“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~Stephen Chbosky
A few years ago I was completely heartbroken, and I thought I would never find love. I’d gone through a string of painful breakups over a number of years, but I thought I’d finally met someone I could be with for the long haul. I’d been dating this guy for a few months, and everything seemed to be going smoothly, until one day he stopped calling. Just like that, he disappeared from my life. It was as if we had never met.
What was worse, he didn’t tell me why he left. Whatever it was, I’m sure I would have understood and carried on with my life if I had some sense of closure. What killed me inside was being left without knowing why.
For the following year, I was tormented by thoughts such as “Is there something wrong with me?” and “Maybe I’m not good enough.”
I had this sense of guilt, as if I had done something to cause him to leave. I was constantly trying to puzzle things together in my mind and figure out where I’d gone wrong.
I felt completely abandoned, alone, and rejected. Meeting new men was hard because of my prevalent fear of rejection. I was scared to get hurt, so I put up a wall so tall that falling in love with anyone again was out of the question. My mind would automatically go to “What if he leaves too?”
My heart was torn between, deep down, wanting to find a good man and not wanting another heartbreak. I didn’t like the spiral of fear I was living in; it caused me to close down and feel unhappy with my life and myself.
The most challenging part about recovering after the heartbreak was believing in myself again. I felt like I had lost a part of myself. It was like I had a bottomless abyss inside. Every morning upon waking I was reminded of the pain because the man I had fallen in love with was no longer in my life.
What I Learned
One day it became clear to me that I had been agonizing over my ex for far too long. I was unhappy with my life and in need of a drastic change, so I decided to put an end to my struggle. How? I started to pay close attention to the kind of thoughts I was thinking on a daily basis and how they made me feel.
I noticed that my daily thoughts focused on the fact that he’d left and rarely centered on reconnecting with myself. I obsessively thought, “He’s not here anymore,” “I will never find someone,” and “I’m not good enough.” These thoughts were playing like a broken record in the back of my mind, controlling me and limiting my life.
Because I gave my attention to these thoughts, they acted as a constant reminder of what I was missing and how miserable I felt. It was as if I were keeping that pain alive by reminding myself of the heartbreak every day.
Here I was, with a perfect opportunity to be single and enjoy life, but all I could think about was the pain of being abandoned. Sure, I needed some time to grieve, but this had gone on for far too long. Deep down I knew it wasn’t serving me, and I needed to put an end to it!
The ah-ha moment came when I realized I had the power to choose whether to continue feeling the pain of his absence or to focus on the happiness I was suppressing. What good would it do to continue feeling sorry for myself and unworthy of finding a good man? Obsessing about what I’d lost and feeding my self-doubt was a surefire way to feel unhappy.
For once, I put myself and my happiness first, and that’s how I fell in love with myself again.
My thinking was, yes, the man I loved left, but he did not take my happiness with him. My happiness is not dependent on anyone or anything, and no one can ever take that away from me.
The first step I took was to reconnect with myself by changing the way I looked at love.
I decided to be more vigilant about the thoughts that played in my mind and how they made me feel. Whenever thoughts such as “He’s not here anymore” came up and I started to feel a hint of sadness, I would remind myself, “I’m grateful we met; because of him I know I deserve so much better.”
Or, when the thought “I will never find someone” crept in and I felt sorry for myself, I would think, “I know he’s out there somewhere; it’s just a matter of time.”
The second step I took was to reconnect with my happiness by doing things that made me feel good.
Every morning when I woke up I asked myself, “What’s something I could do today that would make me happy?” Even if it were as simple as listening to a song I liked (one that didn’t remind me of him, of course!), it made a huge difference in my day.
I became more playful with life and dared to explore my adventurous side. Being single gave me the time and freedom to do the things I passionately wanted to do. I reconnected with my girlfriends and together we skydived, traveled, and had weekend adventures getting lost in the California wine country while enjoying all the different types of wine.
With time, I noticed that I felt alive when I shifted the way I looked at love and made time to do things I enjoyed.
Heartbreaks disconnect us from our potential to be ourselves and live our best life, because, in the midst of the chaos, we lose sight of who we really are. It is up to us to reconnect with our inner self once we feel like we’re ready to move on.
Realizing that no one can ever take away my happiness made me feel empowered. I began to view life with optimism, excitement, and curiosity for what my future held.
I also felt a deep sense of self-respect because I was no longer going to let just any man walk into my life. For the past few years, I’d let men seduce me with sweet words even though they didn’t follow up with their actions, because I thought that was the best I could do. Like Stephen Chbosky quote says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I knew I deserved so much better, and I didn’t mind waiting to meet the right man.
Love was no longer something to “find” because it came from within just like a spring of water flowing from the earth. The self-love and happiness I had reconnected with made me feel worthy, but most importantly, I felt whole. I was genuinely happy with or without a man.
If I were to meet someone, I wouldn’t be hoping for him to complete me because I was already complete. Rather, there was a longing that I could meet a man who would also feel complete with himself, so when we came together, we could create something bigger and better. The vision of two complete people lovingly joining forces quickly became my new fantasy.
My outlook on life changed when I shifted my focus to reconnecting with myself rather than attaining what was missing in my life. I became genuinely happy, playful, and open to meeting new men because I knew that no matter where I went, my happiness would always be right there with me.
If you’re dealing with heartbreak and feeling like I was, ask yourself these questions to help you reconnect with yourself and your happiness again:
1. When it comes to love, what negative thoughts come up on a daily basis?
2. How does it affect your life when you give power to these thoughts? What do you do or not do when you obsess on them?
3. How can you challenge and/or reframe these thoughts so that you feel empowered instead of defeated?
4. What activities make you feel good? Aim to do one of your feel-good activities every day, even if you do them alone.
The key is to remember you have the power to choose to focus on your happiness.