I started dating my first serious boyfriend when I was sixteen years old. Up until that point I was always searching for prince charming to come along and sweep me off my feet. I believed that once I found someone to love me I would be complete. What I failed to realize was the message I want to send to every young male or female who is just itching to find the perfect significant other. Before you learn to fall in love with someone else, learn to fall in love with yourself. Wake up every morning feeling better than the last and find your purpose in every task you take on. Many people neglect the fact that to build a healthy relationship, both partners must be truly content with who they are and be able to communicate their issues and insecurities effectively. My first boyfriend and I did not love ourselves, and I truly believe that is what led to the demise of our relationship. I did not love myself enough to have a backbone when he would throw abusive words in my face like it meant nothing. He did not love himself enough to realize I would never cheat. I would spend nights out with my friends crying because he would call me a “bitch” for being around other guys, he would tell me I “ruined his life” when I would wear something he did not “approve” of, I was not allowed to go to concerts without his permission and when I went to a four day music festival and my phone died so I could not text I suddenly became a “cunt” (sorry about the language but it happened). At the time, I considered this normal. I believed he was being protective and that he only said it because he cared. As I grew, I realized I was not being treated so poorly out of love. I was being emotionally abused because he was too insecure to realize that I was committed to our relationship and I was too fragile to say anything about it. Around the time of my eighteenth birthday I finally had enough. I had a plan to go visit a few of my friends at college only forty five minutes from me and he called me “selfish” because I should have went to see him, two hours away. Once again, on my birthday I spent a night in tears. This time it was not because I was too blind to see the abuse, it was because I realized I let this type of manipulation come to far. Eventually we split up, and this is the part where it all connects. Splitting up with my boyfriend was one of the most healthy and important decisions I ever made. After spending two years with someone that sounds harsh and horrible but this is why, I finally learned to love myself. When we first started dating at age sixteen I did not have my own voice. People would walk all over me, take advantage of me and manipulate me in ways that I now am ashamed of. By the time my eighteenth birthday rolled around I had grown so strong that I knew I had to let go of my serious relationship because the way he treated me was not letting me grow. I grew strong enough to finally see the abuse I was being put through and learn that the fancy gifts he gave me meant nothing because I was not receiving respect. I grew enough to realize that unless I loved myself, this would all happen again. So I started embracing myself. I go to the gym everyday, I read and write avidly to remind myself that there are people who go through shit just like me. I spend time with people who make me smile and who care about me and I have eliminated those who did not treat me like I deserve. I believe I am so much stronger than I was two years ago. I see a completely different person when I look in the mirror. I no longer seek for others approval when it comes to what I look like or how I act. I wish I could pinpoint the exact event that made me realize how valuable I am. I do not know if it was one exact moment or if it was the tremendous love and support I received from my friends as they held me up and wiped my tears as I cried at almost every outing the few months leading up to our breakup. I do not believe it matters when I learned to love myself, what is important is that I did. I hope every person learns to appreciate themselves and see their worth. I hope the bitter boyfriends and girlfriends learn that just because they are insecure it does not mean their significant other will cheat. I hope that when people read this message they will gain enough strength and courage to stand up for themselves in any relationship and I wish that those who are in abusive relationships now find the willpower to leave. If it was not for self love I would still be stuck in such a mismanaged relationship. I would have never realized that I do not need someone else to love me in order to love myself and I would have never had the audacity to get up and leave someone who I thought loved me so much. I lost myself in that relationship, and now that I found myself I never want to let go.