I haven’t always loved myself the way that I should.
The 5’9, slim-build, nothing-but-legs woman I’ve consistently looked at in the mirror — I haven’t always appreciated her. I haven’t always protected her. I haven’t always valued her. Oddly enough, these are the same attributes I’ve desired to receive in relationships, though I failed countless times at giving it.
I haven’t always recited my daily affirmations, nor have I always believed the very words I would speak about myself, to myself. I’ve placed my self-esteem in the hands of others. I’ve solicited acceptance, and respect from people, who in hindsight were just trying to figure themselves out. I’ve defined my worth by how I was treated. Everyone’s opinion mattered, but the most important one – my own.
This lack of self-love is not to be confused with self-hatred. I’ve never had a desire to harm myself, but somehow, I’ve ended up in relationships that did that for me. (Emotionally, that is.) I’ve battled some dark days, I’ve fallen victim to my anxiety. I’ve skipped meals more times than I desired to. Especially this year.
I’ve allowed myself to be used. I’ve allowed myself to be taken advantage of while giving others the benefit of the doubt. I’ve let my guard down. I’ve opened and shared my pain to others, and then endured more. I’ve robbed myself of a love that I should have always held within.
I regret none of it. I needed all of it.
Reflecting on this year alone, every high, every low – it was needed. Scratch that, I needed it. As cliché as it sounds, it didn’t kill me…it made me stronger. Truth is, the trials are necessary. They define you, and they remind you Who you belong to.
Tara, defined: Simply put, I’m the daughter of a woman that exudes an unspeakable strength. It’s a strength that’s difficult to place into words, but you can feel it. Her tears have nurtured her prayers – I’ve adapted this principle. I’m also the daughter of, for a lack of better labels – a “hustler”. He’s always spotted opportunities, seized them, and used them to his advantage. He has always had a drive to reach the peak of his potential, and he has never shied away from that. I’ve adapted this principle as well.
I have a heart of gold like my mother, mixed with the fiery “by-any-means-necessary” attitude of my father. So, how dare I not believe (and be) everything that I’ve been created to be? How dare I doubt the very magic that is me?
This year alone, I cried more times than I can count. I’ve prayed longer prayers. (I had A LOT to say to Him!) I felt alone, I felt misunderstood. I felt ashamed by my decisions.
Then, I woke up.
I snatched my power back.
I’d like to think I’m mastering the art of “viewing things from a different perspective”. I may have “lost” a few battles, and that’s okay. For me, it was never about winning minuscule battles, it was much more about winning the war. I have a greater understanding of my scars. I’ve learned that you appreciate the light so much more when you break free of whatever has held you captive.
For me, it was unhealthy cycles.
I had no one to blame, but myself.
The great Ariana Grande (she’s amazing!) has been quoted for saying/singing: “One taught me love. One taught me patience. And one taught me pain. Now, I’m so amazing.” She’s gone on to say: “I’ve loved, and I’ve lost. But that’s not what I see. So, look what I got. Look at what you taught me.”
Let’s be clear, my “you” is never solely one person. It’s rather…situations (so, maybe I should say “y’all”?)
In hindsight, I see just how much I’ve gained. I stand in complete gratitude, love, and respect for every situation, every lesson. I always will.
I’ve gained an understanding like no other, a compassion, and a genuine love for the most important woman in my life – me.
So, no, I haven’t always loved myself the way I should.
I now do.
Tara Drinks is the Creator, and Senior Editor of The New Journalist.