“We accept the love we think we deserve,” Stephen Chbosky wrote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. For way too long, I thought that I deserved very little love, and because they could sense where I was at, the men I was with had no intention of loving me. It took a long time for me to realize that I was attracting such terrible guys because I treated myself terribly, but it was a sad reality for way too long.
I was operating on the belief that I didn’t deserve love.
Imagine a woman who doesn’t love herself. How do you picture her in the world? For me, I was sad and reckless. I gave my body to men that I hardly knew because I figured they’d never give me the love I sought anyway. The thoughts that drove me were the very ones that destroyed any chance at meeting someone nice.
I thought I wasn’t capable of a healthy relationship.
Can you imagine how I acted while believing that a healthy relationship was out of the realm of possibility? I kept finding myself with people who were mean to me and wondering why I could never find love. In some ways, I think I wasn’t ready for it, but in other ways, I was with men who weren’t capable of giving it.
Water seeks its own level.
You can tell a great deal about someone by the company they keep. People who love themselves are surrounded by others who are full of love. Since I hadn’t yet built my self-love muscle, I attracted others who were baffled by the idea of real love. Thank goodness I now surround myself with hoards of amazing people who love me and themselves endlessly. I also attract men and women in my dating life who know how to love me.
I was hungry for attention and made terrible decisions because of it.
I was looking for love in all the wrong places, but I just wasn’t capable of seeking in a way that was successful. The biggest problem was that I wasn’t giving myself enough love and attention. Instead, I was searching for it outside of myself. Placing this big of an expectation on other humans is sure to lead to disappointment. I was expecting them to fill my self-love gap and love me like a partner.
Family of origin patterns run deep.
I come from a family of utter dysfunction in terms of relationships and pretty much everything else. I saw yelling, violence, cheating, and storming off. I really didn’t witness anything healthy and these patterns very much became a part of me. I learned to yell at a partner when I wanted something, cheat when I was upset, and excuse awful behavior. This didn’t help me form healthy connections, just assured that I’d also have dysfunctional relationships.
I kept hoping sex would turn into something more.
I totally blame this on the understanding I grew to have as a child: that sex is an easy way to manipulate a man. Sure, it may do wonders for manipulation, but it hardly resulted in someone sticking around, which was what I was really looking for.
I was making too many justifications for disrespectful behavior.
Since I was a dysfunctional chick, I was also attracting dysfunction. I didn’t realize that I could reject disrespectful behavior. Instead, I thought it was just part of the deal. I thought that relationships = dysfunction. For men, that often means not understanding consent. I went through way too much pain before I learned what I didn’t need to (and shouldn’t) tolerate.
I wasn’t taking good enough care of myself.
There were signs scattered throughout my romantic relationships that I wasn’t loving myself. These signs also appeared in my solo life. I was neglecting my physical, mental, and spiritual health by focusing on trying to be “good enough” for a lover. This was heartbreaking because I didn’t realize I was already perfect just as I was.
My higher power’s love hadn’t penetrated yet.
A higher power is something in the universe that you believe in. For some people, it’s love and kindness, but I choose to call mine God. It’s not that God wasn’t there, it was that I had too much baggage blocking me off from receiving His love. Only recently have I started to feel it. Feeling loved has been utterly revolutionary. It’s changed who I allow in my life and how I give myself to someone. Having a connection to God has helped me pump the brakes and reminds me that I am completely lovable no matter what mistakes I make.
Women are really taught to be submissive.
I can’t help but add the feminist rant because there are too many women who believe they aren’t good enough. I blame diet culture and sexism in particular. We’re told our bodies aren’t good enough and that we’re only performing well if we’re pleasing a man. It’s total crap. I got signals to be submissive by letting guys do whatever they need to do to be happy. This resulted in a temporary loss of my dignity and respect. Now, I’ve found both of those things again and I refuse to ever give them away again.
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