didn’t see was that I clung so tightly to the compliments you gave me. What I didn’t want you to see was that those words, they built up my self esteem in ways I wasn’t capable of, at the time. I began to have an attitude because I realized that those compliments, no matter how shallow, they made me feel important, beautiful, worthy and similar to my peers. It made me think that I wasn’t pretty for a woman with a disability, I was a woman who was attractive and was more complex and had a different perspective on the world because of my disability.
When I terminated our relationship after realizing that you had cheated on me, the self esteem that you nurtured with your pretty words was crushed. Every negative thing that I believed about myself was only cemented when you cheated with someone who was beautiful, able bodied, “normal”. I cried more than I liked to admit. I was angry and I closed myself off. Then, something beautiful happened. I asked myself why I gave you that power, because you sure weren’t worthy of that and from that point on, I swore I would never give someone that power again. I wouldn’t love myself because of the shallow compliments I received, I would love myself because I am strong, beautiful, I am resilient and I learned how to love. I wish that I learned that lesson any other way, but you seemingly destroying me, taught me that I had to love myself before anyone else does.
And because of that, I can look in a mirror and smile. I can acknowledge the scars and a declaration that I survived what perhaps should have killed me. The body that I once thought was so hideous, it was attached to the woman that was much stronger than I ever gave her credit for and that woman deserves the best out of life.