How I learned to love my ‘high-maintenance’ self

My last boyfriend told me constantly that I was a difficult person. While he refused to break up with me, he also told me that I’d never find anyone who would love me, never find anyone who would care about the things I cared about, never find anyone who would deal with all my “problems,” never find anyone who would be attracted to my feminism… you get the picture.

I realize now that he said all these things because I was too much for him, which is something I felt bad about for a long, long time. He made me feel like I needed to take up less space, to mute the parts of myself he told me no one would ever appreciate because I was too high maintenance. I learned to stop appreciating those things about myself, as well, and become as low maintenance as possible. I began to only emphasize the qualities he liked about me (like my ability to pay our bills and go to his shows, of course).

In the process, I stopped liking myself.

Through our relationship, I had learned to consider my needs as secondary, and to put his first. I believed that I was too high maintenance, and that I was not worth the maintenance it took to make myself happy. Whatever he wanted came first; whatever he liked, I would learn to like, too. My friends fell by the wayside and I not only stopped liking myself, I completely lost myself.This went on for two years.

For two years, I learned to abdicate my own personal needs and feelings to those of someone else. I felt like a bad feminist, because here I was, believing in the strength of women and the importance of our autonomy, while at the same time giving up my own. Because no human can live that way for long, I grew increasingly unhappy. Then, something broke. Something started bubbling under the surface, and I slowly started opening up with friends about not only my situation, but about self care.

I asked how these women I admired took care of themselves; how they acknowledge their hurts and lick their wounds, and how they get back on top when they’re feeling as low as ever. I started with a bath. Okay, I started by pouring myself a glass of whiskey and drinking it in the bath. That act alone—that act of turning off my phone, regardless of whether my boyfriend needed to reach me, and honoring what I needed in that moment—started a journey. I incorporated practices of self care into my daily routine, and felt more in tune with myself than I had in years. I began to understand my needs, and more importantly, honor that it was OKAY to need.

Within a month, it became apparent that my relationship needed to end. It also became apparent that I am not as difficult a person as my previous partner would have me believe; it is not a bad thing to have needs and to maintain those needs for yourself. I have learned to take up the space that I deserve to take up and lean in to the things that make me, me.

Since the ending of that relationship, I’ve started seeing a man who loves me regardless of how “high maintenance” I am, because he acknowledges that it simply means I’m a human being with needs. I’m comforted to know that the self care tactics I’ve learned will serve me well even if our relationship ever ends, and I learned that while I can be eccentric, while I do have a very specific set of likes and dislikes and habits, and while I do care strongly and deeply, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Those are qualities that need to be nurtured, rather than squashed, and if no one else will do it for me, I will.

[Image via author]

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