Erin Marie

I deserve love

My post last week which introduced you to me and my journey of fat acceptance got me thinking.

When I was twenty, my best friend was consoling me over my failed relationship and all of the ways in which my life had fallen in a hole (they were many and varied).  We had both recently come out of exhausting and abusive relationships, and had both always battled with our weight.  Neither of these issues were things that we spent a lot of time talking about, but looking back I realise that it was because of these shared experiences I knew that I could trust her words and her wisdom.  As I cried for the millionth time about how it must have been my fault that my drug addict boyfriend cheated on me, my best friend halted me in my tracks when she said to me:

At their core, everyone has something that holds them back.  A question, a phrase, a belief – something that makes them think that they can’t achieve their wildest dreams, or anything even close.  Once you figure out what that core belief is, you can work towards letting it go and reaching out for your potential.

In that moment, what she said resonated with truth.  Without consciously thinking about it, I said:

I don’t deserve to be loved.

So there it was, at age twenty, I had discovered the deep-seated core belief that was holding me back.  I don’t deserve to be loved.  And not only that – I don’t deserve any of the wonderful things in my life.

So obviously, eight years later, I should have totally overcome this conviction, have it all sorted out and be killing it out there in the world.

Yeah, right.

I should preface the rest of this post with the comment that there are many contributing factors to this core belief than simply being fat, most of which I have previously recognised and attempted to deal with.  Without going into too much detail, my childhood and adolescence was less than ideal in terms of familial relationships, and I know for certain that these early experiences contributed a great deal to my idea of love.

But after I wrote the post about my journey into fat acceptance, and particularly about those boys that I loved who didn’t love me back, it got me to thinking about how my experiences of being fat contributed to my belief that I don’t deserve love.

Those boys that I loved, that didn’t love me back … I know that they are part of the life experience that has made me who I am today.  But right now I have to acknowledge that who I am today is a person who does not believe that she is deserving of love because she is fat.  And that those experiences contributed to that.

I hold no grudge against those guys.  Some of them I’m still friends with.  But the fact remains that (at least in my head) the reason that they didn’t want to go out with me was because I was fat.

Actually, if I’m truly honest with myself, I’ll tell you that with most of those guys, I didn’t even admit to them that I liked them because I was so afraid of being ridiculed for being fat, even more than I already was, just for being me.

And those that I did tell – ‘Sorry Erin, I just don’t see you in that way’.  Of course, in my head that went ‘Sorry Erin, I just don’t see you in that way, because you’re fat’.  Maybe that was what they were saying.  Maybe it wasn’t.  I guess I’ll never know.

And if it didn’t come from them, where did that message come from?  Was it my mother’s constant comments on my size?  Was it the teenage magazines that I read even though none of it applied to me, because I was fat?  Was it the way the boys used to dare each other to flirt with me, as if it was totally impossible that any of them would actually like me?  Was it the fact that when I went clothes shopping I had to look in the middle-aged-woman friendly plus sized section or men’s section to find clothes that fit?  Was it seeing all my girlfriends with the boyfriends and me sitting on the sidelines alone?  Was it the stares and comments I got when I played sport, no matter how well I played?  Was it people telling me I had such a pretty face?  Was it the sense I had that it was important for me to do well academically so that I could stand out in some positive way?

It was probably all of these and more.

So in the eight intervening years, I’ve been through ups and downs of self acceptance and believing that I deserve to be loved.  As any good life coach will tell you, the first step on the road to being loved by others is to love yourself, and that is a battle I have fought a thousand times.  Most of those battles have taken place in the battlefield of my mind – charges against negative thoughts, skirmishes with past demons and out and out brawls with sheer untruths.  Some of them though, have been against my body.  Sometimes, when I’ve thought that I hate myself because of my size, I’ve waged war against my body, pushing it to physical extremes and withholding food from it – all in the name of loving and nurturing myself.

Funnily enough (or maybe not), it was when I was in Africa that I came to a place of understanding and acceptance of who I am.  Cut off from my world, from the people who usually surround me and the usual events of my life, I was forced to look at myself and decide whether or not I liked the person I saw.  I was surrounded by wonderful people who allowed me to see the truth of who I was, and I realised that I am okay exactly the way I am.  In fact, I am more than okay, I am a wonder of nature.

I am loving.  I am kind.  I am gifted at music and singing.  I have the ability to weave experiences and emotions into song.  I am intelligent.  Even my emotions – one thing I have battled my entire life – are wonderful.  The way that I am able to openly express my feelings without restraint is a marvel.  I am beautiful.

Let me say that last one again – I am beautiful.  I look back at photos of myself when I was in Kenya – still fat, caked in dirt and sweat, having not washed my hair in over a week, and I see that I am beautiful.

I wish I could say that sense of inner peace I had found lasted, but it didn’t.  I came home, suffered from severe reverse-entry culture shock was (finally) diagnosed with bipolar disorder and voila! Confidence completely shaken.


You see, something in me has been different from that moment on.  Deep down I now know what it feels like to love myself, and I know that despite what is going on in society, and in my mind, that is truly how I feel about myself.

Do I believe that I deserve to be loved?

By myself, certainly yes.  By other people?  When I first got back, I believed that definitely, I was ready to be loved.  But now … well, I’m still debating it.

I came back from Africa with my heart freshly broken by someone I had met over there.  But I wasn’t going to let it stop me from getting out there and allowing myself to be loved.  I finally got some closure with a long term ‘will-it/won’t it happen’ relationship, and I put myself out there for internet dating.

Almost immediately I met a guy who I hit it off with, and we’ve been together ever since.

Funnily enough, it has been during our relationship that the questions about deserving love and body image have reared their ugly heads again.

My BF is amazing.  He loves me unconditionally, and loves my body.  He tells me every day how beautiful I am, how sexy I am, how attractive he finds me.  He tells me he loves me at least once an hour, and when I prevaricate on whether or not he does, he tells me in no uncertain terms to STOP, listen, and trust that what he says is real.

But that doesn’t always stop the questions in my head.

My BF is an attractive man.  He is successful and interesting.  He would certainly have no dearth of opportunities to meet conventionally attractive and interesting women.  Why then, would he be with me?   Me, who for the majority of my life has had to wait for people to ‘get to know me’ before they ‘saw me in that way’.

How can I possibly deserve his love, when all I’ve ever done is be me?  And let’s face it, I’m not easy.  I constantly question his feelings for me.  I express all kinds of emotions  – some of which are rational and some of which are not.  I’m not attractive by society’s standards.  Mostly, I’m just a giant (ha) pain in the ass.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that when I put in the effort, I scrub up real nice.  But surely it would be easier to be with someone who people didn’t have to look past the fat to find attractive.  And surely it would be easier to be with someone who wasn’t so hung up with how she looked.

At the end of the day, I realise that none of these are good excuses for not deserving love.  In fact, when it comes to other people, I truly believe that everyone deserves to be loved.  Because you know what – love is not about deeds or worth.  It is something that people give of their own free will.  I see the double standard I apply to myself when I say that while everyone else deserves love, I do not, because I am fat, or because I am damaged or because I am broken.

So I try to accept love where it is given, although it is hard, at times.  And I try to look back at those realisations I had about myself when I was in Africa and apply them to myself again, with more success at some times than others.

I wish I could say that I had the demons under control, that I had truly conquered that deep seated core belief that I didn’t deserve love, or good things in my life, but the truth is that I will probably never completely overcome that.  Hopefully one day I’ll be able to realise that fear as the root of a problem as soon as it comes up, and quash it as being untruth, but for now I’ll have to make do with the fact that it’s something that I will continue to struggle with, and attempt to remain aware of it.  And I’ll remind myself of the words I give to other people whenever they struggle with loving themselves.

You are okay.  You are more than okay.  You are a wonder of nature.  Whatever gifts or attributes or traits that give you your ‘you-ness’ are a marvel.  You are loved more than you can imagine by more people than you dare to dream. Love is not something given based on worth, deeds or accomplishments.  Love is something that is freely given whether you deserve it or not.

Love is a gift. Rejecting love is like leaving a beautifully wrapped package with the most perfectly chosen gift inside languishing on a rain-lashed doorstep simply because you felt you did not deserve any gift from the giver, let alone one so beautiful and so perfect.  Whether or not you accept the gift is your choice – it doesn’t change the fact that the gift has been given. Will you choose to accept that love, or reject it, hurting both yourself and the giver?

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  • ErinErlinger

    thank you for this. it helps.

  • Jackie

    This is….this is exactly me. Exactly. I’m so so glad I stumbled across this because I’ve been struggling with the idea that I’m not worthy of love. No one looks at me and thinks “why yes, I would like to get in those plus size pants.” Thank you so much for making me realize that other people think this way, too (and that hopefully, one day, I won’t think it anymore).

  • Fat Heffalump

    A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing, I know just how it feels.

  • RVCBard

    I feel this so hard right now. I hope I’ll eventually be in a place where I think I deserve to be desired by someone I desire, but I’m not holding my breath.

    What intensifies everything too is that I’m fat but not cute or funny. I’m also pretty weird.

  • K8

    I am fat. I spent the bulk of my young life being bullied about my weight and struggling with the question, “do I deserve love?” I thought I answered that question when I get married and had someone in my life who told me, day in and day out that I was beautiful and that he would love me forever. Well, that was a lie. After over a decade of marriage he came home to tell me that he had been having an affair behind my back for quite some time, all the while telling me every day that I’m beautiful and that he loved me. What I learned from that experience is that some people simply do not, for whatever reason, deserve love. I also learned that the word, “love” is a lie that some people tell other people in order to get what they want and that as soon as they have achieved their goal they leave that person behind and move on to another. I have accepted that I do not deserve love. Is it because I’m fat? Or is it some other inherent personality flaw? I don’t know. I just know that it is the truth and in accepting the truth, I will not spend the rest of my life searching for something which I will never, can never, attain. I will not pine for something that will never be mine.

  • Zestydew

    I really needed this. thank you. Thank you very, very much.

  • Erin Marie

    Sorry I missed these comments earlier. You’re very welcome – I’m so glad that it resonated with you.

  • Erin Marie

    You know – probably more people look at you and thinks ‘why yes, I’d like to get in those plus sized pants’ than you think. The thing about feeling as though you don’t deserve love is that you often don’t see it when it is being given. (Not that sex = love, but you know what I mean).

    It’s a long road, and I’m certainly still travelling it. But every now and then I remember that my fat has nothing to do with whether or not I deserve love, but my humanity does.

  • Erin Marie

    Thank YOU for reading it. :)

  • Erin Marie

    You don’t have to be cute or funny to be attractive or desirable or loved. You just have to be you – every bit of your INTP-ness.

    I know it’s a cliche, the whole loving yourself before you can be loved by others, but I am convinced it is true.

    When you’re self-conscious and don’t love yourself, you spend so much time waiting for other people to notice the things you don’t like about yourself that you miss the people who notice all the good things about you. When you embrace everything about who you are, a whole new world opens up and you realise that people have been noticing you all along, but you just never noticed them. Does that make sense?

    There are literally hundreds of things about you that someone out there loves, or will love, about you. Maybe it’s not your usual cute or funny or whatever. But maybe it’s your passionate nature and willingness to stand up for the truth, or your mysterious introvertedness. You don’t have to fit in with the crowd to be loved.

  • Erin Marie

    I’m really sorry to hear about your experience – I won’t pretend to know what that is like or try to offer you any words of wisdom.

    I do hope that, whether you deserve it or not, you find love in some form that is meaningful and special to you.

  • Erin Marie

    You are very, very welcome. Feel free to contact me any time if you want to chat.

  • Belovedideas

    Wow. I didn’t expect to be crying 4 times during a blog-read this morning. I see myself in your writing. I see myself in the bravery of pursuing boys who just didn’t see me that way. I see myself discovering self worth in deeds. I hope to see myself in learning to accept love rather than think I have to earn it. Thank you!!!

  • Erin Marie

    Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier, but wanted you to know that I appreciate your comment. You are a marvel and I hope you and I can both continue on the journey of learning to accept love rather than trying to earn it.

  • Savannah J. Frierson

    Thank you for this entry. I’ve had it up in browser for months because it spoke so powerfully to me. It is as if you went into my brain and typed out all of my insecurities–except you’ve had more experience with dating than I have. You’re absolutely right about it being a constant struggle–someone said low self=esteem was just another type of addiction. And that person was right, at least in my case. I’m constantly trying to negotiate my spot on that wagon lest I tumble off, and this entry is a good gut check for me. Thank you for your vulnerability and your honesty, and I wish you much success with love You do deserve it, as do I, and I especially deserve to love myself because I am.

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