Say goodbye to letting relationships dictate your self-confidence | My Heart Will Go On

Trigger warning: This article contains mention of eating disorders.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Confidence is one of the most talked about aspects of society. Whether it regards comparison on social media or reluctance to express our insecurities, confidence issues can impact anyone. 

Building up one’s self-confidence is an ongoing battle. To constantly grow and evolve comes with both physical and mental changes — and both transformations can be very uncomfortable and hard to accept. 

However, the worst part of it all is how confidence may not be permanent. For example, you can feel great about yourself in your own mind, but then go out in the world and receive negative attitudes and opinions from others that tear you back down. 

For me, my temporary sense of confidence and security was rooted in my past relationship. While I am currently working on not letting a relationship dictate my self-confidence, I would be lying if I said I didn’t count on receiving external validation. 

One of the biggest struggles that I’ve faced since my breakup — regarding both my relationship and my own mental health — is building back up my self-confidence.

During my relationship, I became both mentally and physically secure. I knew I had someone who loved me for exactly who I was and how I looked. Relationships are special in that way — they help soothe your insecurities when you have someone who loves you for all the reasons you might not love yourself.  

I had just recovered from an eating disorder when I first entered my relationship. Before, I never thought that I could get into a relationship due to the pressure I put on myself to look perfect — or at least what “perfect” looked like to me — for my partner. 

I thought I had to give myself more time to feel comfortable in my own body before I could begin sharing it with someone else. 

However, my relationship did the opposite for me. My ex-boyfriend is a very adventurous eater who always encouraged me to try new foods, and because of him, my palette expanded significantly. This strengthened my relationship with food and my body. 

I could not have been more grateful for what he did — even though he wasn’t fully aware of how much he truly helped me. 

After I recovered from the disorder and fostered a healthy relationship with food, I subconsciously gave my ex-boyfriend a lot of power over my self-confidence. It was nothing that he did — and I do believe this is common in most relationships — but I relied on him for more reassurance and confidence.

Why? I think it was a combination of both the traditional relationship dynamic, but also the fact that I had just recovered from being in a very vulnerable place and needed comfort from someone very close to me. 

Relationships can teach you how to fall in love with yourself. They provide someone else’s perspective as a lens to view yourself in ways that you wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Once you lose that relationship, it causes you to lose that confidence because the person who once reassured you, is no longer there. This became difficult for me, as the pressure that I placed on my relationship had derived from my deeper insecurities to begin with. 

However, relationships — if you can sustain them — can provide you with consistent confidence.  Say you go out with your friends and receive little to no attention. Knowing your status as “taken” and that you’re loved by someone makes this lack of validation not as upsetting. 

For example, when I was in a relationship and went out with my friends, I wouldn’t pay attention to what guys were looking at me or if I was getting any attention at all. After all, I had someone at home who loved me — and that was all that mattered. 

Now, when I go out and receive no attention, I feel a sense of hurt since I don’t have anything or anyone to fall back on. I’ve become more insecure and have started to rely more on the validation from others that I was so used to getting in the past. 

One of the biggest stems of my post-breakup insecurity is how my ex-boyfriend treats me now. We are no longer together, so he obviously doesn’t speak to me like we are. This distance leaves me with disappointment and a false hope on the occasion that we do speak. 

After each time, I’m reminded of how I no longer mean the same thing to him. While I do understand this, it’s still upsetting to feel this drastic change, which further causes me to feel insecure and question my worthiness of love. 

In this process, I have grown to learn that I cannot continue giving someone else the power to dictate my self-confidence — regardless of whether we are together or not. 

While this is much easier said than done, I have begun to rely less on outward validation and more on loving myself solely for myself. 

The end of a relationship is often the beginning of a journey of growth, and I am proud to say that I am taking full advantage of it. 

If I were to give one piece of advice to anyone reading this, it would be to never begin a relationship without being confident enough in yourself. That way, you’ll know that you’ll be just fine with or without a person. You will choose to be with them because you truly love them, not because you need to be with someone that fills the void with outward validation.

Take it from me: Prioritize loving yourself first and then someone else. After all, there’s a reason “self” comes first in the term “self-confidence.”

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