You Are Enough

Do you have that friend who just seems to blossom whenever they are in a relationship? Maybe they were quiet, or shy, or socially awkward in some way, but then they met someone and that all just seemed to melt away? They became this confident, outgoing, charming person that you could always see in them, but they never seemed able to see it in themselves. Is it possible that maybe you are that person, and just haven’t realized it yet?

That description used to fit me to a T. When I was single I was too shy to go out on my own, too introverted to speak to a complete stranger, and too uncertain to see the things I had to offer. When I didn’t have someone to believe in me I had a very hard time believing in myself. The longer I was single the worse it would get, until eventually it became difficult to even remember a time before I was the girl who was home alone every night. Whenever I found someone who saw something in me it filled me with a feeling of worth, like maybe because they saw something in me I really had something to offer, and I would actually start putting those parts of myself out there for other people to see.

Being in a healthy relationship can be a wonderful thing when you have self-esteem issues. You have someone to go out and do new things with, someone to cuddle up with when you are tired and want to stay in, and someone to help you out when you need support. Someone who likes you for who you are, someone who wants what you have to give, and perhaps most importantly, someone who chose you. Not because there weren’t any other options, or because they couldn’t think of a better thing to do today, but because of who you are, and what they see in you. 

There are a few things I have learned that I had a habit of doing when I was in a relationship that I’ve realized are not healthy, and they stemmed from my own self-esteem issues. It had nothing to do with my partners, and the relationships themselves were healthy, but the way I allowed myself to change because of them was not. Yes, we all change when we bring a new major player into our inner circles, and a certain amount of adapting and adjusting is normal, but what I’m talking about goes beyond that, and often resulted in the relationship coming to an end. The changes I’m talking about are the ones we make to become more of what we think our partners want, not the ones that would be considered normal personal growth.

In my previous relationships I have felt like I am ‘less than’ or ‘not enough for’ my partners. I loved that they had chosen me, and I didn’t want to change their minds, but I also didn’t understand what they saw in me, or how they could want me. I didn’t feel worthy, and I worried that eventually they would realize that I wasn’t. In order to stop this from happening I would do everything in my power to become indispensable to them. My life became about supporting them, being there for them, and giving them everything and anything they needed. I would lose myself in trying to make or keep them happy, and my needs and interests would take a backseat to whatever they wanted or needed. None of my partners had ever asked me to do that, and most hadn’t even really noticed it happening, but in many cases it became the thing that ended the relationship. Everything I was and did became about them, and the person they fell for and wanted wasn’t there anymore. In trying to keep them happy I buried the person that peaked their interest in the first place.

Another bad habit I developed was letting my partners know I felt that they were better than me. It was the kind of thing that sounded sweet when I said it, usually with a ‘you are so great, I’m glad you decided I was enough for you’, or the even more blunt ‘thank you for settling for me’. The idea of the message came from a good place; I was trying to let them know how grateful I was that they wanted me. Unfortunately having that outlook and sharing it created a lot of problems. In some cases it put a lot of pressure on my partners and left them feeling like they had to carry the weight of my self-esteem. In others it created an unhealthy feedback loop where they needed to constantly reassure me that I was enough. And a few times it opened the door for them to really believe that they were better than me, and then they would start to treat me accordingly.

It took me a long time to learn to love myself, flaws and all, and it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to see how much my self-esteem issues have affected the people who have chosen to love me. Watching the person you fell for bury all the things that made them special, or having to constantly reassure them that they are still what you want, is a lot for anyone to deal with. It’s a huge strain that not many relationships can survive.

There is nothing wrong with feeling better about yourself when you are with someone, or having a partner who helps you see what a wonderful person you are. Just make sure that what you learn from them is something that you will continue to believe about yourself even if for some reason the relationship ends. Remember that your amazing, loving, perfect partners are choosing you because of who you were before you were a couple, and because of the things in you that were there before their influence on you became a factor. Remember that you are worth their love; otherwise they wouldn’t have given it to you. And make sure you aren’t asking them to be the one who makes you feel worthy; find your own worth, with their help if you need it, believe it, and hold onto it no matter who comes in or out of your life. 

Confidence (and My Previously Unrealized Streak of Arrogance)

I went on a coffee date earlier this month to meet a man I had been chatting with online. It was our first meeting, the one you set up so that you can have that ‘see if you are who you say you are’ moment. I don’t even drink coffee, it’s just a part of the process. I had tea.

The meeting was ok, there was nothing glaringly awful about him. He was a little dull and it felt like a bit of work on my part to keep the conversation going but that’s nothing new to me, I’m usually the talker. Physically he was thinner than I had thought and not quite as tall as I had hoped, but again, nothing awful. He had a nice smile, laughed at my jokes, and didn’t commit any huge first date mistakes like talking about exes or snorting cocaine. At the end of the date we parted ways with a hug and a ‘nice to meet you, text you later’.

I considered things on the way home and decided that he wasn’t for me. He just wasn’t interesting enough. He was perfectly acceptable in every way, but there was nothing there that made me want to know more, or that sparked that tingling feeling down under. I mentally prepared myself to let him know that the next time he asked me out, and went on with my day.

A few days went by before I realized that I hadn’t heard from him, and it stopped me in my tracks. At first I thought maybe he just got busy and hadn’t had time to message.  Then I checked his activity and could clearly see that no, he had been online. Quite a bit actually. I thought maybe he felt that I was too good for him and he was intimidated. I worked my way through the entire list of excuses we come up with for why people don’t message us (family emergency, hit by a bus, dying pet, etc.), and then it hit me. I had been so sure in this situation that I was the better catch and that I would be the one letting him down that it hadn’t even occurred to me that he might not be interested in me.

My issues with self-confidence go so far back I can’t remember what life was like before them. At a very young age my family decided I was ‘getting fat’ and put me in ballet. Awful choice for someone who is already taller and rounder than the average girl. For a decade I was sent to the back row in every class and performance because I was ‘too big’, regardless of skill or how thin I got. All of my body issues stem from this.  I later found many sports more suited to my build, and was very successful at some of them, but my self-image never fully recovered. I compensated by developing a quick mind and great social skills, so that I could feel good enough to be accepted by others.

When I was a teenager an incident occurred that destroyed all of that. Since I didn’t feel like I could build my self-worth around my physical qualities I had built it up based on my intelligence, on my likeability, and on my strength in putting myself out there trying new things. The incident took all three of those qualities and turned them against me, effectively knocking out all of the tent poles I had built my sense of self on. I felt like I should have been smart enough not to get into that situation, that I should have been liked and thus protected enough that it would never happen to me, and I found out that my so called strength was actually a reckless disregard for personal safety. I came out of that situation with nothing left, nothing about myself that I could value. I felt completely worthless, at a time in my life when feeling worthy was everything.

I spent a decade of my life trying to hide that feeling, hoping no one would notice, and then another decade quietly wallowing in it, once there was nobody left to notice. I became depressed, introverted, and really never spent time with anyone outside of work or my family.

About 5 years ago I got sick of what my life had become, of not having those pieces that had been such an important part of me, and finally decided to deal with it. It was a long process, a post of its own one day maybe, but at some point in the last two years I realized I felt like myself again. I can’t pinpoint when exactly but it’s there, or to be more accurate, I am there. I’m back. I still have a lot of hang ups with my physical self-image, I doubt those will ever go away and will likely continue to be an issue in some relationships going forward, but I have rebuilt the pillars in my mind that represent who I am. I once again feel confidence stemming from my intelligence, my likeability, and my strength. It has been hard fought but I have won back the things I thought had been taken from me, but that in reality I had unconsciously given up.  

The first few paragraphs of this post are easily the most arrogant thing I have ever written. They are all about me, how I felt, my judgement of him, and my plan going forward. I don’t mention his feelings or consider his thoughts at all, and I don’t think about where he is at in his life, how I would or would not fit in it, etc. Four years ago when I started online dating not hearing from a man within 24 hours of meeting him would have sent me into a tailspin of ‘what did I do wrong’, ‘what doesn’t he like about me’ and ‘what if I never meet someone as good as him again’.  I didn’t consider any of that this time. I didn’t even notice I hadn’t heard from him.

Arrogance isn’t something to strive for, it’s rarely helpful in life or an attractive quality, and it’s not something that I want as part of my personality. I crossed the line from feeling like a good person to feeling like a better person than someone else. Now that I know I have the potential to do that I will be watching for it, trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again. At the same time though, I can’t help but feel a little proud of the progress that I have made. I have gone from the lost in doubt woman I was to having enough confidence that I can brush off a new person not wanting me like I would brush spilled sugar off a table. Annoying maybe, but an expected part of life.  I’ve learned to accept that just because I’m not everyone’s cup of tea doesn’t mean I’m not a wonderful one.