I entered adulthood with an entire luggage cart of baggage from a fractured childhood. There was the time from before my parents’ divorce and the time from after. Then the times spent with my mom and the times spent with my dad. There were good times, lots of them, but also a fair share of not-so-great times. Times that made me feel unwanted, abandoned, hated, and not good enough.
I added a rocky marriage when I was only 20-years-old, which crashed into a fiery mess of arguments, lawyers, and constant battles by the ripe old age of 27. I was angry through my 20s, and it carried through most of my 30s. I was convinced everything I had gone through was my own fault. Like I had a flashing neon sign over my head declaring I was a broken person. My depression caught onto this and started to drag me down fuller, eventually cementing that idea deep within my mind.
Since so many people walked away from me, that must mean I am unlovable.
Since so many people replaced me in their lives, I must be a disposable person.
Since so many people lied to me, I must not deserve the truth.
Since so many people saw so many flaws in me, clearly I was not as good as anyone else.
All of the people doing these things were completely unrelated. They didn’t even all know each other. The only common factor was me. Obviously, I was the problem.
It was hard to believe all of it at first, but the more I heard the words and saw the actions, the more I started looking for what they saw. I looked for all my flaws and figured the best defense was a good offense to get things under control. Instead of following my heart and living my life, I started making decisions to please everyone around me. I changed my hair, got new friends, cut out old friends, moved, limited contact with family, dressed how others thought I should, and did everything I could to fly under the radar.
I didn’t want anyone to see just how damaged and unworthy I was in life.
I spent years wearing this mask of perfection before it started to crack.
My depression was back with a heaping dose of anxiety. This time the message cut deeper than before—you’re a fake and everyone is going to figure it out soon. Life kicked into overdrive mode. More workouts, more diets, more volunteer duties, more work, trying to cover every base and hide myself.
Until the burnout set in, and it all came crashing down. You can live for others for a long time, but you can’t do it forever.
When it does come crashing down, the people you were living for will be nowhere to be found. You’ll have yourself and a handful of people who love you no matter what.
So why did those other opinions matter? It didn’t make them stay, love you, protect you, or help you. It says a lot more about them than you. They are no different from anyone else who walked away over time.
The people you were living for are not better than you. They actually do not have their lives in order or possess some sort of secret insider information on how to be a wildly fabulous human. They are actually more afraid of life than you. They are wearing a bigger mask, dragging a heavier baggage cart, and are filled with more self-doubt than you can imagine.
Fabulous humans who actually love people do not tear others down so they can rise above. They build others up because they know there is enough happiness to go around. They love themselves enough to love you without feeling threatened. They do not point out flaws and critique the essence of those they love. They accept you, along with any quirks, for who you are.
The people worth living for want to be a part of your life but not your reason for living it.
They want to see you embrace the wonderfulness that is you. They want you to love you like they do. If they can love you for you who you are, why can’t you?
I decided I was going to try.
When I set out to love me like they did, everything in my life started to turn around. I started treating myself the way I wanted to be treated, slowly becoming friends with myself. I dug out books I had wanted to read but never had time for in the past and gave myself space to enjoy them each day. I bought the shirt I liked without asking anyone for approval. I began accepting compliments and stopped negating them whenever someone gave me one. I started saying thank you and believing those words for a change.
I talked to myself the way I would talk to a friend if she came to me with these same feelings. I gave myself permission to struggle, be human, and even fail.
I began giving myself grace. If I walked into a messy house after a long day at work, I no longer burned the midnight oil to get things back in perfect order before morning. Instead, I reminded myself life is messy. Houses get messy. One day, or even one week, of stepping back a bit isn’t going to hurt. I cannot and am not expected to be perfect.
Slowly, I became my own best friend. I found what matters to me and what I love. I found ways to reach my goals without changing who I am. I started to only allow people who made me feel better into my personal space. Even on the days when I fall a little short or make more mistakes than I’d like, I forgive myself. I remind myself how far I’ve come and that no one is perfect.
I finally love myself and at the end of the day—it’s what really matters.