I have always struggled with self-esteem and for a long time, I used to measure my worth by the way others would treat me. When I came out to my friends in high school, the news got out due to gossiping and some of them stopped spending time with me as a result of my homophobic peers socially banishing me.

For some reason, instead of being upset at their shallowness and want for acceptance, I ended up being grateful every time they spared a moment to be with me.

Over the years, particularly during university, I started building my confidence up, thanks to my academic and artistic accomplishments, but also building my walls up, and using humor as a shield. I would experience lots of great new friendships as well as my first romantic relationships during these years, both of them pretty short-lived,

It was then that I also ran into a book with a quote that would leave a mark: ‘We accept the love we think we deserve’. This would represent how some of my friendships or love relationships that far had developed.

Since I didn’t quite think I was physically attractive at all, this led to me also feeling somewhat grateful whenever a man would pay me some attention, when they could be with someone more handsome or thin. What could I offer to anyone who wouldn’t spend enough time to truly get to know me, instead of judging me by my cover only?

When I finished university, I went through a change of mind in which I started valuing myself much more and realizing my happiness didn’t depend on me having a long-term relationship, but rather on me fulfilling my dreams and wishes.

Shortly after, I also started teaching in a high school. It was then when I met him when I wasn’t looking to meet anyone when I was happy with who I was and what I was doing. We seemed to click right away, and despite the long-distance terms, we managed to make it work for a couple of years until we didn’t.

When things started going south, I immediately started blaming myself for all the extra things I could have done for him to have chosen to stay, which only got worse when he chose to visit to say goodbye; quite a torturous, hurtful week. Sometimes love isn’t enough to make things stop from falling, and distance and trust are difficult things to juggle.

This experience led me to be in a pretty dark place, without being able to eat or sleep without nightmares much for months, thinking constantly of him with other people and my brain was on a loop, playing hurtful memories or comments from that last month about me or a wonderful new guy he was seeing already, over and over, while I was working or trying to sleep. I kept telling myself I had lost my only chance of being fully happy.

This was ridiculous, of course, since the relationship was a small part of my feeling happy for those two years, so I ended up turning to those parts that had fulfilled and strengthened me too: Teaching and doing Volunteer work with children.

I am still working on myself and my sense of self-worth. On being able to set healthy boundaries and refuse to do things that aren’t good for me, on seeing my accomplishments and not only when I fail, on making sure the people around me feel my appreciation and gratefulness. But part of my path is making sure I can help children and teenagers do the same, so they don’t grow up believing they are only worth what other people tell them they are.

Here’s where I can make a real difference, making sure their voices are heard and showing them other ways.