“For who I’m not”

This is not an inspirational story of how confidence and perseverance led me to achieve an amazing feat. This is a story about shameful parts of my past, and a side of my vulnerable self. Please treat it with care.

Dignity and fear of vulnerability has always kept me from admitting that I have scars on my heart from hurtful words such as “ugly” and “fat”. My way of dealing with it was to push myself to be better, and prove to the world that they’re wrong about me. In a way, it did work. I developed into a highly self-motivated person and I continuously try to improve myself in the areas that are important to me. The strengths that I have built up over the years are the source of my pride and confidence today.

This is the confidence that helps me see myself in a good light. Perhaps now, instead of thinking “I’m not as skinny as her”, I would look on the flip side and say “she’s not as sporty as me”, and then I tell myself I don’t need to change myself to be loved. “One day, someone will see that side of me and know how to appreciate it”. It is this kind of attitude that I have held over the past few years, and maybe also the reason why others think of me as a bold and confident person.

“I don’t need to change myself to be loved… one day, I’ll find somebody who will love me for who I am”.

When I said I wanted to find someone who “loves me for who I am”, I was thinking about all my good qualities that people may or may not appreciate. I am not exactly a ladylike person, but I am active with sports. I may not have a stick skinny figure, but I live a fit and healthy lifestyle. I don’t like to cake myself with makeup to look flawless, but I am unafraid to let people see my natural self. I am no longer afraid of comparing with others, because I know I have qualities that deserved to be valued – I’m just waiting for the right person to come along.

The thing is, no matter how hard I try to generate more reasons to love myself; no matter how many people I can “beat out”; as long there is a comparison, nobody is a winner.

First of all, there will always be more things that “I’m not” than things that “I am”. I can practice or work out or push myself to the absolute limit, but there will always be someone more athletic, someone smarter, someone better at whatever aspect I want to compare. There is no finish line in this race – I just want to be better, whatever that may mean. The comparison never ends.

More importantly, this comparison gets to a point where it’s like an addiction. It’s not even a matter of what he thinks. It’s a matter of what I think. He thinks I’m fine just the way I am, but I want to be better. And I want him to be better because I’m better. It gets to a point where there are these discussions about “I deserve more than this”, and that’s where things get ugly. Comparison gets in the way of seeing the blatantly obvious blessings in your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that self-improvement is a bad thing. But when it comes from an egotistical attitude, it’s not exactly a good thing either. After all, there is only a fine line between confidence and cockiness.

“for who I’m not”

This struggle took a really long time, and it’s still an ongoing struggle for me. I am still in the process of learning to love myself for who I am, and love others for who they are, in the way God meant for it to be. You see, I thought it was about finding that one person, that needle in the haystack, who sees all the good in you and resonates with those qualities. But as I spend more and more time looking, I realize there is never going to be that perfect person – because, as humans, we are all imperfect. There’s always this person that likes this about me, but can’t stand something else. And vice versa, I will have a list of things I like and dislike about others as well. To find that perfect, flawless person is literally impossible.

Instead, when God said that He will find someone that “loves me for who I am”, what He meant was someone who sees my bad side along with my good side, but chooses to love me anyway. Someone that loves me for who I am, and also for who I’m not. By our own strength, nobody will ever be good enough to be acceptable. But through the process of struggle, conflict, hurt, tears, forgiveness, and comfort; the process of maturing in faith; you see the ugliest parts of everyone, including yourself – and you realize how little you deserved to be loved in the first place.

the struggle that makes it worthwhile

Love, as advertised on the media outlets around us, seems to be this perfect haven: where you get butterflies in your stomach, the days are always sunny and clear, and it is so easy to be simply happy. Even on social media, the posts you see are always the best side of others – nobody will show off to the world that they are currently in a middle of a fight. However, building a relationship isn’t quite the same thing. The relationship will never be getting anywhere if every day is just another artificial sunny day. What makes love a worthwhile decision is every shred of pain and hurt that you’ve already overcome together, and being unwilling to have to put it all to waste.

I am not exactly getting married young, but I guess in this 21st century, a 30-year-old bride seems to be the norm, hence I understand when people ask, “Are you sure he’s the one?”. And so, here is my response. There is no “the perfect one”; only the person that you choose to struggle with and make “the one” by choice.

Our relationship is nowhere close to perfect. We are not your typical ‘sweet and cute couple’. In fact, there was a time when we spent more time apart than together; a time when we fought more than we laughed. It is through faith that we have been continuously witnessing these things turn around, and through this process grows more faith and confidence. As two imperfect people, neither of us are deserving; but because of the struggles and growth we’ve experienced together, it makes it worthwhile.

Love isn’t about finding a person that knows how to appreciate your qualities and always sees you as perfect in their eyes.
It’s about finding someone who sees all your flaws and imperfections and chooses to love you anyway.

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