“View your life with kindsight. Stop beating yourself up about things from your past. Instead of slapping your forehead and asking, ‘What was I thinking,’ breathe and ask yourself the kinder question, ‘What was I learning?’” ~Karen Salmonsohn
I’ve never been particularly risk adverse.
If you asked my friends or family, they’d tell you I’d be the first person to try something new and challenging. I did things in my twenties with very little thought about the consequences and dove headlong into many situations without batting an eyelid.
Except, I was avoiding one thing and that was the real me. Each time I signed up for the latest challenge, I upped and moved home for the fifteenth time, or I jumped into a new relationship thinking this would be “the one,” I carried one huge secret with me.
That secret was my overwhelming fear of being vulnerable.
I know what you are thinking: “How could I take so many risks, dare to do what other people couldn’t, without being vulnerable?”
It was easy, the whole time I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I wore a mask—a mask of someone who pretended to be adventurous, who lived by the seat of her pants, to make herself look interesting, and who in the end couldn’t pretend any more.
When you try so hard to be someone you’re not, you lose sight of yourself. You end up doing things to please other people, resulting in living by their expectations. In the end, you become what they want you to be, which can lead anyone down the wrong path to self-destruction.
I didn’t love myself enough to say, “No, this isn’t me” or “No, I won’t do that because that’s not what I want to do.” I just didn’t feel worthy enough to make my own decisions, to be happy with who I was, so I lived in fear never showing my true self.
Being vulnerable was opposite to who I was. It mean showing myself to the world, even those bits I didn’t like. It meant expressing my true feelings and taking risks, even with no guarantees. When it came to risking it all in love, I just couldn’t do it.
Then one day I couldn’t pretend anymore. I remember the moment: I was sitting on my bed crying, I was in yet another disastrous relationship, I was doing a job that sucked the very life out of me, I didn’t have the right people around me, and I was heading for a future of more fear.
It had to stop now, so I did just that.
I took off the mask. I ended the relationship, I quit my job, I sold nearly everything I owned, and I moved back home to my mother’s house. I knew I had to start over from scratch, to be reborn and learn how to be me again.
I started exploring what really made me tick, what I was passionate about and what I loved to do. I ended friendships, I moved away from negative environments, and I worked hard at taking care of myself. I had to become “undone” to do that, to go back to basics and start again.
It wasn’t easy. It has been a lonely journey at times and very painful, but I’ve come out the other side and I have to say I’ve never been happier. I’ve found a side to myself I never knew existed. I am creative, I am passionate, I am happy to be me, and, most of all, I am single and proud of it.
Here are a few things I had to do to do to get me to this point and what I have learned.
It’s possible to be single and happy.
It’s funny, but each time I ended a relationship I always felt a sense of release, like it was always meant to be that way. I guess for years I thought that I had to have someone else to be happy, yet it turns out that it’s not my only avenue for joy and purpose.
Since I got single, I’ve learned to love myself. I rely on myself and I no longer look to others to decide my future.
It’s gotten to the point where I am so focused on my own life that I don’t think I’d have time right now for a partner. The main thing is I that I learned to be happy without being in a relationship, and when it does happen, it will be because it’s right.
Singleness can be celebrated, as it allows us to truly reconnect with who we really are and uncover who we were all along.
Sometimes we need to go back to our roots.
I chose to go back home because it just seemed right. I had no money, my mum was happy to have me back, and I knew it would give me time to work out what I wanted to do with my life.
I still feel this way today, now six months on, but it hasn’t been easy. Old feelings have come up, past resentments and disagreements.
But what has been most apparent is the reflecting I have done about my relationship with my mum and myself. It has taught me that trying to change people is fruitless, and that if a situation is going to change, it’s up to me and how I respond to it.
We don’t all need to move back home, but sometimes we need to go back to our roots to move forward. When we heal old wounds, forgive, and let go of the past, we create space for transformation to occur.
Loneliness can be the beginning of true connection.
I didn’t choose to be lonely; it just happened. I had no money, so I had to decide where my priorities were—and spending the money I didn’t have on nights out or other such frivolous things weren’t at the top of the list!
I had to turn down many an invite out with friends, and the more I did that, the fewer people asked until in the end I never went out.
That period of time was my lowest point. I’d never felt that lonely, but it taught me so many things. It taught me about those who were there for me, and those who weren’t. It taught me about how I dealt with those feelings, to rely on myself more; yet, in the same breath, it also spurred me on to find other people who got me and accepted the person I was becoming.
I believe that the people we meet come into our lives to teach us things about ourselves. Some stay for the long haul, while others come and then go just as fast. Being lonely is never easy, but if you decide that it’s not forever and it’s all part of the process, then you’ll be at peace with it.
Today, I still live at home. I am still gloriously single, but now I hardly ever get lonely. I am still on this journey, except now I am no longer unbecoming who I was; I am finally becoming the person I was all along.
If you feel that you’ve been pretending for too long, fitting in with those around you, perhaps now is the time to take some steps to change that, to un-become who you are.
My steps where mine alone, they may not be for you. They were, however, the best things I have done, and I am grateful for that.
Woman and reflection image via Shutterstock