We’ve all been treated poorly by someone at some point–a boss, friend, or significant other, and I can really empathize with not always feeling loved or supported by your parents. It likely attributed to why I found myself in a horrible relationship for almost a decade. That might be why I spent the first year of my relationship with Conor waiting for things to fall apart. Let’s talk about realizing your self-worth.

Realizing Your Self-Worth

I am tired of sabotaging my relationships. I’ll be 34 this year and feel like I need to better appreciate my amazing partner and to finally understand (and believe) that I am worthy of being with someone wonderful.

As a classic over-thinker and sometimes find myself focusing on the negative rather than allowing myself to have something good. I probably (ok, definitely) have childhood issues of not feeling good enough after being emotionally neglected by my parents since I wasn’t and am not part of a family who said I love you or am proud of you. How can I feel more confident and deserving of a great relationship?

When this email from a reader popped up in my inbox, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to answer it but realized I had to. Being able to help others through things I’ve struggled with has helped make sense of everything. I’m not an expert but will do my best.

Then I realized that this could work out.

And even more important, that I deserved a great guy with a great family. That I deserved to be happy. And so do you. 

That negative or non-existent relationships with the people who were supposed to love you unconditionally can really effect how we form relationships with others. If your parents didn’t think you were the greatest, why would someone else feel that way? It took some time to finally figure out that–work with me on this one–it wasn’t personal. Once I realized those relationships weren’t my fault and who my parents were, I could stop blaming them and feeling terrible about myself. Their behaviors and what they said and did didn’t define me.

And I finally realized that not everyone would let me down just because my parents did.

The first step in finding my self-worth was becoming completely independent. Growing up, I never felt supported and was often told I would never amount to anything. Severing ties to my dad at 19 and moving to Chicago at 27 gave me the space and freedom to figure things out on my own. The next step was not going home for holidays. Surrounding myself with people that make me happy and not putting myself in situations that felt awful.

How do you open yourself up to love when the people who were supposed to love you unconditionally didn’t?

For me, ending my relationship with my dad was a difficult but freeing step. Once I stopped waiting for him to love me and to be a parent. I was able to let go and move on. I’m still so sad when it comes to what I missed out on and it’s not easy, but it’s become less painful over the past decade or so.

It took years in an unhappy relationship to learn that I deserved so much more. I surround myself with great friends, try my best to not second guess if I’m deserving or doing a good job on something, and take care of myself by working out and following a healthy diet.

Surrounding myself with friends who are my family.

Find the ones who love you and will be there for you no matter what, and be that for them, too. There was always very little emotional support around some pretty big milestones (college graduation, the launch of The Everygirl, and most recently, my engagement).

One of my oldest friends in the world is my biggest cheerleader. She’s always happy for me and proud of me in the best and most sincere way, and was the first to book flights for Paris and a party here in Chicago, too. Everyone needs that.

As time went on, I became more confident and started to realize that I deserved to be happy. Old behaviors and patterns created this idea of what life should look like. Negativity and lack of support might feel normal to you, so when things actually feel good, it’s not crazy to sit there waiting for everything to come to an end.

It’s not perfect and definitely comes with ups and downs. Certain life events bring up a lot for me. There are times it all feels really hard (like wedding planning). The first two months of our engagement were full of some low lows, but I always find my way back. I had to learn to find joy and pride in those moments on my own, and with the love and support of my friends. It’s a journey, but you’ve got this.