No One's Love Can Make You Love Yourself
The following is an excerpt from Confessions From Your Fat Friend being released Aug. 20, 2019.
I used to think that if I had a boyfriend or someone who loved me all my insecurities would go away, I would be filled with confidence from their love and finally stop hating my body. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have an awesome husband who truly loves me just the way I am and tells me regularly how beautiful I am, but his love and acceptance of me does absolutely nothing to help me love and accept myself.
It makes sense when you base your worth on the opinions of other people to think that finding someone who loves you, puts up with all your quirks and isn’t repulsed by seeing you naked would make you feel better about yourself, and in some ways it does. But finding love is not a magic pill for curing self-hatred, it is not going to suddenly make you love yourself.
I’ve been with my husband for 10 years now. I felt nothing but hatred towards my body for seven of those 10 years. Despite his constant assurances that I’m not disgusting, that he truly does find me attractive (insecure me used to ask him at least once a month) and that he loves me just the way I am, I still couldn’t shake the insecurities I had.
When we met I was at a really low place in my life, I was still recovering from the sting of being rejected months before and I was desperate for love and affection. His attention and desire made me feel worthy for the first time in my life. I can admit now it wasn’t the healthiest way to start a relationship, but that is a whole other conversation for another day. I was also the lowest weight I have been since my freshman year in college. As my weight crept up, all those insecurities came flooding back. Was he going to leave me because I was too fat? Did he really think I was pretty or did he just say that because he thought he had too? Surely he could do better than me, why was he still here?
My negative self-talk was at an all-time high. It didn’t matter that I had a loyal, loving, attentive person by my side. It didn’t matter that he had nothing but positive things to say about me, even when I gained 80 pounds. It didn’t matter that our relationship got better and better through the years, even as my weight and body continued the roller coaster of weight loss/gain I had been on my whole life. None of it mattered, I still hated my body. I still stood in front of the mirror and wished to be a much smaller version of myself. I still imagined what it would be like if I could just cut all my fat off. I still wondered if he would love me more if I were skinnier.
I would still stand in front of the mirror and critique everything I saw, even if he had complimented that very same feature earlier in the day. I still felt self-conscious about my fat and cellulite and did my best to hide it. I still felt uncomfortable when I was naked. I still didn’t believe I was beautiful or worthy of being loved. I was still afraid every single day that I would wake up and it would all be gone, that he would eventually realize I was fat and unlovable. It makes my heart hurt to write these words because I have no doubt those feelings impacted our relationship. It makes my heart hurt because I know there are girls all over the world, praying and hoping and wishing for someone to love them so they can finally love themselves, and I know the harsh reality I had to endure is waiting for them.
As a girl growing up in a small, religious town I had been taught that marriage and finding a spouse were some of the most important things I could do. In small-town Utah girls often marry young, and I can’t count how many times I was asked if I had a boyfriend when I’d go home to visit in my first few years of college. Once I did have a boyfriend the questions quickly switched to when we were getting married. Everyone was shocked when we had a year and three-month-long engagement. I was 24 when I got married and was one of the last girls in my graduating class and the class younger than me to get married.
I’m not a hater of marriage, I’m obviously still married and have no intention of becoming single again anytime soon (or ever really), but I don’t believe finding love and getting married should ever be the only focus, the sole goal of a young girl. I don’t believe that should be our only topic of conversation when we talk to them, because that sends the message that the most important thing they can do is find a partner and be a lovable wife. It sends the message that getting married will solve all your problems when that is far from the truth.
But I believed that message. I believed that if I could find someone to love me, all my body woes would be gone. And when that didn’t happen I felt even more like a failure. If he loved me and accepted my body just the way it was why couldn’t I do the same thing? My fat rolls and imperfections didn’t bother him so why did they still bother me? I had finally received the validation and love I had been looking for all my life so why didn’t I feel better about myself? Why did I still let any perceived rejection shake me to my core and leave me crying myself to sleep?
Because I had to learn the hard way that no one’s love can make you love yourself. Let me say that again for the people in the back, no one’s love can make you love yourself. It doesn’t matter how much someone else loves you, it doesn’t matter if they praise you like the goddess you are and tell you every single day how beautiful and sexy you are if you don’t believe it yourself none of it will matter.
The negative way I viewed myself negatively impacted my relationship in those first seven years. A husband or wife or boyfriend or lover shouldn’t have to be continually questioned about their devotion and attraction because of their partner's insecurities. I’m not talking about partners who neglect and never show affection. I’m talking about the kind of husband who hands out compliments, who shows love and affection as mine does, but still got interrogated on the regular about what he loves about me, if I’m sexy enough and why he thinks I’m pretty.
Confidence and self-worth have to come from within. Sure it might make you feel amazing when someone tells you you look good, but that isn’t true confidence. That is the kind of confidence that other people control, the kind that can be destroyed with one sideways glance from a stranger. Love works kind of like feeling good in a new outfit. You can ask a million people if your new jeans look good, but it doesn’t matter if every single person tells you how amazing you look if you don’t believe it yourself you are never going to feel good in those jeans. Love is the same. It doesn’t matter how many amazing people you have in your life telling you they love you, that love will do nothing to make you feel better about yourself if you can’t find a way to love yourself first.
It took me a long time to realize my husbands love was never going to make all my insecurities go away, to realize that no matter how many friends I had telling me I was a badass or how many people told me I looked good none of it mattered because I didn’t know how to love myself. I didn’t know how to find confidence in myself and how to separate my worth from the opinions of other people.
And here’s the thing I learned once I finally started to love myself, it made all my other relationships better. Because I was no longer depending on the people I loved to fill my cup up, I was no longer placing my worth and happiness in their hands and hoping they were in the mood to counter all my insecurities with compliments. I was finally able to enjoy their love and affection in a way that I never had before because I wasn’t relying on them to give me the confidence I was lacking. I could finally see what they had been seeing all these years, that I was worthy of love and affection regardless of the insecurities I felt and the imperfections I saw.
Being loved by someone else didn’t erase the faults I saw in myself and I still struggle with feeling insecure, but I’ve finally realized it’s not someone else’s responsibility to make me feel good about myself. That’s one is on me.
© 2019 Paige Fieldsted
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