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For Those Who Think Self-Harm Makes Them Unworthy of Love

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During my experience with self-harm, it’s safe to say that I never believed I would have a relationship or fall in love, simply because I believed I was unworthy. But then a relationship did happen and I ended up marrying the person of my dreams. I am still struggling to understand how and why this happened to me, when self-harm can make me feel so undeserving of this love. This is a letter to past me, to you and to anyone whose experience with self-harm makes them feel as though they will never experience the relationship they deserve.

Dear you,

Despite the worthlessness you may feel, this is not a true representation of you. Despite the horrors and depths to how much value you may give yourself, remember your perspective is only one. You exist to other people and you also exist beyond your doubts and fears. And these other entities, beyond your pain, they can see you beyond the darkness you feel. They can see your potential to be, the potential in who you already are and therefore your innate value. It’s immensely greater than you could ever imagine.

You are not your condition. Just as you are not a merely common cold when you experience a cold, or just as you are not an apple when you eat an apple, you are not self-harm. You are more than the limitations and pain of self harm, and you exist beyond this one season of your life. You are an accumulation of your values, your experiences, your favorite people, your best memories and the songs you sing along to. You are so much greater than merely one aspect of your life, despite how all encompassing and overwhelming it can be. As my therapist once said to me, “You are a fiancee, a daughter and a friend. This is just something you are experiencing.” You are not limited to the boundaries that self-harm makes you believe you deserve.

You are more than your physical appearance. Self-harm, being a physical manifestation of mental torment, can sometimes harm our bodies in a visible way. Although our bodies are shells and are transport for all of the other aspects of ourselves, they are important. It is OK for somebody to not like your scars, for they may see them as constant reminders of the pain you endure. However, anybody who reduces you merely to your scars is not somebody who deserves to be part of your life. When it comes to a good, healthy relationship, having scars will not make or break that. The scars will simply be.

If somebody else was in your shoes, what would you say? We can all too often be our own greatest critics, our biggest demotivates and largely magnify our flaws. Taking a more outside perspective can often help. We wouldn’t believe that our best friend, sister or second cousin’s neighbor would be prevented from being in a relationship due to their experience with self-harm. This is no different for ourselves. Self-harm does not limit you in the way that your doubts relay to you.

However, it is also important to understand that only you can save yourself. Within relationships, we cannot save each other. It’s crucial that I understand that I cannot cure my husband’s allergies, just as he cannot save me from self-harm. And this knowledge hurts, because all we want to do for the people we love is help them. It can be both frustrating and heartbreaking to learn that we cannot take self-harm away from them. A good partner can support and encourage you. A good partner can be with you while you go through self-harm recovery. They can be someone to cry with, to hold you accountable and to celebrate your successes in recovery too. However, they cannot save you from this journey, as only you are capable of climbing that mountain.

Furthermore, pain echoes. The pain that is the catalyst for your self-harm will in turn be painful for someone close to you. Just as when your best friend, or your dog is upset, that makes you sad too. This isn’t your fault. However, within your role of being a partner, this also means that it is your responsibility to reduce that pain for them. This happens by beginning to heal. By getting professional help, engaging in therapy or learning strategies to mitigate the self harm, this will lessen the pain that you are experiencing, and thus too the pain that echoes within those close to you.

Love from,

A person who is learning to believe she is worthy of love

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via Max5799

Originally published: June 30, 2017
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