Beauty in the Eyes of the Beholder: How My Boyfriend Taught Me to Love Myself

I am a pretty average girl. My body, according to my doctor, is “perfectly proportioned.” I am not too thin or too chunky. I am a little bit on the short side but I’m perfectly okay with that. I have nice hair and fairly pretty eyes. To me, I am okay. I’m no showstopper. I am no Victoria’s Secret model. I am okay.

I grew up in today’s society, where I was constantly told, from a young age, to make adjustments to my appearance. Beginning in the 2nd grade, my mother set my hair in rag curlers every night in an attempt to tame my frizzy, wild, not really curly but definitely not straight, mane. Contacts came along in the seventh grade, along with the new found necessity to wax my eyebrows. When puberty hit, at the ripe age of 11, I was immediately whisked to the dermatologist to determine how to best tackle to constant barrage of pimples taking up residency on my face. At a critical time in adolescent development, where a young girl’s self-esteem is as fragile as a butterfly’s wings, I found myself on a constant search for ways to improve myself. Workout routines, skincare suggestions, crazy home remedies, teeth whitening treatments, you name it, I was looking into it. Rather than realize that I had simply inherited my frizzy hair and oily skin from those who brought me into this world, I looked for factors within my own life that were causing these things. I scrutinized myself and my lifestyles on the daily and brought blame onto myself whenever and however often I could.

About a year ago, I was doing a deep cleaning of my room when I came across a calendar from my younger years. As I flipped through the pages and looked back at what had been consuming my time, I noticed a constant stream of numbers riddled across the days. “96. 98. 102. 99.” Amazed and horrified, I cringed as I remembered what these numbers were. My weight. 11 year old, extremely self-conscious me had weighed myself multiple times a week, for an entire summer. Tears filled my eyes as I realized the torture that I had put myself through. Why had I been like that? Why did I hate myself so much that I obsessed over the slightest fluctuation in my body and scrutinized every inch of me with such intensity?

Fast forward from that fragile 11 year old to sophomore in college me. I have accepted my frizzy, kind of curly, depends on the weather hair. I have even grown to kind of love it. I am still concerned about my skin and try to keep it as clear as I possibly can. I had gone through a multitude of changes in those 9 years, the largest being my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at the age of 16. I now had to worry about how to hide my insulin pump. How to disguise the bruises that appear on my arms and legs after my multiple injections every day. I was at the most I had ever weighed, a whopping 120 pounds, and was about to embark on a new adventure as a Resident Assistant at my university. I was still extremely self-conscious and still did not love the way I looked.

Then, something happened. A boy. A boy with perfectly shaped pink lips and beautiful blue eyes. A boy who teased me about my sinus infection while simultaneously being in awe of my handling of my diabetes. A boy fell in love. With me.

And as my love story with this boy grew, something else changed too. I began to see myself in the way that he saw me. The boy who loved my bright blue eyes. The boy who thought my smile was the most beautiful thing in the world. The boy who said mine was the most perfect body he had ever seen. I didn’t believe him at first. I argued with him about it. I pointed out countless other girls who had prettier hair, or more perfect skin. Who were skinnier, tanner, had longer legs and more toned abs. I magnified my flaws for him. I tried and tried to make him see me the way I saw myself. But it never worked.

So, I tried a new tactic. I tried to see myself the way he saw me. I began to look at myself from his perspective. I looked back at pictures and saw the way that my eyes lit up when I laughed. I noticed how nice my legs looked in a particular pair of shorts. I saw the joy and love in my heart radiate out of me. It was amazing. I saw myself the way he saw me. And just like that, I grew to love myself.

I still suffer from some not so great self-esteem at times. I still stress about a breakout and get frustrated when my hair is not cooperating. I still feel fat some days and hate the way I look in all of my clothes. But then, I look back at our pictures together. I look at the images from the times I felt the prettiest and I remember that feeling and I am instantly transformed into a happier mood. Even just the other night, I sent my boyfriend a selfie but covered half of my face. When he responded with, “you are so pretty,” I lost it. I pointed out the fact that my hair was frizzy as all hell and I had purposely hidden the bottom half of my face due to the fact that a giant, hormonal pimple had decided to set up camp on my chin. His response put me near tears. “I think you are so beautiful and you have absolutely no idea. I get lost in your eyes and I see you for who you truly are.”

I know they say you are supposed to learn to love yourself before you can love another, but I disagree. Sometimes, it takes another one we love to teach us to love ourselves. It takes the eyes of someone we care about, the opinion of someone we trust the most in the world, to help us get past our flaws and see our beauty the way they see us. At least that was the case for me. I had to start seeing myself through the eyes of my boyfriend, my best friend, my number one fan, and my biggest supporter, in order to recognize the beauty that had been masked to me by my own harsh criticisms.

I love myself, most of the time. I still have those moments of self-doubt and self-criticism, but I do love myself. I love myself because I know that, despite all of the flaws I see, I am perfect in someone else’s eyes.