From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

My Worst Enemy

Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.

Helen Keller

He used to look at me like I was the most beautiful girl in the entire universe. He often gazed at me, the corners of his eyes wrinkled by a sweet grin on his lips, and would tell me I was an angel who had swooped down from heaven just for him. There were many moments in our relationship when I convinced myself that Brian and I were destined to spend our lives together. When he looked at me with his adoring eyes, I felt, for the first time ever, like I was beautiful.

When I was with Brian, I was at peace with myself. Unfortunately, things were not so tranquil without him. My self-esteem was terribly low, and by the time I was seventeen, I was painfully aware this was a serious problem. Instead of solving the problem, I opted to hide it and pretend like I was perfectly content with myself. I let Brian give me the love that I couldn’t give myself. I didn’t want him to know that my reflection was my own worst enemy. I didn’t want him to know that I spent nights crying because my hips were too wide and my thighs were too fat. I didn’t want him to know that the girl he loved didn’t love herself.

“Emily, you’re amazing,” he would whisper softly, tickling my ear while my heart threatened to burst from happiness.

As the months wore on, my lack of self-confidence began to show through. Brian would say, “Emily, why don’t you wear that shirt?” And I would argue, “It makes my hips look too big.” He would shrug, as boys often do when they can’t understand the reasoning of a female mind, and the subject would be dropped. The problem was, moments like that began to show up more and more often in our relationship, and Brian started to get frustrated.

“Emily, you’re beautiful! Why do you have to get so jealous? You know I love you!” And even though I knew this, every time I saw Brian talking to other girls, my mind instantly feared he had finally realized that I really wasn’t as gorgeous as he had thought.

“I can’t deal with this anymore,” he announced one day. “How can you love me if you can’t even love yourself! I love you for you. But you have to find out what it is that makes you so scared of who you really are. You have to stop being so negative about yourself.” He left after that, and I was stuck, all alone, with my own worst enemy.

In time, I realized my relationship with myself is just like a relationship I share with anyone else. In order to make it better, it was necessary to nurture it. Just like I spend time with the people I love, I had to spend time with myself. I had to learn and grow and hold my own hand instead of slapping it away.

Of course, it took me many painful months to discover this truth. I took the breakup really hard and verbally bashed myself time and time again. Ironically, I was punishing myself for not loving myself. I actually believed that I was a plague to society who didn’t deserve to live on the same earth with loving and accepting people like Brian. When I looked in the mirror, I absolutely despised the person with the puffy, red eyes and unwashed hair who stared back at me.

Developing self-acceptance was a process that occurred slowly, but gradually I began to smile at my reflection. Little things like a guy in chemistry calling me cute, shopping for clothes that were more fitting and flattering, and discovering new interests and talents contributed to the foundation for my whole new perspective on me. Giving myself a hard time hurt me. Accepting and loving myself nurtured me. I began to feel more energetic, and I was excited about even the smallest things. It’s incredible how my worst enemy turned out to be my best friend once I made some humble yet necessary changes. I can honestly say I like myself now. And I’ve got a feeling things are just going to keep getting better.

Emily Starr

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