Your opinion is the only one that matters

I once dated a guy who, four months into the relationship, proceeded to tell me that he was never physically attracted to me. He said my body did not appeal to him and my face “kind of” did. He proceeded to tell me how he had hoped my personality would make me more physically appealing to him, but it did not. He concluded by telling me he lied about his attraction to me for the entire four months and stamped it with an “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

I have no idea why he would lie about being attracted to me or if he was even telling the truth at all, but there are a few lessons I would like to share from this experience.

Develop a firm definition of who you are physically and personally that will stand regardless of what people have to say

If he had said these words to me my freshman year, it’s very possible that I would have ended up harming myself physically as well as emotionally. Over the span of my adolescence, I have grown to love myself regardless of what people may think or say. I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God, and although I’m not perfect, my personality is one that you won’t find anywhere else. This maturation (and my religion) is what kept me from reacting angrily. Everyone should develop a sense of satisfaction with who they are inwardly and outwardly as a person. People will say what they want, but you have a say in what you think about yourself, and that should be the opinion that counts. If you develop a perception of yourself that you are confident in, you won’t shatter when people attempt to tear you down with insults.

Watch your words

Although I have had a foundational sense of confidence since birth, I was in utter disbelief to hear that the person I was dating did not find me attractive and thought it well to specifically list what was and was not appealing about me. Even though I felt the same way at the beginning of the relationship, I never would have taken the time to tailor the words I knew could cut someone so deeply.

Regardless of your gender, relationship status or religious affiliation, understand this: when you take the time to insult someone’s physical appearance or personality, you are tearing down something they cannot change about themselves. This can lead to a person feeling trapped in their own skin and possibly harming themselves. This is where eating disorders, depression and even suicides often originate.

We do live in a country that supports freedom of speech, but as my political science professor used to tell my class, “There is no such thing as an unlimited right.” For you to take the time to use words to tear someone down because they do not fit your preferences is despicable and dehumanizing. Everyone has flaws and everyone does not have the capacity to handle negative commentary about themselves well.

God took the time to carefully tailor each human being on this planet so that no one is alike. Humans are God’s masterpieces, and when you insult something he created, you are also insulting him.

Remember who you are when words cut

As I quoted from my father in one of my previous columns, “It’s OK to bleed when you’ve been cut.” Words can hurt, especially when they come from the people you least expect. Instead of trying to figure out why someone chose to cut you down, turn to the only true opinion that really matters. You must have a solid foundation so that you can get back up when people try to cut you down. It’s OK to fall as long as you get back up. God created you the way he did for a reason. In his eyes you are beautiful, and if someone doesn’t agree with that, then that’s their problem.

As I weather the hurtful effects of this experience, I want to encourage anyone else who may have been hurt or insulted in a similar manner: We cannot continue to allow people’s perceptions of us to define us. We are all beautiful simply because of the fact that we are human and have the opportunity to live life in the image of a God who loves us. Surround yourself with people who emphasize your strengths, and get away from people who consider themselves high enough to critique God’s work. We are too young to add onto the struggles of college life by keeping those people around us. Free yourself and walk in the assurance of the beauty of God.