I spent most of my childhood being hearing that I was ugly, no one loved me, no one would ever love me, I wasn’t smart, I wasn’t good at anything and I would be alone forever. I was told these things by one of the only people in my life that should have loved me unconditionally. I grew up believing, well into adulthood, that these were all basic truths that I had to accept. My dating life in my late teens and early twenties only strengthened my belief that my father was probably right on most accounts.
When I stopped dating and having sex at twenty-four, I found it easy to abstain because with a young son to provide for and bills to pay the screams of the needs drowned out the whines of the wants. That period of my life did afford me some opportunities to challenge what I had known about myself since childhood. It turned out I was good at great deal of things. I was a good writer and I was driven. I found positions in areas that interested me, like television, which I had no experience with at all, and I learned everything I could to make myself an asset to anyone who gave me a shot. Over the course of a ten year period I won three national awards and four regional awards, as a producer and director in video and television.
I realized that I was, in fact, an intelligent young woman who could really do anything she put her mind to. Slowly through the years, the facts my father told me were refuted. The only truths I hadn’t been able to disprove were the ones regarding emotional connection and the more superficial assessments of my physical appearance. I had convinced myself for most of my son’s childhood that I didn’t want a relationship and probably never would.
As my son neared adulthood, I began to ponder what I could and would do. Three things happened that changed everything for me. The first, I had a much higher opinion of myself. There were things I knew I excelled in and stopped letting anyone tell me otherwise. I had developed some self-confidence. The second, I was committed to being more positive about myself and the world around me. I created a list of things I felt needed to change in my life and addressed them. And lastly, I learned to love and really care for myself.
It turned out that one of the side effects of being confident and loving yourself is that you garner a lot more attention. I got a lot of male attention. One more of my father’s truths scratched off the list… not ugly… actually pretty attractive. I began to realize that I didn’t want to be alone after all. I wanted a partner, a companion. I thought a lot about what dating would be like given my circumstances. I thought it would surely be easier to date now that I was older. People my age had surely moved beyond the game playing and drama that filled my romantic life as a younger woman.
So I started dating and quickly discovered that dating was still tricky. I encountered the same problems I did at twenty-four. But finally I found a man I really liked and we began dating. I allowed my value to be depreciated by a man who really just wanted to break my will. When that relationship ended I was kind of lost and pissed. I decided I needed to change my thinking about a few things. I began casually dating and having lots and lots of sex with lots and lots of boys. I realized that it was nice to experience all of the great moments that dating can provide without the emotional pain that often comes with trying to establish a relationship.
I still wanted more than a few nights of fun with a slew of physically attractive men. I really just wanted one. I hadn’t found him yet but I opened myself up to the possibility of trying for something more again. One night at a bar I met a guy who I thought would just be another temporary good time. My plans for a temporary arrangement turned into something a little more significant. After about a month I realized, for the first time, that I actually wanted to be around this person and only this person for a very long time. We were good for a few months then we stopped dating due circumstances I understood and had to accept. After two months we were dating again and everything I felt for him had blossomed into something more intense than I had felt for anyone. I wanted so badly to build a committed relationship. I tried for the better part of six months. In the end it didn’t happen and I had to admit to myself that he just didn’t and never was going to love me.
I love myself and I am proud of everything I have accomplished. But every time I try so hard and everything falls apart, I hear my father’s voice. “No will ever love you; no one will ever want you.” (Not anyone I want anyway.) I know that isn’t the truth but it is hard not to think about when you feel like you’ve given something everything you have and not succeeded.
I guess I am just not used to being bad at something.
At least my ego is still intact.