There’s this quote that I see from time to time on social media, it reads: “You date at the level of your self-esteem.”.  Every time I see it, it stops me in my tracks. 

Last week, I saw it on a friend’s feed, and it hit me differently.  I felt it more deeply.  So much so, that I began to reflect on what that saying actually means, and how it pertains to me and the men I dated.

At the time, I was unaware of what it would bring up for me.  I went on a journey of emotions: Sadness.  Deep regret.  Anger (mostly at myself).  Shame. Gratitude.

This trip down past-lovers-lane made me recognize some serious patterns and how my choices exposed my fragile self-esteem. 

In this relationship time capsule lied a lot of toxic patterns.  Narcissism.  Addiction.  Untreated Mental Illness.  Codependency. That is what I attracted, and fell in love with.  

To my credit, I am not one to jump from relationship to relationship.  I take time to heal before I enter a new one.  And yet, with each relationship, I seemed to attract the same guy in different shoes.  That’s what is so hard for me.  How did I not take those lessons from each man and want better for myself?  Well, Daily Feelers, it’s because I didn’t feel I deserved better.  My self-esteem going into these relationships wasn’t strong to begin with, and then add another wounded participant to that mix, and well it spells disaster.

During this time of reflection, thinking about each relationship and my role in it, I met myself in different stages of my life.

The 20-year-old me who just wanted to feel what love was. 

The 30-year-old me, who realized she wanted children. 

The 40-year-old me who had a child on her own and was now dating as a solo parent. 

All three of these women dated men at her level of self-esteem, which remained stunted. 

The 20-year-old me was naïve and insecure and ended up in a relationship with a man who took advantage of that naiveness. 

The 30-year-old me was lost, searching for someone to save her, and found herself in an emotionally abusive relationship. 

The 40-year-old me was lonely and seeking companionship, and became involved with another lonely soul, who didn’t feel worthy of love, so he sabotaged any good that came his way. 

Each of these women saw the Do Not Enter, Yield, and Stop signs and went ahead anyway.  But that’s what happens when your low self-esteem is running the show, you just ignore the signs, and flags, the flashing lights, and keep on going.  You hang on with all our might and hope they do too. 

All this recall made me better understand why this quote, “You date at the level of your self-esteem” stings each time I see it.   I feel at this point, it’s a sign of sorts, a reminder to check in with myself and remember the lessons I learned from each of those relationships, as hard as they may be.  So, I decided to write these lessons down this time, so when I am ready to date again, I have a solid list reminding me of what low self-esteem in a relationship attracts and results in. 

  • I abandoned myself time and time again to please my significant others.  I over-functioned thinking that was love, when really it’s the definition of codependency.
  • When my needs aren’t being met in a relationship, it’s no one’s fault but my own.  Communicate better, and if it doesn’t change thereafter, leave.
  • If a relationship falls apart it’s because it wasn’t right, not because I did something wrong.
  • People will show you who they are pretty early on.  Pay attention to that. 
  • A relationship is a direct reflection of your own self-love and self-worth.  And I have basically attracted what I think I am worth. 
  • If you don’t value yourself, then you will always be attracted to people who don’t value you either. 
  • It’s not your job to save someone.  Focus that energy on your own shit.  You do you.
  • Passive aggression, Silent treatment, gaslighting, etc., is not love…it’s abusive.

After writing out the lessons, a lightness came over me.  The shame I felt was shed, and I felt a great sense of relief .  Whereas I stayed too long in relationships that didn’t serve me, I knew better not to marry or have kids with these men.  I left before any of that could happen.  I guess you can say I dodged many bullets, and for that I am grateful.

In exactly 3 months, I will meet the 50-year-old me.  I honestly can’t wait.  I can pretty much guarantee that she will take all that she’s learned, and choose bigger, better, and wiser.

Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 9-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.

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