Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: My first boyfriend (first real relationship, first sex, first "I love you") told me I "wasn't pretty enough," and though I've worked through it in therapy, I find it loitering around in there like some bad influence in front of the town Wal-Mart. I do yoga all the time and work out and so on. Your advice "on feeling unlovable for being overweight" made me realize how much I've still had that hateful piece of toxicity rumbling around my head, informing things. What's the best way to get it out?
Answer: Wow - what a nasty thing to have haunting you. I'm sorry.
What amazes me is how we tend to allow these things into our consciousness as Truth, instead of calmly and convincingly impeaching their source. Maybe it sticks when it fits the way we already see ourselves?
I saw two things immediately as I read your post: (1) Maybe you weren't "pretty enough," but he wasn't kind, and of the two supposed shortcomings here, his was the one a person can control. Plus, over time, we become immune in a way to a person's appearance, familiar to the point of not seeing, but true warmth and kindness never get old.
(2) Could he possibly have done a better job of exposing himself as a "me" guy, in so few words, than he did with, "You're not pretty enough"? In four words (five for word nerds who count a contraction as two), he not only declared himself good-looking and therefore deserving of good-looking women, a specious connection unto itself, but also implied he was somehow an objective judge of looks.
We all on some level know, of course, that a random passerby might find your looks appealing and his kind of meh, because that's exactly the kind of room subjectivity leaves. Nevertheless, knowing this never seems to prevent a negative review of our appearance from arriving with the force of a worldwide consensus.
He's just one person, with just one opinion, and not a nice person at that.
Mentally repeat as needed. And dedicate yourself to a life of kindness and strength, trusting that it - you - will come through for you.
Buying in can feel as difficult as shedding unwanted pounds, but it's easier to maintain.
Comment: That is pretty much by-the-book emotional manipulation. My first love/sex/whole-nine-yards boyfriend did all the same to me, without the kindness to leave the "and I'm attractive enough to get anyone I want, so you're lucky to have wonderful me" as an unsaid implication. I will echo Carolyn when I say that will mess you up in a big way, and it is very, very hard to let go of that. My following two relationships were gems like, "You know, you'd be really pretty if you lost some weight!" and, "Well, maybe no one else will think you're beautiful, but," so I am still getting used to my relationship now where my partner actually seems to believe the nice things he says about me. You're not alone, letter-writer, and there are lots of us Not Pretty Enoughs rooting for you.
Answer: Thank you. This choked me up.