There are some things that time has allowed me to forget. One of those things are the feeling, failures, and fears I had once I decided to start dating after getting divorced. Recently I became aware of a new “reality” tv series on TLC called Fat Chance and watching the promo video stirred up those long lost emotions.
I even created a YouTube video response because what I heard from the contestants made me sad but it also made me angry that they are being subjected to unhealthy workout routines that look like a page out of the Biggest Loser handbook and of course further perpetuating the idea that our looks determine our ability to be loved.
Take a moment to watch it here:
So you know I largely stray away from speaking about my personal/romantic life but I feel this is such an important topic I’m going to open up a little bit.
I was divorced by 28 and had two young children. In the beginning I was hurting so much that dating wasn’t even on my radar. I was so busy trying to raise two kids and figure out what I was doing with my career that I didn’t even really have time for it anyway. Eventually life settled into its new routine and I finally felt I was ready.
I was not ready.
Looking back at it now I sort of laugh to myself because of how awkward I must have made situations and how unnecessarily abrasive I was. I was always upfront about my kids for practical but I think it was mostly for protective reasons. I was very much trying to keep a front up so avoid being inevitably hurt. I assumed that once anyone got to know the “real” me that they wouldn’t want anything to do with me so I put on a very tough “empowered” woman exterior. I had accomplished many things in my personal life and career so I used that to elevate myself when really I was terrified because on the inside I was vulnerable and insecure.
The stretchmarks and scars were an additional “barrier”. I would always think for sure that these things would be the deal breaker so I was always bracing myself for immediate rejection. If not immediate then eventually the thought of being intimate was a terrifying thought because if the idea that I had children didn’t turn him off then surely by disfigured body would. Turns out the physical was the “easier” of the two to overcome but it did come at a price. I then used physical connections to ease my fears but it lead me to superficial and emotionally lacking interactions. In fact, none ever turned into relationships. I had put all my value into my ability to attract someone physically which, it turns out, isn’t really that difficult but without the emotional connection is completely unfulfilling but at least I wasn’t unattractive. We are taught from an early age that our beauty comes from the ability to attract someone and that was the avenue where we would find love. What I ended up eventually learning was to:
- Settle for less because I settled for what I could get. I felt I didn’t have the luxury of much choice. I did not value myself enough to demand from myself let alone another person. I was already asking them to accept so much of my “baggage” that I could not ask for more than what I was given. I justified every turn off as something I would simply have to learn to deal with.
- Stay in less than ideal situation because I believed it was the best I was going to get. If I did not continue with what I was getting then I was risking the chance that I wouldn’t get another chance. I felt options and opportunities were limited for someone with all my “limitations”. Whenever I was complaining about how I was being treated I had people say I should take it easy because my partners were already taking on so much that I had to be more understanding. My kids and I had become baggage and even my own friends perpetuated this idea that I had to make consolations.
- Miss out on really deep and meaningful connections for fear of hurt and rejection. Rejection was probably my favorite thing to do because it gave me power and at the time when I had none it made me feel good. I justified ending anything before it could even have a chance to start. The problem with building a wall is that you’re only making it harder and harder to break down or for sometime to climb.
That is the danger of placing your ability to love and be loved on merely our physical appearance. You can’t build anything solid on a foundation that is constantly shifting and changing. Our bodies are temporary. We are forever changing and transforming. Once I began to work on my own self love and acceptance everything began to change. The most powerful was the moment when I decided it would be best for me to just work on me and stop dating. I felt fulfilled and complete. I took all the energy I was wasting on meaningless interactions and turned it into energy to pick myself up and reconstruct the damage I had done to my body, mind, and spirit. Because i deserved that and was worthy of it without limitation. That was an uphill battle filled with lonely nights, tears, prayers, fear, breakthroughs, and growth.
Two years later I met a man at a party. I brushed him off because I was so dedicated to working on me despite having spent the entire night talking. I didn’t even want to exchange numbers. This time though, this man decided to help me take down the wall I had built. He wasn’t thwarted by my insecurities no matter how many times I would remind him of my “baggage”. He challenged me and the fears I had. He was relentlessly encouraging and supportive of my growth until a piece of that wall caved. For two years we battled these things together and then decided any battle we faced moving forward would be ours to fight together and he proposed. He does not pity me nor is showing me mercy. I do not need him and he does not need me. We choose to want to be in each other’s life and that kind of love is the kind of love I want and deserve and its the kind I have because it is the kind I choose to fill myself with.
That’s the way my story has been written. It will not be the same for everyone. I know now that I wasn’t ready to find love because I didn’t know love until I showed it to myself. Once I did it spilled over into everything I did. Now it has brought me here to you all. That I can share the insecurities and mistakes I once had without embarrassment because they are a part of my story. Our stories are so similar but we are too afraid to share so we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Whatever love you need it can be found inside of you buried under all the walls we have built and ready to be set free.
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