One of my favorite blogs, A Woman’s Page, recently posted “Isn’t She Too Young for Sex” about the prolific amount of sexual material in today’s media. I found the post to be timely and informative – I loved her suggestions about teaching safe sex in schools and especially loved the comment about how teaching kids about safe sex won’t inspire them to go out and have lots of it.
It was timely because a couple weeks ago I was watching a Dr. Phil episode on teenage girls having sex at 14 and 15. It struck me how casual and egotistic these young girls were about having sex at such a young age. I watched as Dr. Phil, his guests, and these girls’ parents preach to these two young girls about the perils of having sex so young (STDs, pregnancy, etc) and how their boyfriends were “playing” them to get them to have sex. Sadly, it was also clear that everything they were saying was going in one ear and out the other.
The other thing I saw…myself!
I grew up very knowledgeable about sex – my mother was very open and informative about it from a very young age. I never felt any sort of “taboo” about the subject. But all the knowledge in the world couldn’t save me from the peer pressure to have sex. In Grade 8 and 9, girls all around me were having sex and they were deemed cool. Having sex was about being liked, being cool, being “in”!
The pressure was overwhelming, and I was prime for the picking – though I had knowledge and information, I was crippled by low self-esteem. I was dying to be loved, to be liked, to be cool, and to feel worthy. It was more important than breathing. It wasn’t about respect, maturity, or “waiting until I was in love.” It was about feeling and being wanted and the price to pay was “sex”!
And you know what, it worked. That is the sad part. When I lost my virginity, suddenly I was cool, I was wanted, and I was liked. More guys wanted to date me and be my boyfriend, my “gang” of friends all thought I was cool, and I lived on that “high” for years. My sense of self, self-worth, and feeling of being “enough” was slowly but surely getting systematically wrapped up in men and sex. I couldn’t tell where I began or where my sense of self lived if I wasn’t with a man.
My late teens and early 20s were spent in a cycle of guy drama. Mid 20s I got married thinking that would finally do the trick and bring me a sense of self and worth that I was craving only to realize a few short years later that it wouldn’t. And then a painful divorce.
Losing my virginity just shy of 15 isn’t responsible for all my poor choices throughout my teenage and young adult years, but it set me on a course, a cycle, of sacrificing myself and my body in the name of a fleeting feeling of “worthiness” that turned out to be all smoke and mirrors.
It wasn’t until I was 30 years old, looking back on the wreckage of relationships left behind me that I clued in – the ticket to feeling worthy, good enough and wonderful was never going to be found in a relationship or in the bed of a man, it would only be found within myself! Something that perhaps most people take for granted as the simplest of concepts but one that I had missed entirely!
All this searching around, all this neediness, this obsessiveness for “the one,” the bending myself inside and out, being someone I wasn’t, pushing my needs aside, all in the name of feeling whole – all this time – the answer had been staring back at me in the mirror.
The love affair I needed to have was with myself – first!
Five years later and with an incredible amount of hard work, I am getting there more and more every day. I have finally learned how to love myself, embrace myself, and celebrate myself! After my divorce, I took a year to myself and truly discovered myself, my needs, and my wants. I fell in love with me – for the first time. I discovered a sense of self, self-worth and self-respect that I hadn’t known existed – hadn’t even known was possible. I found deep morals and beliefs, a strong character, and an empowered woman! I forgave myself for past transgressions and let go of the past. I renewed my commitment to myself as first and foremost and learned about my own personal boundaries and requirements. It has been an incredible journey!
So what do I think we need to do differently so that less young girls make the same poor choices I did?
I absolutely agree that less sexual content via the media would be a huge help. Portraying sex to young girls as cool, hip and trendy is flat-out wrong, deceptive, and is a disservice to our youth beyond measure. I also agree that teaching our young people about the importance of safe sex is critical in this day in age. This is no time to beat around the bush or withhold critical information to our young people – they need all the knowledge we can provide them.
But more importantly, I believe we need to teach our young people (and especially our young girls) to love themselves. To see themselves and their bodies as something to be adored, loved, treasured and respected – not because Mom and Dad say so, not because Dr. Phil says so – but because they believe it to be so within themselves! I wish each young person to know that having sex with someone may make you feel ‘good’ for a moment – but that truly loving yourself will make you feel ‘good’ for a lifetime!