That’s the question I asked.
It’s the mold that grew on my moist heart and kept me from opening myself up. It’s what I worried about in my early 20s and why I avoided dating.
I didn’t believe I could be me, who required a flow chart and three hours to explain my family or origin “situation” and who also had anxiety at times. I couldn’t think of me and the words catch, find, desirable or chosen in the same lifetime, never mind the same sentence.
Honest and alone, or fake with a companion? I didn’t like either choice but they were the only choices I thought existed.
I’m not telling people I have mentally ill, alcoholic father, complex relationships with some of my family, difficulty with some sexual positions and am a little sensitive to too much drinking. No way.
This may not be a surprise but my beliefs weren’t all that great for my relationships.
I wish someone had said to me: “The question isn’t if anyone can love your damaged self, it’s whether you can accept and love yourself unconditionally.”
The truth was I didn’t like, love or believe in me.
I didn’t accept my history. I wasn’t loving with myself. I had no compassion for my anxiety. If didn’t like or love myself, how could others love me?
I was hoping to find someone who could love me better than I did.
I saw my complications as only baggage, terrible and negative. I saw what I came with as debris, burdens and contagious toxins and that it would be dangerous for others to get close to me. What, that’s not sexy? That’s not attractive, compelling or appealing?
I get it now, but I didn’t when I was younger.
Now I see that I am a warrior, resilient and sort of spellbinding at times. I navigated obstacle courses that required getting on all fours, muddy, messy and fighting like hell. And I did—while going to school, working and helping take care of others too.
Those are some worthwhile traits and experiences—assets even—not something I needed to apologize for.
But there was one person who didn’t know or trust or believe that: me.
Without me as an ally I didn’t have a chance, and I didn’t clue into this for a long time. Instead, I compared myself to others who were living different lives, who had different paths and histories. Of course we weren’t the same.
I could only see where I fell short, and how I didn’t compare. I judged myself for failing to have as much as joy or spontaneity without seeing that I also had more depth and responsibility.
I was taking care of my Nana who was sick with ovarian cancer. I was battling post-traumatic stress and learning way too much about loss, going to too many funerals in my early 20s. Then, my sister bumped into the biological father we hadn’t seen since we were toddlers.
It was a lot. It wasn’t odd that I had anxiety, it was pretty remarkable that I kept it together as well as I did.
My early 20s weren’t spent happy, carefree or wild. But they weren’t wasted. They were meaningful, deep and important.
I spent more time with grandmother than many get to in a lifetime. I got to do fingerpaints with my cousin and drink iced coffee and plant flowers with my aunt. I learned about loss and grief and how to prioritize, juggle jobs, school and my budget.
I learned to practice resilience, self-reliance, and learned how much I needed friends, creativity, and a healing tribe. I’ve never run out of material to write about and doubt I ever will. My experiences from childhood on shaped my life and still do.
I was able to create a life with animals, flowers, loved ones, writing, family and a small cottage near the ocean that is more often than not charming, loving and inspiring. I learned to be a parent that I am proud of—not perfect, but good enough and that’s a victory. I got to experience the joy of mothering and I’m grateful.
I’m able to take care of my own child, self, house and budget. I can drive myself to the airport and light my pilot when it goes out. I feel sexually, professionally and financially free, creative and empowered at midlife. And I eat pretty well and do yoga.
Actually I’m sort of amazing.
The question never was how can anyone love me and all my baggage?
The question is: why did I doubt myself? The question is: how come I failed to be my own ally?
Wondering how someone can love a pathetic me with too many bags and issues isn’t helpful. With the exact same life I might have asked, who is better than me at packing, dreaming, traveling and helping others do the same?
Really, the question never was, how can someone love me, but why did I expect them to love me when I did not?
I hope you learn to love yourself faster than I did. You don’t have to do anything to be lovable and no matter the past, you need not prove yourself worthy. You are already lovable.
If you aren’t sure, just practice knowing how someone could love you by loving yourself. Or, as my daughter says, find a way to “deal with your awesomeness…. bam!”
How will anyone you love ever be able to get over you?
That’s the question.
Bonus: How to love yourself:
Author: Christine “Cissy” White
Editor: Catherine Monkman