After the heartbreak of losing my first real love, the bitter ending in losing my false second, and all the mini heartaches I have had with men in between… I had made a clear decision to stop allowing men to hurt me.
I spent the entire first half of my 20’s trying to heal from a string of broken hearts, running from one city to the next after each failed relationship, believing that if I left in some dramatic fashion, the stamp of my absence would leave a much larger print on the hearts of every man who had ever hurt me. Eventually I developed the mantra, “no one can hurt you unless you let them.”
This actually worked pretty well for me for a while and I became quite good at keeping others from causing me any pain. The key was to never allow anyone to ever get too close to me, to never ask for anything, and to always strive for perfection because in my mind, if I was perfect then I would never give anyone a reason to reject me.
Striving for perfection to me meant looking, acting, eating, thinking, exercising, and working to the best of my ability at all times. I needed to do everything “right” and I had to do it all without ever asking for help. For a while I was giving myself a panic attack every single day trying to live up to these ridiculous expectations in proving my independence to myself.
I was a natural foods chef promoting health and wellness while I was constantly stressed out, dieting, and anxious beyond belief. The only nights I could peacefully rest were the nights I spent with the man who unexpectedly interrupted my independent streak, confused my mantra, and unintentionally took me down the path to rediscovering myself and finding the true reasoning behind my obsessive perfectionist behavior.
When we met 3 years ago, We were both party lovers with damaged hearts so we quickly connected on a very superficial yet soulful level. It was not until years after our initial introduction that we would reconnect more romantically as two completely different people.
He had become sober and throughout all of my ‘heartbreak healing’ excursions, I had actually grown up a lot. What started off as a friendly evening of catch up turned into a full blown 6-month unlabeled relationship.
I tried very hard to stay distant and I wasn’t thrilled about the fact that I was undeniably falling for this man, but because he was well aware of my self-protective behavior, he managed to break down my walls by ignoring me every time I started to freak out about the amount of time we were spending together and how close we were becoming. In all my moments of distress he would simply say, “please don’t exhaust yourself by over thinking,” and although this made me want to pull my hair out in the moment, his nonchalant responses was one of my favorite things about him. He was the first man in my life who knew how to handle me and with him I felt a sense of bliss.
My anxiety silenced… I felt happy, I felt loved, and I was beginning to feel safe.
So what happened?
Well, the same thing that has always happened. I pushed one too many buttons and I played one too many games.
I have always pushed every ex-lover to their limits until they had no choice but to throw their hands up and walk away for the sake of their own sanity and our story was no different.
I was devastated.
But for the first time I did not run away to a different city (though I did think about it). Instead, I made myself sit with the discomfort of feeling rejected and I finally took a hard look at myself and the patterns of all my relationships. I finally accepted some responsibility for all my previous breakups and I recognized that maybe the deep root of all my game playing, perfectionism, impulsive and aloof behavior was because I am so deeply afraid of being rejected.
I recognized that I had become obsessed with perfection because it was my way of staying in control. I was always striving to be the best person I could be by constantly telling myself I was not good enough. I kept others from becoming too close to me so that no one could ever see me for who I truly was- Imperfect, vulnerable, afraid, and insecure.
I realized it was my lack of self love that kept me from allowing others to love me as well.
How did I recover?
I decided to go on a mission to find self love and that it is exactly what I found through my yoga and indoor cycling teacher training.
I had never pushed myself physically or mentally as hard in my life.. so quite frankly, I had no choice but to be a little gentle on myself.
I was so physically exhausted from training that inner strength was the only thing I could rely on to finish class after class. The most glorious breakthroughs happened after I was able to push through all my mental barriers and finding my 5th wind for the day because all of a sudden the story I had been telling myself of, “I’m not good enough” quickly turned into, “I am the sh*t. I am a beast. I am strong and I am more than good enough.”
I was too occupied with my training, I didn’t have any mental space to be concerned with anything else especially my recent heartbreak. My obsession with perfection also went out the window because it’s impossible to look perfect when sweating all day. Dieting is pointless because food is fuel and most importantly, the idea of not asking for help or leaning on others wasn’t even an option. All of us trainees had to lean on each other and our coaches to stay strong and motivated. I wasn’t allowed to feel alone but I was in survival mode and the only responsibility I had was to nurture myself so that I could get through the physical and mental challenges of teacher training.
They say it takes 21 days to turn an action into habit…Thankfully that goes for practicing self love as well.
Telling myself I was worthy and strong started off as something I was told I had to do, and then it turned into something I wanted to do… But eventually those words became something I truly believed in.
Eventually the man and I were able to reconnect as friends but we were only able to do so after I had made the decision to let go. I let go of any expectations I had in hoping things could go back to the way they use to be and in doing so, I was able to welcome new space for new love…
A new love between me and him along with the new love I had created with myself.
Also in Love: 9 Things to Feel Okay About Your Love Life
4 Signs that You’re With the Right Person
5 Ways to Heal from Heartbreak
Alone and Lonely: Is There a Difference?
Photo: Javi Sánchez de la viña via Flickr