Love Notes: “If only you were prettier, smarter, and…”

When dating takes a toll on your self-esteem.

Love dating self esteem

My whole life, I’ve been on a quest to find love. True love. You know, the kind of love you read in fairy tales.

I was in love with love, but unfortunately, love didn’t love me.

Whenever a relationship ended, I’d get deeply hurt and broken inside, and I’d feel such darkness, self-hatred, and shame. I’d have thoughts like, “If only you were prettier, smarter and thinner, this wouldn’t have happened. Why are you so ugly? Why can’t you be someone else?’ Being alone in my room was the feeding ground for all of these dark and destructive thoughts.

In my early twenties, when I thought of “love”, the word “complete” would always follow. Romance movies had led me to believe I wasn’t complete if I wasn’t in a relationship. This message that we can’t be happy unless we’re with someone is often repeated in real life too—be it from the people around us or wider society. This detrimental belief caused me a lot of suffering in my early life. I felt like I didn’t have the permission to be happy because I was single.

My happiness was completely based on another person loving me—and if you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure to put on another person. Let’s just say the guys I ended up attracting had a lot of baggage of their own, with the added stress and responsibility of trying to keep me happy.

From my experiences of being in these “I’m not complete without you” type of relationships, I’ve come to realise that this is far from the truth. We already have the potential to be happy on our own. It wasn’t until I started working on myself that my love life and circumstances started to change.

I started loving myself and accepting myself for who I truly am—the dark, the light, and everything in between. I later realised that it’s only when you have this genuine unconditional love for yourself that others can reflect what’s already within you, back to you.

On that note, my journey of finding true love ended with my now-husband proposing to me in a real-life castle! We have been together for over eight years and have been married for almost four years now. I can’t reiterate this enough: I know, deep down, that I wouldn’t have attracted such a beautiful person to share my life with if I didn’t see my own beauty, worth and value first.

Have a story to tell? We’d love to hear it. Email us at CLEO@sph.com.sg

Text: Rishma Petraglia 
Illustration: Darren Ezekiel
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