Woman with "love shouldn't hurt" written on her back

Find Your Self-Worth in Every Cell of Your Body

Woman with "love shouldn't hurt" written on her back
(Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash)

Editor’s note: Pittsburg City Council member Angelica Lopez wrote the following commentary for the Contra Costa Pulse because February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. She is writing from her own experiences and not speaking in an official capacity.

Commentary, Angelica Lopez

“You are so beautiful, and I cannot live without you.” Sound familiar? A sentence that can make us fall head over heels for a significant other. But for some reason, when we are young, these words sound too good to be true. Why? Because some of us grew up not knowing our worth.

We find it outrageous to hear another human being think that we are good-looking, special, and/or smart. I am now in my mid-30s, and let me tell you, I did not love myself. I grew up in an unhealthy environment and went through unspeakable abuse since the tender age of 5. I grew up thinking I was not good enough, not pretty enough, and not worthy of anything great. Perhaps my story will resonate with you, or perhaps it will not, but I wish I would have learned a lot sooner what I am about to tell you.

I was 15 when I met my first “prince.” I am being sarcastic. This so-called prince was 21 at the time, and that alone was not only a red flag — it was illegal. Anywho, I fell for this guy because, well, he said I was the most “beautiful” girl he had ever seen and was “not into anyone else but me.” During this time, I was going through my first undiagnosed episode of depression, and anxiety, due to all my unresolved trauma from my childhood. I allowed this guy into my life, and co-dependence ensued. This man did not treat me like I was truly “beautiful,” and not only was I pressured into an intimate relationship I was nowhere near ready for, but this inappropriate relationship also led to my first domestic violence experience. Long story short, because of this experience that lasted for about six years, I learned to dislike myself even more, and of course the anxiety/depression only made me more co-dependent with this person.

During my mid 20s, I carried a lot of baggage. By 26, I was on five different medications for anxiety, depression and PTSD, and I even developed an eating disorder. Now, don’t me wrong, I believe mental illness is truly an illness, but the wrong partner and domestic violence will sure make this illness 10x more unbearable.

By the age of 29, I had academic accomplishments, career accomplishments, had partaken in tons of therapy, but I was still missing the main ingredient: SELF-ACCEPTANCE. You see, until you learn to accept and honor yourself for who you are, then you not only will continue to be unhappy, but you will always be that young person who jumps at the first person who makes you feel “seen” even if they are unhealthy for you.

>>>Read: Here Are Some Tips to Treat Yourself With Compassion

At 30, I married the next person who made me feel “wanted.” I still had not learned my lesson and failed to react at the first sign of mistreatment. This time, I found my worth in my new prince’s diamond ring that meant I was worthy of an “I do.” All I know is that five months later, I was in a hospital bed and crippled for the weeks that followed. This relationship not only damaged me physically but also put me at a breaking point. I had to finally confront the most vulnerable parts of myself and realize that my worth was not to be found in another human being. Rather, I found my worth in every single cell of my body. For I finally learned that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Love,” my dear reader, is not just butterflies, sunshine and rainbows. It is not a rom-com. Love, in all actuality, is YOU. Love is waking up in the morning and looking yourself in the mirror and realizing how magnificent you are. Love is daily speaking kind words to yourself so that whenever someone else tells you something “kind” or “romantic,” you will have already heard those words from your own self. If you find yourself going through life with someone who is hurting you physically or emotionally, please run away from that person, and seek help from a trusted friend, and/or law enforcement.

Your story does not end with abuse. Mine didn’t. You see, a month after I was released from the hospital after my last “prince” sent me there, I not only started a healing journey, but I also became a family law attorney that focuses on the area of domestic violence. I now get to share my story with the world, and there is no shame in admitting when we are wrong about someone nor in seeking help for the same. I felt alone for a very long time, but my hope is that one day, you will find in yourself your own hero, and share your story about survival, resilience, and self-love.

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