When I was 15 years old, I was in an abusive relationship.
I don’t know how to say that without being blunt about it, so I decided it would be easiest to just blurt it out. It is surreal to admit and painful to think about, but I spent a significant amount of my teenage years invested in a toxic relationship, and I can’t deny that any longer.
Looking back, I can’t decipher where exactly I went wrong. I don’t know how I got to the point that I did or when I crossed the line, but sitting here in this cozy coffee shop, drinking chai tea and telling you my story, it is undeniable that somewhere, I went wrong. Perhaps you may be thinking that as the victim I shouldn’t blame myself for being in the “wrong,” but I ask you to wait for the rest of my story. Abuse comes in many forms and I fell victim to all of them.
The abuse was verbal. I was always told I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. I wasn’t successful enough. My self-worth slowly deteriorated as comparisons proved I didn’t possess all the things I needed to in order to be accepted as being enough.
The abuse was physical. I was beaten down and my body suffered as a result. My body became a punching bag for all things emulating anger, frustration, and disappointment.
The abuse was mental. Knowing there were explicit expectations that I could not meet became a constant reminder of my inadequacy. It left me feeling more insecure than ever. Despite my most sincere efforts to convince those around me that I was perfectly fine, I had already fallen so far that I eventually lost my independence and my sense of self.
Our society fails to acknowledge the fact that one in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal excuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend. It also goes unnoticed that one in ten high school students has been intentionally hit, slapped or physically hurt by someone they’re exclusively dating.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not a statistic listed above. These numbers don’t represent me or the abuse that I experienced. When I was 15 years old I was in an abusive relationship; however, I was the abuser of myself. Yes, I was both the abuser and the victim.
The abuse was verbal. I convinced myself I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t smart enough because I wasn’t a 4.0 student and didn’t always get straight A’s. I wasn’t pretty enough because my body didn’t match that of the models I’d seen in Cosmo and I didn’t fit the mold of “beauty” society provided. I constantly compared myself to other girls who were all the things I wasn’t: intelligent, successful, driven, decisive, confident. My self-worth slowly deteriorated because I spent too much time focusing on the qualities I did not possess rather than nurturing the God-given qualities that make who I am, enough.
The abuse was physical. As I beat myself down, my body suffered as a result. I lost weight by overdosing on diet pills and laxatives;I starved myself and implemented unnecessary workout patterns into my daily routine. I relied on sharp pieces of glass and other objects to temporarily relieve me from my own pain. People would ask if everything was alright, and I hid behind lies to avoid my shame and embarrassment.
The abuse was mental. Demanding unrealistic expectations of myself made me feel incapable, and this consistent reminder of my shortcomings left me feeling like there was nothing I could achieve. It became all-consuming, and nearly impossible for me to break this narrow structure of thinking that was destroying the person I was. Despite wanting to feel better, I was convinced that my biggest goal should be trying to perfect myself so that I could be the person society told me I should be.
Many girls in abusive relationships wait for love to rescue them. They await a knight- in – shining – armor to be the hero that saves them from their pain and redefines their worth. That is what many of us were taught to expect as little girls, were we not?
Thankfully, my abusive relationship guided me towards my own long-awaited fairytale where my hero gave His life for me and sent His son to die on a cross for me. A perfect man, who died for me, in order to save me from myself. Jesus used the cracks of my broken heart to lead me to His greatness. He gave up His life to rescue me from the grueling pain this world would try to inflict upon me. His selflessness accepted each of my human flaws, and His unconditional love renewed me and cleansed me of all my imperfections.
The society we live in constantly measures women by definitions of self-worth that are skin deep and quite misguided. The world defines us by our appearances, our accomplishments, and the amount of money in our savings account. Instead of chasing after these often unattainable goals, we need to learn to seek Jesus — to chase after Jesus as though our life depended on it. Because the truth is, our lives do depend on it. Each obstacle we encounter is orchestrated by God, and our ability to move beyond those challenges is dependent on the trust we have in Him. Society will attempt to manipulate your thoughts, but Jesus will show you your true value. His love will surround you despite the expectations the world demands and His presence will constantly embrace you.
In finding the love of God, I found the love I had always been searching for. When I stopped pursuing unrealistic expectations of my appearance and refused to try to be someone God never intended me to be, I finally learned to treasure the characteristics that make me, me. The more I immersed myself in God’s love, the more I loved myself. All those years I spent tearing myself down I was desperately searching for the feeling of acceptance. I was a broken girl who wanted nothing more than to be loved for all of her imperfections. Because of Jesus, I now know that I am cherished, I am special, I am worthy, and above all, I know that the person God designed me to be is enough. In fact, it is more than enough. I am more than enough.
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