I’ve been guilty of dating some really terrible guys in the past. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I haven’t always picked the best. But after almost a decade of “self-love recovery,” my tolerance has definitely decreased towards poor treatment.
It’s easy to say things like: I love myself. It’s harder to actually take action to prove that to be true. Thankfully, I recently had an encounter that proved to me that I’m learning to love myself more. Self-love is not a destination, but rather, a daily practice.
The Newest Narcissist
I’ll admit, I’ve dated a narcissist (or two). They’re like the sun, they shine and shimmer and provide an initial warmth. However, the closer you get to them, the more you get burned.
A few months ago, I was getting to know this guy. I was new to town and he showed a lot of interest and enthusiasm in me and so I decided to give him a chance.
Initially, he wasn’t my type. I wasn’t physically attracted to him and he was very intense, but a mutual friend told me that he was a really nice guy underneath it all. So I gave him a chance.
I thought that maybe we could just be friends. After spending some time together, I started to build affection towards him. I think I just liked the attention because I still wasn’t very attracted to him, but he did actually help me to grow.
I learned a lot about myself from being around him.
Like Looking in a Mirror
He was basically a reflection of what I needed to see in myself. Before knowing him, I was blind to the fact that I would put words in people’s mouths or tell them how they were feeling. I always thought I was being helpful, but I realized from being around him that it was arrogance.
I realized, too, that I was trying to change him. Since I knew that he really liked me and would be really good to me, so I tried to change him into someone I would want to date. Not infrequently, I would make comments about his behavior and try to get him to change to suit my needs. When I realized that I was doing this I was horrified. I apologized to him in person and assured him that I thought he shouldn’t change unless he wanted to.
[Not] Trusting My Gut
I wish I had trusted my gut in the beginning. He scared me. There was this energy about him that didn’t feel safe to me, but I knew that he was trying to change, so I put on my good samaritan hat and continued our brief relationship.
It definitely wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed how honest we could be with each other and I felt like I could tell him things. However, there were a lot of red and yellow flags. I would question if I should end it, but then I would look in the mirror and see my hat and would tell myself to be more open and loving.
In retrospect, I should have ended it once I felt afraid of him. But now I have that knowledge and empirical evidence for future relationships. Luckily, it was a very short-lived time together. I guess the flags kept stabbing me in the eye enough times for the final one to fully allow me to see clearly — not with my eyes, but with my gut.
One night we got in a fight because I told him that I didn’t see a future with him. I told him it was probably best that we take some time apart for his feelings to dissipate so we could be friends and for me to get clarity about our relationship.
Let’s just say he didn’t take this well. He yelled at me and defamed my character. A really nasty side of him came out as he was attacking me and I told him,
“I’ve worked really hard to be a better person and to surround myself with people who love and support me. I don’t let anyone in my life talk to me like that.”
And that was the last time we spoke.
After that interaction I kept beating myself up for allowing someone like that to come into my life. I blamed myself for attracting that energy. I was afraid of him and yet I pushed myself to get to know him and spend time with him because I was lonely.
But I can only beat myself up for so long. I realized that I needed to forgive myself, because that’s a part of self-love too. I had been in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship before and it took me a while to get out of it and to recover from it.
The important difference this time was that I didn’t stick around. I may have felt bad that I attracted someone like him into my life again, but I was proud that I got out sooner rather than later.
I hope that he finds love and is happy. But I also don’t need to be the person to try to make that happen. That’s self-love.
Deserving of Love
There’s a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower that often comes to mind when I think about relationships: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
In the past, I accepted love that wasn’t really love. I allowed guys to treat me poorly because I didn’t think I deserved better. I sought out the suns, the ones the world revolved around who eventually blinded me to the love I inherently deserved.
When you have a lot of bad relationships, you start to question if you deserve a good one. I’ve had to stop dating to rebuild a relationship with myself based around self-love. It’s a never-ending journey, but it’s definitely more satisfying than the way I used to live my life.
Today, I have built up enough self-love and self-respect that when I realize I’m being treated poorly, I get out as soon as possible. This is a huge step for me, and ultimately, saved me from getting into another dysfunctional relationship.
We can learn to grow from our experiences or use them to justify our bad choices. I want to empower myself to only accept the best and that starts by spend time with myself and loving on me.
I only accept the love I know I deserve today. And that’s a lot of love.