Ryan Ahern

How Being In A Relationship Completely Ruined My Self-Esteem


I've never been an overly confident person. From as far back as I can remember, I've always had a list as long as my arm about things I would change about myself: both inside and out.

I remember that when I was younger, I'd play a game with myself that I called "The Magic Game." I'd draw the perfect version of myself and everything I'd change about my appearance if I somehow acquired the "magical powers" to do so.

As I got older, I stopped drawing those silly doodles consisting of longer legs and nicer hair. Instead, I'd just stare at the mirror.

Instead of wishing for magical powers, I'd wish for money to fix these “problems.” Because the simple fact was, if I could afford to change everything I disliked about myself, I would.

But boy oh boy, would THAT be an expensive list of procedures: boob job, nose job, liposuction, lip fillers. The list is endless, and is continuously growing.

Yet, somehow, for a short period of time in my life, I found myself feeling a little more confident than usual.

My hair wasn't a pain in the ass anymore. In fact, I actually enjoyed doing it in the mornings.

I got excited about putting outfits together, instead of dreading how stumpy my legs would look in my jeans.

I found myself talking more to strangers, engaging in small talk at the coffee shop and smiling as I walked down the street with my head held high.

But then, it went away as soon as it had arrived. And I missed it.

I missed taking a selfie and not waiting to post it on Instagram because damn it, I looked good that day. I missed not wanting to cry whenever I looked at myself in the mirror. I liked being able to eat whatever I wanted for dinner without feeling like I shouldn't ever eat carbs again for the rest of my life.

I missed feeling good about myself. It was like fighting with my best friend: myself.

Take it from someone who knows this all too well: Hating yourself is one of the most difficult and horrible battles there is.

It wasn't even just my appearance: I felt smarter and funnier. I'd feel confident enough to express my views and opinions without worrying about what other people thought.

I didn't worry if everyone liked me because I liked me, and that was all that mattered. I realized something needed to change. I'd gotten a glimpse into the world of self-love.

It was addictive and empowering. So, where had it all gone?

Why did I hate myself for years and never feel worthy? Why did I only feel empowered for a short time, just to have it disappear again?

So, I thought back to the last few years of my life. Staring back at me was an honest and scary answer: relationships.

I'd realized that whenever I was in a relationship, my confidence would go into hibernation until I was single again. It wasn't that I hated being in a relationship: far from it.

I was with my boyfriends because (obviously) I loved them. But they weren't healthy relationships, and I didn't realize how badly they were affecting my self-esteem and self-worth until the damage had been done.

I found myself changing my appearance, depending on the preferences of the person I was currently dating. One ex hated jeans, so I only wore skirts. Another liked my hair down, so I never wore it up.

Some hated when I wore lipstick, and others preferred it when my nails were painted red. You get the rough idea: I started doing these small and simple things in order to keep my partner happy.

But soon, they weren't such small and little things anymore. Before long, I found myself drastically changing myself in a bid to make other people happy. I reached a point where I didn't even recognize myself anymore.

I found myself looking at other people on the street and thinking, “I wish I could wear purple lipstick.” I didn't realize how horrible it was that my partner had somehow drilled into my head what I was and wasn't allowed to do just because of the things he liked.

When I was single, I did only what made me happy.

I wore all black without the fear of being called a goth, I wore lipstick because it made me feel good and I painted my nails whatever color I wanted. I listened to my own music without the fear that I'd be told I had bad taste, and I watched the movies I liked without the fear of being criticized.

It was empowering. I felt happy. I had the time of my life rediscovering who I actually was.

At 22 years old, I was able to finally figure out what I liked, as opposed to what other people liked.

And do you know the best part of discovering and liking yourself? You realize that the right person will come along and like you too, just as you are.

This person won't make you feel like you should dress a certain way or wear more color. No, they'll accept you for who you are, and not who they want you to be.

You won't only be accepted for who you are: You'll be loved for it.