by Devina Gunawan
Once upon a time I fell in love with a man who was very persistent in winning my love. He won it, eventually, and he taught me what love was.
He looked at me with such adoration, and he accepted my flaws and all without hesitation. So I thought, if someone could love me, why couldn’t I?
Now, I wasn’t ugly or anything. I wasn’t lacking in anything either. I was proud and mean, and in time, I grew to despise myself. I had seen the way people I’d hurt look at me and I thought, “What a despicable person I am.”
Then this man came around and showed me that the despicable person could be loved.
So for years I relied on that love. I started appreciating myself and I gained confidence. I believed that when someone could love me that much despite my horrible flaws, surely I wasn’t that bad.
It was until a period of time, when I was struggling the most with my life, and when my truest, ugliest side came out, that I felt that love taken away from me in a blink.
He left me.
Broken, alone, and in the dark.
And I couldn’t blame him for that. I was the one who hurt him, and he only did what anyone would when being stabbed over and over again: leave.
I cried for months, every night. I lost the will to get up every morning. I lost the desire to look in the mirror.
I was no longer beautiful, and I was no longer special. I was no longer tolerable, covered in my ugly flaws and bruises. I was a broken mirror, and nobody dared to put me back together. Nobody cared enough to collect the pieces that were once what I had been.
During this period of time, the moment some people heard that I was no longer in relationship with anyone, I received many signs of appreciation. I got several friends telling me that they had been crushing on me, and I got offered to model.
But nothing got to me. I was still ugly and detestable.
And I listened to Beyonce’s songs, over and over again, but nothing spoke to me. Only the sad, heartbreaking songs spoke to me. And I let myself grieve.
I let myself dry my eyes out and I stopped caring.
And then, in one of my rebound dates, I heard, “Why do you have so much hatred in you?”
It caught me off guard.
I did hate myself. I hated myself so much for letting go of the only man who could love me. I hated myself so much for not appreciating love.
And somehow, in my routine of TV show marathon and hiding under my blankets, I felt a glimpse of hope. I wanted to be a powerhouse, and to be a powerhouse, I should not need to rely on anyone to define me or to appreciate me.
I should not need anyone else if I wanted to be a strong woman.
So I got up the morning after and looked in the mirror, for the first time in weeks. I told myself, “You are gorgeous, strong, and special. Nothing could hurt you unless you let it.”
And I repeated that to myself during that one day.
I remember feeling a sharp pain in my chest that day, and I kept on telling myself the same words I said in the morning. And the first thing a friend said to me that day was, “You look radiant.”
That was something, obviously, since for months the things I kept on hearing were: “You look so tired!” “Have you been crying? Your eyes!” “You’ve lost so much weight!!! What happened?” “Did you get sick?” “Are you okay?”
And knowing that my friends had seen me during those bad days and one of them told me I looked radiant was a good sign. Really good sign.
Afterwards, I woke up every morning telling myself that I was gorgeous and powerful. It was endless repetition. I refused to stop telling myself those words no matter how bad I felt about myself.
It was a “No matter what, I am gorgeous and powerful. Nothing can ever change that.”
And really, things changed.
I started appreciating myself more. I realized that in many ways, I did love myself. I just needed a confirmation from someone else that what I was was lovable.
And when that confirmation, when that label was taken away from me, I broke.
But I realized that it wasn’t up to him, or to anyone. The moment I changed the way I viewed myself, things changed for me too.
I didn’t become a billionaire, unfortunately. Although that would be really nice.
I never stopped getting up in the morning and going to work. I never stopped eating or taking care of myself. I loved myself, but I just had to see it.
I didn’t need a recognition from anyone else. I just needed it from me.
And after months of crying and questioning and doubting, I finally found a safe place where I could find my strength: and it was my own mind.
It doesn’t mean that I was totally okay with my flaws and my horrid characteristics. But by loving myself, I cared enough to get myself out of rockbottom and fix myself. By loving myself I wanted to be better. Not to please others, but to make it up to me.
I owed it to myself.
Everything that happened to me, I started. So the key was myself.
And it is the same for everyone. A lot of us struggle in loving ourselves, in seeing the beauty in our image and the strength of our hearts.
But believe it or not, the beauty exists. And it is in us.
It took me years of dependence and an explosion of a breakup to finally realize it. To see that we might need someone to show us how to love ourselves, but it doesn’t mean that without that person we can’t love ourselves.
When we see less of ourselves and when we hate ourselves, we treat ourselves the way we believe we deserve. When we think we are unworthy and undeserving, we will constantly think of ourselves as failures. That we weren’t enough, and that we weren’t beautiful.
But see us in different light. See ourselves in not only our uglies, but our beauties. Not only the dark sides, but the bright sides. And love them. Learn to accept them and appreciate them. And when there is something that could be better, love ourselves enough to fix it.
Because I love me. And I won’t let myself fall just because I fail to love the only person that truly matters to me: me.