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My Insecurity Cost Me the Love I’d Secretly Pined For

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I didn’t know love existed until I fell in it. I had sworn to my angsty high school self, weighed down by insecurity and cynicism, that not only did I not need love, but I didn’t want it because if by some magic it did in fact exist, it was too much work. Despite growing up with two loving parents who were head over heels for each other, watching healthy relationships bloom across my family tree and seeing firsthand every single day how special it was to love and be loved, I wasn’t convinced.

It wasn’t until late high school that I realized fully what fueled my scorn. It wasn’t ever that I didn’t believe in love; it was that I thought I didn’t deserve it. My debilitating disdain for myself — for my pockets of flesh, for my lopsided smile, for my chameleon’s ability to adopt different personas just to fit in — was so potent that it smashed any mere suggestion I’d be worthy of being loved. It was such a blasphemous idea that anybody could, let alone would, want me (me, so pockmarked by error) that I lived my life discouraging anybody from trying.

It began a long series of efforts to self-sabotage. I rejected glimmers of happiness, soft blooms of love and warmth and goodness, but my freshman year of college found me falling for a boy with a goofy grin and big dreams. We loved hard for a while, the “honeymoon” phase drowning me in a giddy naivety for a year. At war with my high school self, I swore vehemently that love was what I’d live for. It was enough. It was more than that.

Eventually, though, it wasn’t. Love had me floating, but I slipped slowly back into the skin I wanted so much to shimmy out of, confined in a body I didn’t want. It was no longer enough to have a man who loved me, who wanted me, because my mind warped the real world, mirroring in my relationship the way I felt about myself. I let my insecurity — crushing and devastating — seep into the impenetrable fortress of adoration I had built around us. It moved like a thief in the night, slinking around while he slept next to me, peaceful and unknowing. The darkness would feel heavier than usual and my mind would whirl with what ifs as I recalled, one by one, the things I hated about myself that surely he did too.

While he grew more confident, standing tall with a bravado that attracted new friends and attention from women, I grew smaller, folding into myself like a hermit, heavy with hurting. I felt threatened by the way he flourished because I knew he deserved it and I didn’t. Our relationship crumbled because every time he fielded greetings from friends or stared too long at a skirt walking by or favored 4 a.m. parties to sleeping beside me, I felt jolts like lightning reminding me I wasn’t good enough and he wanted more. And he did, of course, because I was spiraling. I was “crazy” like he told me every night when I screamed and cried and he laughed. I felt so unbearably unloved that I sought comfort elsewhere, seeking some sort of emotional connection that had broken between us. We tumbled over each other with mistakes, an endless ricochet designed to get back at each other.

When our love ended, I blamed him. I blamed the women and the alcohol and the arrogance. It took me a year to realize, with great shame and pangs of regret, that I was at fault for once again sabotaging my shot at happiness. My mental turbulence — riding those waves of instability, or rather drowning in them — cost me the love I’d secretly pined for all my life. I never wanted the self-hatred to be strong enough to wreck the things I thought were stronger, but it is, and it has. I’m learning now how to cultivate the tools to wrangle my emotions, desperate not to chase love away again, and I’m coming to terms with my own “toxicity,” eager to be better, to be healthy, to be honest. I don’t want to hurt anymore — myself or anybody else.

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

Originally published: November 22, 2018
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