“If you don’t love yourself, you’ll always be looking for someone else to fill the void inside you, but no one will ever be able to do it.” ~Lori Deschene
I was a simple girl who met a complicated boy and fell in love. It was unrequited. I loved him with all my heart for six months, without him knowing. Or if he did know, he never said anything.
I acted like a teenager with her first crush. It was humiliating. I did things that I should never have done—the incessant texting, calling, arranging meetups, and what not.
Embarrassment doesn’t even cover the emotions I feel now. There is also a lot of guilt and pain.
When I was kid, I learned by watching my parents to sacrifice myself and show up for others before myself.
Gradually, my sense of self become entwined with others. I only felt worthy when I served a purpose in someone’s life, and otherwise, I didn’t think I mattered much.
Every little thing became focused on other people—how I behaved, how I dressed, how I worked. I would mindread, try to control how people perceived me, and stretch beyond my limits to show up for people who probably never even cared about me.
That is exactly what happened with the boy I loved. My life became all about him—what he said, what he never said. I was waiting for a proposal that was never going to happen. My mind had created all these stories about a fantasy relationship that would never be and was constantly lost in a daydream.
Instead of loving myself, I was pouring all my time and energy into someone else. My family and friends knew what was happening, and they told me I needed to accept that he didn’t love me back, but I didn’t listen to them. I was on a high, addicted to the dopamine rush of seeing him and talking to him.
One day, I suffered a nervous breakdown and cried. The boy I loved would never love me back. It was emotionally traumatizing, both for me and my family. The heart of it was my need for validation from someone else.
It was hard for me to accept the fact that he would never love me. I wanted him. I loved him so much. Why couldn’t he see my love for him and love me back?
It’s been one year since I’ve talked to him. My heart still beats a little faster when I think about him or see him.
For a long time, I was ashamed of how I’d obsessed over him and pursued him. Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t met him. He was the beginning of a dark and depressing change in my personality. I was so sad. I couldn’t eat properly, sleep properly, think properly.
I blamed it all on myself. It triggered a sense of worthlessness. I wasn’t good enough for his love, for him. I cried a lot. More than I should have.
It felt silly. To cry over someone who doesn’t even know what you’re going through.
For a long time, I didn’t forgive myself. I would wallow; I was in pain. I’d always struggled with low self-worth and self-esteem, and the pain of a broken heart was too much for my already broken self to handle.
I had placed my worth in someone else’s hands instead of my own. I was cruel to myself, constantly criticizing myself and putting myself down, all because of a boy. I had been abandoning myself and treating myself far worse than I treated others. My mind was suffering; it felt rejected.
But thankfully, support from the right people and therapy slowly helped me figure out what was going wrong and forgive myself.
Therapy helped me rediscover myself. I was no longer the girl who placed her self-worth in someone’s hands.
It also helped me recognize that my obsession was more about me and my issues than him. I already didn’t feel good enough; his rejection just magnified it.
It was a gradual process, and at first, it was a little scary. I was fundamentally changing myself and rewiring my personality, learning to treat myself with kindness and compassion. Letting go of my old self wasn’t easy, as I had been so used to the pain and heartbreak.
But I was patient with myself, and it paid off. I conquered my demons, and slowly, gradually, fell in love with myself.
All of this happened last December and one year later, I can finally say that I’m letting go.
It hasn’t been an easy journey. There are days when I don’t treat myself kindly. There are days when I still place my worth in someone else’s hands and expect them to ease my self-hatred and guilt and make me feel good enough. There are days when I end up sacrificing myself for people, but those are outnumbered by the days when I look at myself with loving kindness.
There are far more days when I take care of myself instead of focusing on someone else who probably doesn’t care about what I’m going through.
I have finally forgiven myself for all that happened. I look at the past and I wonder how I survived. I am far stronger and more resilient than I thought myself to be before, and now I can show up for myself, hold myself together, and be there for myself.
I look at myself in the mirror and feel proud of coming so far. I love myself, and I’m not ashamed of what happened. Unrequited love teaches you a lot: It teaches you what you’re looking for and what you don’t want in someone.
I know my worth, and I know that the right person will love me the way I deserve to be loved.
But most of all, I know that I will love myself the way I want to be loved. I no longer look at myself with hatred. The pain of my heartbreak comes and goes, but I know I’m strong enough to handle whatever life gives me.
I’m happy after a long time, and I want to hold on to this happiness and cherish all the good memories I’ve made.
I have collected all my broken pieces and created art, writing down my thoughts and emotions, and also, appreciating all I’ve gained through my struggles has helped me work toward forgiveness and acceptance.
Unrequited love can be a blessing because it gives us an opportunity to practice loving ourselves.
Loving someone is hard but unloving someone and pouring all your love into yourself is even harder. It doesn’t happen overnight. Self-love is a journey, and it has its highs and lows, but it is worth it.
About Shreya Arora
Sherrie is a student of life, and she loves to read and write. Her mantra is to take it one day a time. You can follow her journey of self-love and creativity at @sherriewrites on Instagram.