Carrying the love and resilience of my grandparents

Since I’ve been back on Guam these past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents.

I lived with my Grandma Shannon in Santa Rita, where she has a lush garden full of tropical flowers. Whenever I walked around the garden, I was always drawn to the red and pink ginger flowers, for their interesting shape and vibrant hues.

My grandpa Jose Babauta painted the pink gingers into a collage of tropical leaves and flowers that wrap me up in childhood memories growing up surrounded by the jungle. When my cousin and I visited one of the earliest exhibitions at the new Guam Museum, we found another small sketch that looked similar to these flowers in the corner of his art on display.

When my Grandpa Larry (my mom’s dad) was sick in the hospital before he passed away earlier this year, my grandma gave me a bouquet with these gingers to bring to him. When he was at his weakest, these flowers brought him joy. I’ll never forget how these flowers and the thoughtful gesture gave him the biggest smile.

The red gingers remind me of the lipstick my Apong (Grandma Rolita) used to wear. Flowers remind me of her softness. One of my favorite memories of Apong when I was little: I bumped my head crawling around under a table, and she got down under there with me and rubbed my head softly where it hurt. But these gingers are also tough, like her.

These flowers aren’t indigenous to Guam, but they grow everywhere around the world (including here and the Philippines, where my maternal grandparents are from). Just like my four grandparents, these flowers thrived in new places, even if it wasn’t their original home. They give me hope that when I go to new places and take on new challenges, I can be just as resilient and grow like they did.

My two grandparents, Grandma Shannon and Grandpa Larry, took care of me and taught me so much while I was on Guam away from my parents. Every day, I text my grandma asking for her help with my job (reporting in the same newsroom where she used to work). I look at the photo of my grandpa I keep on my desk, whenever I’m stressed and need encouragement. When I drive by Pigo Cemetery, or a bingo hall, I think about my other grandparents, whom I wish I’d gotten to know better while they were still alive.

I keep them all close, near my left hand — with one leaf to represent each of them carrying and protecting me, wherever I go.

How my low self-esteem is ruining my life

I’ve been going through a really low point in my self-esteem over the past week.

About a week ago, I popped a pimple on my chin and kept picking at it until it turned into a dark scar (I’ve watched too many Dr. Pimple Popper videos and tried to be a hero with my comedone extractor tool). I also have a big cold sore on my lip, which turned into a gross scab.

Every time I have a patch of acne or cold sores, I get really self-conscious and think that’s all people can see when they’re talking to me. Even worse, I have to record videos of myself for work almost every day — which means potentially thousands of people will see me at my worst.

On top of that, I’ve steadily gained weight over the past year. As a result, I feel terrible about my body almost every day. I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia for at least six years, so I’m still learning to be happy with how I look at a healthy weight. But even though I know my body is supposed to be beautiful the way it is, I can’t help but hate what I see almost every time I look in the mirror.

More: Taking control over my eating disorder

More: How to deal with Instagram-related insecurities

I had an emotional breakdown at the gym today because of all this. I haven’t gone to the gym in like more than six months, since I mostly just work out at home now — but I’ve been exercising inconsistently because my family was visiting last month.

So when I was lifting weights today and looking in the mirror, all I could see were flaws. When I look at my arms, all I see is fat. My stomach: fat. My legs: jiggling fat when I move. My face: dirty pores, small pimples everywhere, acne scars. I even hate small things about myself, like how my feet have such low arches and I have weird bumps all over my arms.

Most of the time, it feels like there’s a mean voice in my head constantly berating me. I wrote about this in another blog post about dealing with an eating disorder, when I finally became aware that there was a voice, and was working on standing up to that voice in my own head.

It feels like I’m being bullied by someone constantly, who knows all the worst things to say about me to make me feel terrible. I end up hunching over, cowering from this bully, but I feel helpless because I don’t know how to make it stop. There’s nowhere to hide because it’s inside me. Is it me? I don’t know what made me become this mean. Today, I literally said “please stop” aloud to myself in the mirror, with tears rolling down my face.

Having this voice constantly criticize me feels like there’s a weight on me most of the time. My shoulders sink, my eyes look wistful, I don’t smile. This heavy feeling seeps into me, into all my other thoughts and the words I say to others. I tweet passive-aggressive things because I am not happy with who I am. When my boyfriend doesn’t compliment me, the voice takes that as an offense and it tells me he doesn’t love me. It tells me that everything it’s been saying to me is true: that if your boyfriend doesn’t constantly tell you you’re beautiful, then you must be ugly. Even though he doesn’t deserve it, I project this onto my boyfriend and read his actions as a confirmation of my biggest insecurities and worst fears.

More: What I learned from living with my boyfriend for six months

The voice doesn’t just make me feel terrible — it makes me miserable and mean myself, and I pass on that negativity to everyone around me. The voice makes it harder for me to eat or enjoy food, because it makes me feel guilty, fat, and weak for not being able to resist unhealthy treats that taste good. It makes me eat smaller portions because it tells me I’m fat.

I don’t know where the voice came from or why it thinks these things of me. There are so many women who aren’t stick-skinny, whom I find so incredibly beautiful. I would never even think of criticizing them or pointing out any flaws they might see in themselves — so why don’t I extend the same kindness to myself? Why am I okay with picking apart the tiniest details of Chloe and telling her she’s unworthy of love?

This voice makes me feel worthless.

I honestly don’t know what to do about it, because I can’t even remember what it was like to live without it. It doesn’t matter if anyone tells me they think I’m beautiful, because the voice will still be there no matter what. It’s louder than anyone else, louder than my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, and much louder than the kind voice in my head that chimes in when I have brief periods of feeling good about myself.

One of my new goals for the month is to start therapy. I used to see on-campus psychologists for free weekly sessions while I was going to college, but I only took advantage of this service for two different periods (maybe 6-8 weeks in my second and fourth years of college). I think after a quarter of school or so, you’ll have to be referred to an off-campus doctor and pay for services.

More: How Passion Planner helped me get my life together

More: My goals for 2018

Therapy was really useful to me when I first learned I had an eating disorder, and when I was dealing with some anxiety and emotional issues. Now that I’m working and busy with other things, it feels like therapy is just another chore I have to do eventually but never get around to it.

My goal for this week is to call therapist offices and schedule an appointment, and hopefully have my first session sometime this month. I definitely recommend therapy to anyone I can, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting help. Even if your friends or family want to help you, you might get to a point where there’s nothing they can do for you. Seeking professional help is completely normal, and is just as important as any physical health issue.

In the meantime, I want to work on quieting that voice and making room for another one. I know there’s a good voice inside, but she’s not as strong as the mean voice. Or maybe she is strong, but we’re just not close enough so that we don’t talk often. Hopefully I still sound sane to you, whoever is reading this. I know it’s not going to be an easy thing, but I desperately want to get to know her better, and have a friend on my side when the mean voice gangs up on me in my head.

I need to work on letting that voice be my life coach, my guiding guardian angel who will encourage me, or be compassionate towards me when I fall short of my own expectations. I need her to tell me it’s going to be okay, and that even if I feel terrible in the moment, things won’t feel this bad forever. I need her to be there for me, because I know deep down (even when I can’t drown out the noise) that the bad voice is wrong, and that I deserve better. And eventually I will be better.

I remember when I was 19, I started going through my big self love phase. I taught myself to love being on my own, I started my own projects (and later, this blog), and I got a tattoo to commemorate this part of my life. For years, I thought this period of growth was the big lesson I had to learn. I thought, okay I know what self love is, I’m set for life! Nothing can ever bring me down again!

Looking back now, I can’t believe I thought that was it for me. That I figured out the secret to self love, and I would always feel good about myself. After going through painful periods of growth several more times since then, I know now that the work is never done. Learning to love yourself is a lifelong journey, and there will always be ways you practice self-destructive behavior or moments of low self-esteem.

For now, this is my new phase of growth with a big new challenge: learning to change my negative self-talk to a positive voice of encouragement, and how to be okay with my body. Someday when I gain or lose weight, or when I have kids, or when I’m aging, I’ll have to deal with those obstacles too. I’m sure it’ll feel like the worst I’ve ever gone through while I’m going through it.

But I hope the one thing that stays constant is my willingness to try, to learn, to heal. The work will never be done, but I’m excited to see where it takes me (and write about it along the way!).

What I learned from living with my boyfriend for six months

Every night when I went to sleep over the past several years, I’ve pictured variations of the same fantasy in my head.

It’s embarrassingly domestic and boring of me, because I wish I had more interesting fantasies than this, and because it’s embarrassing to admit how cheesy and in love I am — but I’d imagine what my life would look like when I finally lived with my boyfriend.

Some nights, we were in our 30s living in a gorgeous apartment in Los Angeles. Others, we were in our bedroom reading Harry Potter to our kids (who don’t yet exist). In every fantasy, the most important part was that we were together and that we didn’t have to say good night over texts.

Before we moved in together last year, my partner Nate and I had spent the last three years doing long distance (from Santa Barbara to Orange County, to Southern to Northern California, to California to Guam). It was rough.

More: Why I moved to Guam to get out of my post-grad funk

More: The 10 Commandments of a healthy relationship

But the one thing that got me through was dreaming about the life we’d have together when we finally got through this temporary period — even though it felt like it would never end.

Right before we moved in together, Nate and I had gone an entire year without seeing each other, while I had moved to Guam to start a new job and he finished up law school in California, and then while we looked for a job for him and an apartment for us on Guam.

When we finally were ready to move in together, I was ecstatic but also really anxious.

Every time long distance got hard or I felt disconnected from him, I told myself that once we finally lived together, all our problems would melt away. But I didn’t know that for sure: we’d only dated living in the same area for four months before we had to do long distance, so who knew what our dynamic would be like once we actually lived together?

Of course, the first weeks together after being separated for 12 months felt like a dream. I took Nate around to my favorite restaurants, brought him to meet my friends and family — even just picking out a water filter together at Kmart felt romantic to me.

When I woke up every morning, I couldn’t believe we were really there: the person I loved most and had waited so long for was asleep next to me in bed, and we’d never have to be apart again. My dreams literally came true!

But just like with dreams, we had to wake up eventually and face the harsh truth of reality: living together isn’t easy. Pretty soon, I was stressing out having to drive both of us to work, home, or anywhere we went (Nate didn’t have his Guam driver’s license or car insurance here for weeks when he first moved here).

We had to plan our meals, buy groceries, cook, pay bills, get extra things we forgot to buy when we first moved in, and all the stressful things that come with moving. About a month into living together, we finally got to relax a bit after all our moving in errands and new job things (drug test, court clearance, etc.) were done.

There are so many smaller issues with living together that we’ve learned to deal with over the past six months, so I’ll break them down here:

Dividing chores

Living with your partner can be romantic, but you have to remember that you’re also roommates and need to be fair about the work you each put into taking care of your living space.

In college, I lived with my best friend Angelica for two years and it was easy for us: we split the room down the middle, and kept most of our chores separate. We took care of our own groceries and meals, did our own dishes, and washed our own laundry and sheets.

When I lived with my siblings, we usually all had to do chores at the same time or our parents told us what to do — so we didn’t have to worry about one person doing all the work by their own initiative (although I still think some of us were lazier than others or took easier tasks while we all cleaned the house).

But when you’re living with your romantic partner, all the boundaries are hazy and you share almost everything. You don’t have any parents or outside parties to divide the household responsibilities evenly, so it’s important to set your duties early on (or as you go along and figure out who’s better at what, or who enjoys what tasks more).

Since I was doing most of the driving and running errands for us in the first few months, Nate volunteered to do more of the cooking and washed the dishes for us most of the time. I get really grossed out touching raw meat, so he cut, marinated, and cooked chicken for us. I took care of grocery shopping, and made the rice and vegetable sides for meals.

After Nate got his driver’s license and we took turns driving each other, he started getting tired of still doing the dishes for us. We’re both kind of gross and lazy in our own ways, so I don’t mind leaving the dishes in the sink longer but he can’t stand it. So he’ll end up doing all the dishes and I don’t pitch in (I know, I’m a terrible roommate). One day he suggested I do the dishes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while he would do them Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends — so that’s how we do it now. Another great thing is that we’re both pretty reasonable people and try to make divide most of our labor and responsibilities fairly.

After a few months, I decided I wanted to get more into cooking healthy meals (and using less meat, since I eventually want to transition into vegetarianism). I ended up looking up recipes on my own, doing the grocery shopping (not to be mean but Nate doesn’t really know how to choose proper sized vegetables, and one time he bought like five Brussels sprouts for what was supposed to last us more than five meals each), and cooking new meals. To make up for me doing most of the dinner cooking, he does the dishes after I cook (or I do the dishes when he cooks now).

There are also lots of other chores necessary to keep your household running: laundry, keeping clothes hung/folded and organized, tidying the bathroom (cleaning the sink, toilet, shower, floor), sweeping and mopping, dusting, cleaning the kitchen, throwing out the trash and recycling, and so on.

Honestly, I do most of these other chores because Nate doesn’t really care if they’re done or not (the way I don’t care as much about dishes). I think it’s half because he’s kind of gross and half because his mom is an amazing superwoman and does all the housekeeping and cooking for their family (on top of working full time). I’m the oldest in a family of six kids, so I’m used to doing a lot of these chores. Both my mom and stepmom are clean freaks, so every now and then I go into cleaning frenzies for hours and scrub the whole apartment down.

Sometimes I get really annoyed and overwhelmed doing all these chores for us, since I know if I don’t do them we’re going to live in squalor.

Just a few weeks ago I spent half of my Saturday cleaning our apartment and got passive aggressive and mad at him for not helping me while he played online poker. It wasn’t really fair to him for me to get mad since I didn’t ask him to help, but he started cleaning the kitchen and threw out the trash once I snapped at him (which I regretted soon after).

But I know that even if I feel compelled to do lots of housework and get irritated with Nate for not taking initiative to split the work, I should remember to ask him for his help, because he will help if I ask. Communication is also a big part of splitting the work evenly, and we’ve learned that it can help a lot (and avoid some spats too).

Having your own space

Living together is kind of weird. Before we reached this stage in our relationship, I don’t think I’d ever farted around him. But when you spend almost all your time together, you can’t really hide anything — so now it’s just a joke between the two of us to see who can fart louder and surprise the other person. Now we’re at a point where we even brush our teeth in the bathroom while the other person is taking a poop.

While it’s nice being so close (both physically and emotionally), it’s also important to make space for alone time.

I definitely can be a needy person. When we go home after work, I ask Nate if he missed me, even though we spend the whole day texting and have lunch together. But even a needy person like me needs some time to herself.

It was hard for me to be okay with being apart for even a few hours when we first moved in (since we hadn’t seen each other for a whole year before that), but we pretty much hang out all the time so now I’m fine with us doing our own things. After work, we’ll eat dinner together and then he’ll go play basketball or watch anime in the room while I chill in the living room and watch my shows or write. Or on weekends, he’ll play poker in the living room and I’ll write across the table from him (or I’ll go in the room to focus, which I’m doing as I write this).

Every couple is different, so you’ll need to find a happy and fair balance between your time together and alone (even if alone time means doing your own things right next to each other).

Quality time

While it’s important to make time for yourselves, you should also make time dedicated solely to each other.

Nate and I spend more time with each other than I’ve ever spent with anyone else in my life (besides my immediate family). I mentioned our daily routines earlier, but we basically spend 16 hours a day together. That’s a lot of time to spend with one person.

Understandably, when you spend practically all your free time with one person, it’s easy to be distracted while they’re talking to you or browse on your phone while you’re together. You can’t be 100% present every moment you’re together, no matter how romantic you think that might be. It’s just impossible.

Even if we do spend most of our time together, sometimes I end up feeling like I miss him when we haven’t set time specifically just to be present together. Although you’re technically spending time together when you’re getting ready for work or in the same room on your own laptops, it’s still important to set aside time just for each other.

The quality time I enjoy the most is when we talk about the future or other deep/personal things before bed, or when we watch TV shows/movies and hold hands and make comments on what’s going on. Our favorite thing to do together is stay home (and save money), but when we do go out to eat, we don’t really check our phones. We try to go to the beach at least once a month (and have been going much more often since my family is visiting), and we’ll bring books to read.

I know this is completely nerdy, but one of my favorite things we do is talk about hypotheticals or analyze things together. We have this ongoing game where we listed a bunch of positive personality traits (charisma, intelligence, humor, etc.) then debate each other’s merits under that trait until we can give each other a rating from 1 to 10. When there’s a power outage (Guam things) or some down time, we take out a notebook and continue the game. The best part is that we’re fully immersed and making arguments, but having fun with it at the same time. And one of the best parts of living together is that we both can be our nerdy selves and have fun debating in a way we couldn’t with anyone else.

Why Getting into a Long Distance Relationship is the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Teens

This post is an excerpt from a self-help e-book I’m writing about long distance relationships.

The reason I started blogging in the first place was because I felt like I had gone through so much in my own relationships, so I wanted to put advice out to everyone that I wish I could have given my past self. And if I could borrow the DeLorean from Back to the Future to save young Chloe from making the biggest mistakes of her life, I’d go back to my senior year of high school and then my freshman year of college to urge her not to get into two separate long distance relationships (why didn’t she learn from her mistakes the first time?!).

The big sister personality in me makes me want to save everyone I possibly can from the kind of heartbreak I went through when I was a teenager, because the bad things that happen to you as a teen can stick with you and haunt the rest of your future relationships (if you let them). I wrote this chapter specifically to let any teen readers who might be considering long distance know how difficult it is—and more importantly, to try to tell you why I think it’s a terrible idea, even if you go into your LDR with the best intentions and are madly in love with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’m going to get very real with you and tell you that you’re almost guaranteed to break up if you get into a long distance relationship in your teens, and more often than not, young people’s LDRs end up bitterly.

As a teen, you’re probably more insecure now than you will be when you’re an adult—not being very confident in yourself is less than ideal for a relationship, and is even worse for a relationship when you’re far apart. Although girls nowadays seem way more put together than my friends and I were in high school (I barely knew how to put on eyeliner, let alone how to contour my face or put on false eyelashes, and we had no filters besides generic websites like PhotoBucket!), teenage years are often filled with a lot of insecurities about looks and self-worth in general. Even if you’re using MAC, your foundation right now isn’t going to be great (a little makeup humor for you!). At this point, both of you probably haven’t really tried dating anyone else yet either, and I’m sorry to say it, but this could make you or your partner more likely to cheat. If your partner cheats on you, it’s probably not because you weren’t good enough for them, but that they haven’t tried being with anyone else besides you yet (or they still want to try dating everyone they can).

This could go both ways too, where you feel like you want to hook up with other people around you, or you start crushing on someone new, because it’s natural to want to try new things when you’re young. Instead of hating yourself for wanting to explore or potentially hating your partner for fooling around behind your back, it might be a better idea to just let each other go so you both have the freedom to do what you want, especially since you won’t be able to see each other anyway—and what’s the point of being in a relationship when you’re young if you can’t do the basics together like going to the movies, going on dates, or just hanging out (not to mention satisfying the urges of your ~raging hormones~).

When I was in LDRs when I was 17, then 18-19, my then-boyfriends hadn’t dated (and just as importantly, hadn’t had sex with) anyone else before me, so they ended up talking to a lot of different girls behind my back while we were dating. While I was an ocean away from them in California, they felt free to flirt with girls through Facebook messaging and one of them went on dates with other girls while we were still in a LDR (he even sexted someone else).

Five years later, I don’t have any hard feelings toward them because, although nobody should be excused for being a huge asshole to the person they’re dating, I know we were only 17 and didn’t know better. My ex was too immature to grow some cojones and tell me he wanted to see other people, and I was so naive that I thought I could be with my first love for the rest of my life.

In my ex’s defense, it’s difficult to commit to one person when you haven’t even seen for yourself what else is out there—especially when you’re only 16 years old and haven’t made out with more than one person in your life. Even though he shouldn’t have had a bunch of side baes behind my back (that slang didn’t even exist at the time; I’m old), I now understand why he would want to date around when we couldn’t see each other.

You can definitely be in love with someone while they’re around you and have a meaningful relationship, but it’s hard to keep it going when you’re both going through so much in your own lives apart from each other. When you’re young, it’s even harder to keep your connection strong when you’re separated because you’ll be growing and changing so much (especially if you’re going to college).

A lot of teens (my younger self included) get into LDRs going from their senior year of high school to college because it’s so hard to say goodbye, and if you’re in love, you want to keep this good thing going for as long as you possibly can. It’s important to follow your heart and do what feels right to you, but your heart will thank you later if you don’t drag out your relationship with someone because you’re too afraid to make a clean break or too naive to think you’ll still be with someone you chose when you were 17 when you’re in your late 20s.

What you want when you’re 18 (in life, but in this case in a partner) isn’t going to be the same as what you want when you’re 22, or 26, or 30. Before you really commit (please please please for the love of god, do not get married) remember that you are young and will definitely change, and your tastes will change. Think about your taste in music when you were 14, or even 16. It’s not the same as your taste in music at 18, right? Unless you’re still into Green Day and My Chemical Romance, or other variations of the middle-school-punk genre. If your taste in something as important as music changes drastically in a few years, imagine how much your taste in romantic partners will change (this will likely change even more and is way more important).

Bonding over things like going to raves together (contrary to popular belief, couples who rave together do not necessarily stay together), or both being obsessed with The Office, or flirting in Trig for the whole school year won’t be reasons for you to stick together for the years to come. And 22-year-old you will want to kick 18-year-old present-day you’s ass for wasting time on someone who won’t be worth months pining over each other in a LDR, once you’re graduating from college and looking back on everything you wish you could re-do about your glory days (geez Chloe, tell us how you really feel!).

Also, you might want to ask yourself why you want to get into this serious of a commitment now when there’s so much to see and explore while you’re young. I know how annoying it is when older people tell you this (I hated how condescending it was when family members talked to me about relationships while I was in high school or early college, and how it made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter), but it’s true—you really do have the rest of your life to settle down and be monogamous if that’s what you want, so why start so young when you haven’t even figured out what you want for yourself yet?

Right now, you can save yourself the trouble of getting cheated on, or ruining someone’s life (not to sound melodramatic), or wasting the most fun time of your life worrying about your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend; just let this relationship go peacefully. If it turns out that you’re both single at some other point in your lives and live in the same area, then that’s awesome and you can give it another shot! But right now, as someone who has been in two messy LDRs in her teens, I can tell you that the best thing for both of you is to just live your lives separately and enjoy yourselves while you’re young—trust me when I say that you have plenty of time for grown-up relationships, cheesy declarations of love on Instagram, and all the serious commitment you could ever want in the future. What you won’t have in the future is the chance to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want, and live out your bildungsroman as your own person, without being tied down.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record and probably pretty cynical too, but I promise you I don’t hate love! And even if I don’t know you, I care about your happiness and personal growth very much. I don’t have many regrets in life, and I know if I went back and made better decisions, I might not have grown into the person I am today, but I do think that I could have avoided a lot of emotional stress, tension with my family (arguing about how serious my LDR had become while I was only 19), and trust issues I have now because I had bad experiences with long distance while I was younger. I also think I could have enjoyed myself more in college (and when I moved from Guam to California in high school) without having to worry about my basically virtual boyfriend. The worst part about long distance is that if you let it, it can make you live more for someone you’ll rarely ever see, and neglect the people who are actually around you, and all the awesome things about where you are in the present. Long distance usually only works out and is bearable if you’re able to come back to each other at least semi-regularly and know that you’re going to live near each other eventually, but when you’re in high school or college and one of you moves away, you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll finally be together again (and might not have the freedom or money to visit each other enough).

You might be thinking, “oh, she just went through two crappy relationships and my boyfriend/girlfriend and I aren’t like that!” Even if you two are cuter together than Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, the strain and stress that comes with a LDR can drastically change your relationship. Your dynamic will be totally different when you go from seeing each other every day at school to having to rely on Skype dates (while getting cut off every few minutes through the spotty Wi-Fi connection in the dorms) and texts to keep you together. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the exception to the rule, but it’s really hard for any couple to still feel close to each other when they’re separated for weeks or months at a time.

I know how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to say goodbye to someone you love so much (and I don’t think you ever love again as intensely as you do when you’re a teenager, so it’s even harder), but if you really love this person (and really love and want to take care of yourself), the best thing for both of you ultimately is to try to be happy with all the memories and good times you’ve had together, but agree that your happiness and futures are more important than hanging onto a relationship that will almost definitely end eventually. It’s going to hurt like hell, but after many pints of Ben & Jerry’s and binge-watching Gilmore Girls a few times over, in the long run this will be the best decision for both of you.

How to Deal with Instagram-related Jealousy and Insecurities

Let me just start off by saying that in my logical, reasonable mind, I trust my partner with all my heart. He’s been perfect, never makes me feel worried about the possibility of him cheating, and reassures me that he cares about me by texting me constantly throughout the day and giving me his full attention when we’re together.

But no matter how much I love and trust him, the less rational part of my mind still worries occasionally (which I think is natural for everyone). When I look through my Instagram newsfeed when I’m bored, I’m afraid I’ll see that he liked a hot girl’s picture and I’ll discover that the happiness I had was all temporary. It’s like I’m just waiting for him to prove that my worst fears are true: that love doesn’t work out and that I shouldn’t trust anyone. I feel incredibly petty worrying about something so superficial as a “like” on Instagram—I know deep down that it’s 100% harmless. And I can’t really get mad at him because I follow way more pretty girls and models than he does, and he never says anything about it (but in my defense, I follow them 50% for inspiration and self-love by seeing more beautiful brown women who make me feel better about myself by extension… 50% because they’re hot as hell and I like to admire them).

When I see he “likes” some girls’ photos, I get this painful feeling in my gut. I imagine him fantasizing about how much happier he would be if they were his girlfriends instead of me. I worry that he is comparing me, with the mole on my face, the rolls on my stomach when I bend over, my meager B cups, to this image of a girl with a perfectly contoured face and a push-up bra.

I know none of this is true. Anyone who uses Instagram scrolls through basically mindlessly, “liking” pictures in a second, then instantly forgetting the previous post once it leaves the reach of their thumb. These worries are part of a story I’ve made up in my head that is a manifestation of all my insecurities and trust issues I’ve developed from past relationships, with exes who had wandering eyes. Seeing the person you love give validation and attention (even in the smallest form, a “like” on social media) feels like a betrayal, in a world where a large part of the construction of self-worth relies on how many “likes” you get and who gives them to you—as much as we’d like to think we’re disconnected from social media, it affects everyone.

When I stop and think about it, my worries have nothing to do with my partner. He could tell me he loves me every day, never hang out with any other girls, do literally everything right, and I still would feel this way (and it makes me feel terrible that I do).

At our very core, when we feel jealousy, it’s not about our partners being disloyal about something so small—it’s about our deep need to be loved and to be given attention and loyalty from the person we love. The jealousy stems from the small child in each of us who needs love and worries that the flaws we see in ourselves will prevent other people from loving us (sorry, I know I sound Zen-y like my dad here, but it’s true).

The best solution when you’re feeling insecure about your partner “liking” other people’s posts is to realize and remind yourself that your relationship with a person is much more than what goes on in social media, and shouldn’t be defined by “likes,” especially if it’s with someone you have a deep connection with personally. You shouldn’t compare one “like” on a picture to the weeks/months/years of getting to know each other that you’ve had with your partner (and if he/she really wanted to be with that other person instead of you, don’t you think they would?).

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially not you in real life, right now, vs a staged photo. I feel like shit when I compare myself to a picture of a girl with her makeup done, while I’m lying in bed wearing my oversized “I [heart] gays” t-shirt and no bra. Your partner doesn’t love you because you look on point all the time, they love you because you have a real connection and because of your personality. Plus there’s no way those girls online look like that 24/7. Instagram is performance (repeat that to yourself 100x every day and you might turn out okay).

Some steps to take when you get into a negative mindset with these insecurities:

Get off Instagram! Be productive, take a walk and enjoy nature and keep your phone on “do not disturb” if you use it to listen to music, interact with the people who are around you in real life, work on a project. Create, don’t get into a negative spiral.

Do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t base your self-worth off of whether a person double taps on an image of you. Remind yourself why you are a good person, why you are beautiful, and why you are attractive and worthy of love—most of all, your own love.

What I do:

    • lift weights (makes me feel strong and proud of myself)
    • go for a walk (sunshine makes me happy, gets my sun-kissed skin back)
    • put on a little makeup or curl my hair (doesn’t take that much effort and ends up making me really happy and feel pretty)
    • wear something I wouldn’t normally wear (anything besides work/bum clothes)
    • write (makes me feel smart and capable)
    • tidy my room (makes my living situation more comfortable)

Also, it’s hard to be in a happy relationship with someone who is insecure and doesn’t see their own self-worth (me at times, in this case). You need to remind yourself why you are valuable as an individual and as a partner, both for your own mental health and for the sake of your relationship.

Talk to someone (or at least write it out to yourself). Saying your fears out loud makes them sound a lot less real and will show you they aren’t actual reasons to worry. It helps a lot to get out of your own negative self-talk and train of thought if you have to explain it to someone else, and they can tell you you have nothing to worry about.

Make a list of things to be grateful for in your life. You have more going on for yourself than just one person, anyway!

Make a list of ways your partner has shown they love you. If you’re in a good relationship, these will outweigh the minor slight of Instagram “likes” by far. After I write my lists, I feel so much happier, more in love with my partner, and appreciative of what a good person he is.

Overall, the best thing you can do is to just not look at the feed.

The urge to prevent your partner from looking at anyone else but you (which is impossible) is possessive, and makes me feel small for being controlling in that way. If you want to keep your relationship healthy, you need to just trust that your partner is a good person who does not want to hurt you.

Even more importantly, you need to trust that you are a good person who deserves to be with someone who loves you and will be loyal to you (even if you don’t always believe it, it’s true). The stress of stalking your partner online constantly is bad for the skin anyway, so don’t detract from your physical beauty, and in turn the source of your value as a person (just kidding! internal beauty all the way! *smirking emoji*).