Have you seen the newest trend that’s gone viral on social media? The one where you compare a picture of yourself from ten years ago to one of you today to see how much you’ve changed. Some people add commentary to discuss how they’ve grown as people in that decade also, which I love reading.
I decided to try playing along. So I started digging into my photos from the past – or at least the ones I have online/backed up digitally on some cloud or other. I made an interesting discovery. Although I distinctly remember taking and posting photos of myself in 2009, I could not find a single one. And then it hit me why.
That was the year that I chose to break up with a man I’d been dating for 3 years. I knew for the majority of our time together that we weren’t good together. I knew that I wasn’t happy. While there certainly were areas of concern and red flags, it wasn’t all him. I had a lot of growing and healing I needed to do before I could be a good partner for anyone.
I delayed breaking up with him for a long time because I truly believed I would never find love again. I truly believed that I was not worthy of love. I seriously wondered if it was better to be alone or to be miserable with someone who could not love me the way I needed to be loved.
In the end, I chose to roll the dice on singleness and finding love again.
That was one of the darkest and hardest years of my life up to that point. I was filled with self-loathing. Later, I would go back and decide I truly hated how I looked in each of the photos I took of myself that year, and I’d delete any trace of them. As far as the digital world is concerned, I dropped off the face of the planet for a solid year.
That was not the only memory to come back to me, however.
As I went back in time, I started really looking at myself in those photos. I looked into my own eyes from years past. Do you know what I saw in so many of them? I saw a woman who was sad, lonely, insecure, begging the outside world for friendship and love.
10 years ago, I was still heavily isolated by both my health (for those new to the blog, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 13 years ago) and by my abusive family.
I learned to suppress my loneliness.
I didn’t realize how deeply I was hurting.
I carried that well into my twenties.
I look at these old photos, and my loneliness and sadness are palpable. I want to reach back through time and hug my old self.
But an interesting thing happened.
As I began moving forward in time through my old pictures, that lonely and sad girl began to disappear.
I began working as much as my body would allow me. I began to develop relationships outside of my immediate family again.
I began to actively care for my body. I would go on long walks, challenging myself to be able to walk 10K in one go (I made it at least once if I remember correctly!). I was going to the gym multiple times a week. I was learning to listen to my body when it needed a rest. I was learning how to feed my body in healthy ways.
I was slowly building up my confidence.
I eventually pushed back against the voices in my head that said I wasn’t capable of supporting myself (My dad’s voice) and the voice that said I was needed at home more than I was needed elsewhere (my mom’s voice). I left home. I didn’t just leave home, I left the province. I was committed to this living on my own thing.
I found friends. I found life. I found love. I found myself.
The closer I got to the present day in these old photos, the more light and happiness I could see in my eyes. I learned that I was worth so much more than I was taught I was.
I grew so much in these last ten years. I feel like a completely different person than in those old photos from 2008 or even 2010.
I do still struggle with the idea that I am worthy of love just because I exist. But I found enough love within me to give myself the strength to start my life over and find the happiness I deserve. I found enough love within me to choose healthy people, and make good choices for myself.
I found enough love within me to take a chance on love when he walked into my life and asked if I wanted to go out with him.
I’m excited for 2029. I’m excited to look back and be able to see all the ways I will have grown by then.