I recently broke up with my "significant other." It was 23 years overdue. My significant other was just my inner voice, yet held such a force over me. Our relationship started when I was young, more naïve (or so I'd like to think) and impressionable. I was 10. It seemed harmless when I look back. My significant other was merely helping me to achieve something I craved more than anything — CONTROL. I yearned for control over my body and my life.
My significant other taught me the word "no" and how I could use it in every context: "No, I won't do my homework." "No, I will not eat dinner." He taught me that "no no no" made me stronger because now, I was taking charge.
I believed he was on my side. So I never questioned when he told me that I'd feel even more in control if I lose 10 pounds or that if I had clearer skin.
The gentle reminders turned into harsh comments and verbal attacks. But I didn't know the difference. His voice was so familiar to me.
"RUN another mile FATTY!" "You are SO UGLY and don't deserve to live."
My significant other was merely helping me to achieve something I craved more than anything — CONTROL.
I began to loathe his voice and wished it would go away. However, with each passing month and year, it became louder and more ferocious. The only way out was to find a way to kill myself but my attempts never worked. He'd mock me with this cruel laugh and yell, "YOU WILL NEVER GET RID OF ME!"
Over the course of ages 10 to 18, I lost all confidence and self-worth. He broke me down. I became a feeble shell of a woman.
With the love and unwavering support of my parents and sister, I managed to slowly build myself up. But my significant other was still there, waiting to pounce on me.
I HAD to create a perfect new life to prove that I was no longer this weak, helpless girl he said I was. In my 20s, he came to me in a way that I never realized. He didn't shout at me or taunt me. Rather, he just sat and lingered in the back of my mind, nagging me to drive myself harder and harder.
I constantly felt compelled to prove to him that I really was strong. I would NEVER be the person I once was.
I became void of emotion, developed a "black and white" no-nonsense approach to life, brushed any "feelings" under the rug and moved at warp speed. Go-go-go ... ALL the time. I had too much to prove.
When I got my first job where my starting salary was much higher than any of my peers, he'd smugly remark, "Couldn't you have negotiated higher? When I got my first, and then second scholarship for business school, he'd whisper to me, "Too bad you didn't get a third."
When I ran my first half-marathon, he'd smirk and ask me, "Don't you think you could have completed it in a better time? You're kinda slow."
When I stepped completely out of my comfort zone and moved across the world to live and work, he said, while rolling his eyes, "It's about time. Do more."
I became accustomed to never asking for help, not celebrating any accomplishment, and felt compelled to CONSTANTLY seek out any new challenge in hopes he'd FINALLY tell me I'm a strong woman worthy of love and respect.
I have always had this mean voice in my head but I'm slowly learning to trust my heart.
I remember my first TEDx talk (April 2016). I was asked to close the event which was an honour, but I didn't really get the sense from my significant other that it was worthy of any special praise. I was so nervous and as soon as I walked off stage, I saw my sister and asked her, "How can I improve, how do I do better. Where did I mess up?" She looked at me, grabbed my shoulders and said in exasperation, "D, can you PLEASE allow yourself one minute to revel in what you have done! ENJOY this moment ... PLEASE!!"
I can't say I understood what my sister was asking me to do. To be correct, I had NO clue. It's as if she was speaking a foreign language. I was accustomed to this nagging voice that always told me to go farther, faster and do more more more!
I wrote my memoir last year (currently being edited, stay tuned for updates). It was only recently that I realized I needed to break up with my significant other.
I broke up with myself. Our toxic relationship finally came to an end.
I needed to forgive myself, reflect on my past and finally be free to live a life without my significant other.
As I try to navigate my new life on my own, it's as scary as it is liberating. Having full confidence in myself and learning to be kinder to myself doesn't just happen overnight. It takes time. I have always had this mean voice in my head but I'm slowly learning to trust my heart.
My relationship with my significant other started with a desperate desire to be in FULL control. Today, I'm slowly understanding the peace and joy of the unknown, letting things unfold as they may.
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