Ever since I could remember, I’ve always had unrequited crushes. My first crush was at 9, and he was a goofy-looking piano prodigy at school. We were excused from P.E. that day due to illness, so we sat at the sidelines and chatted.
I don’t even remember what we talked about, but I remember that afterwards, I fantasized about marrying him and living in marble mansion together.
Since then I’ve had so many crushes (most of them questionable) I can’t recall who, how and why I was ever attracted to them. But what I do remember is that horrible, desperately sad feeling when you’re desperately trying to get the attention of someone who isn’t at all interested in you.
I didn’t understand then, but it’s near impossible to find someone who loves you unless you love yourself first. No one will you put you first, ahead of themselves – only you can do that. The books and TV shows and movies I watched had me convinced that out there, there’s someone who will notice me when I’m invisible (The Princess Diaries, anyone?), who can see my beauty that I’m unable to see in myself (The Princess Diaries, anyone?), and will love me because of all my flaws and quirks and weirdness (The Princess Diaries, anyone?).
It also didn’t help that I had such low self esteem and yearned to be loved and noticed so much that I ended up attracting and dating people who took advantage of this and broke down my boundaries bit by bit until I was nothing but a shell of misery and resentment. Perhaps they never intended to – after all, I allowed them to continuously test my limits, shift my goal posts, and act against my values.
Because I thought that by doing that, they would love me more and treat me the way I wanted to be treated.
But of course, it doesn’t work that way. No one can treat me the way I want to be treated unless I held myself to that same standard. And the person who treated me the worst, was myself.
I gave to people who were only interested in taking, and I gave them the impression that I only wanted to give, not take. So how could I blame them if they didn’t give me anything in return? I was the one who convinced herself that the more she gave, the more she’ll be loved, and maybe one day they’ll realize it and then cherish and appreciate her.
No darlings, most of the time, things don’t work that way.
When I broke up with my exes, they were shocked. To them, everything was going fine – I seemed okay, I did what they told me to without resisting or questioning, I had “gotten over” our last fight. There didn’t appear to be any serious problems – at least, I wasn’t acting like I was unhappy.
But to me, it was months, even years of unhappiness, tears and resentment, hidden away for fear of not being loved, for fear of conflict, for fear of looking like a bad girlfriend, the kind of women they loathed and condemned (jealous, controlling, impatient, demanding, spoiled, combative). Then – finally – I could no longer hide.
My change didn’t happen overnight. Like I said, exes. But as each relationship went by, as my world expanded beyond home and school, into the office and the rest of the world, I learned my worth (it’s a lot). I learned to defend my boundaries. I learned to love myself and put myself first. And when I loved myself and put myself first, I found out something amazing:
I didn’t need anyone else to love me.
And if someone didn’t love me, that’s okay! I know someone who does: me. And because I was secure in my own love, I attracted positive people into my life, people who wanted to add to the love, not take from it. And I don’t mean other “givers” like I used to be, but people who are also secure in their own love.
I have a theory that unhappy and unhealthy relationships are due to people who don’t have enough love for themselves. They become extreme givers or takers: the former give because they believe it’s the only way they can be loved in return, filling that void, and the latter take because they also want to fill that void. Eventually, the relationship turns abusive (and I don’t mean just physically) and codependent, and neither party never fully matures into happy, secure people.
So darlings, before loving anyone else, you have to love yourself first. Show yourself the same level of respect you want to receive. Treat yourself the way you want to be treated. You’ll find it goes both ways – if you want to be treated like princess, first you have to be willing to treat yourself like one. If you want to be put upon a pedestal and be worshipped, you have to be someone you would deem worthy for worship and idolatry.
Don’t let anyone else define your worth. Don’t let anyone else determine how you deserved to be loved. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you when you’re invisible, to love your flaws, to see your beauty.
If you want to be loved, darlings, choose yourself.