Over the weekend I couldn’t help but to think more about the article I wrote last Friday about post-breakup backlash. While I discussed how women glam it up and hit the town to feel sexy and desired, I did not talk too much about the heartache part of this process. I mentioned how the last time I allowed myself to be really hurt by a guy’s rejection, I went out looking like a classy prostitute (if there is such a thing) in hopes of replenishing my wholly depleted sense of self-esteem. Sure I put on a smile, had a few drinks, and talked with friends but at the time I was just a shell of my former self. I felt hollow and broken. In reality my upset was not even truly about this particular guy who decided that he did not want to see me anymore. This malaise was due to a feeling of worthlessness I inflicted on myself by letting myself believe I was not good enough for anyone.
People date and sometimes (the majority of the time) it doesn’t work out. While there is plenty of blame to go around in a big, long-term split; when you are newly dating someone and that person decides that he would rather be single, there really is not any wrongdoing on your part. However, while men tend to think “oh well” and move on to the next one, we women rack our brains for all that could be wrong with us and tear our self-worth to shreds.
That night that I had my date canceled last minute and had it broken to me that there wouldn’t be any subsequent dates was an emotionally exhausting evening but it also ended up serving as a wakeup call and changing my life. While I shared the beginning of the story in my piece “All My Life I’ve Been Good But Now I’m Thinking What the Hell? All I Want to Do Is Mess Around,” I never finished the other half of that story. I received a call from the guy I was seeing and learned that it was over. After getting over the initial shock I cried a bit but pulled myself together and went out friend friends in hopes of cheering up. I stood like a ghost, trying my best to look un-phased by the rejection but I’m sure it was thoroughly evident. I held it together until I go back to my car, then I rested my head in my hands, leaned my face into the steering wheel and lost it. I probably cried for a half hour before I snapped back to reality to realize that I was in a residential area with people walking by returning home from the bars and decided that I should continue my wallowing in private.
I was not crying so much because this guy did not want to be with me but because I convinced myself that there was something wrong with me. I obsessed over my flaws and became consumed with fear that I would die alone and that no one could ever love me. Now of course all of this was happening while my grandma was dying, I was already in an emotionally vulnerable place, and was before I was put on anti-depressants so we could say that I’m more stable and in better spirits now but getting to a content place in life was not easy. It took me a long time to accept that I did nothing wrong and just because at twenty-five I haven’t found “the one” doesn’t mean that I never will. I am not saying that every time you are dumped that you are without fault but sometimes two people just don’t work out and whether you are to blame or not doesn’t change the fact that it’s over. Crying, sulking, wallowing, and living in fear won’t change the past but it will impact your future and your ability to move on with your life.
Certainly it is easier said than done to just move on after a breakup and return to your normal self, but it is something you have to strive for and work at. We all hit the town dressed like porn stars post-breakup at least for one night and then we get back to reality and return to being our normal selves. Some people take Avril’s approach and spend a few months or even a year thinking “what the hell” and live like a hedonist. While it is not what I would do, if you are being safe, having fun, and not losing yourself in the shuffle then I do not see the harm. I chose to spend just that weekend devastated and self-loathing before I made a number of positive changes in my life. I kept myself busy every night after work. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I attended parties and concerts, went on a lot of casual dates, and threw my own parties. I traveled back home to NJ and dealt with my past and started seeing a therapist. Obviously, my upset was over something a lot deeper than just a boy but I think that everyone compounds their upset when they are down and in this instance the guy was the last straw for me.
When we get dumped we are emotionally vulnerable and spend a lot of time in self-contemplation. While racking our brains for what went wrong in a particular instance, it is inevitable that we drudge up our pasts and open the gates for all of the other depressing facts of our lives. We reflect on old boyfriends and prior breakups, we assess our friendships, and we think back to our childhoods. We over analyze ourselves and our lives and find flaws that no one else would even notice. Then, we either accept defeat or improve ourselves. I opted for the latter and now am almost thankful that the relationship did not work out because it was push I needed to get myself together. I was a holding back upset for a long time and it kept mounting as I refused to deal with it. Then, one day, it broke through like a dam and I had to deal with everything at once; and, while I would not recommend a breakdown to anyone, sometimes we have to tear ourselves down to build ourselves back up.
I managed to pick up the pieces, put them back together with sturdier glue, and evolve into a stronger, more self-assured version of myself. It took a number a heartbreaks and break-ups for me to get to that level of self-acceptance; and, while at the time I couldn’t imagine getting through it, I now look back and smile because it was a defining moment. Most people’s heartaches aren’t this profound but we all get hurt at some point or experience the dissolution of a beloved partnership. We can either gain new fears and put up walls to keep people from getting close enough to damage our spirits again or we can take the pain and channel it into positivity.
Next time you get dumped or go through a bad breakup and begin to analyze the situation and yourself, try not to make it about the other person at all and aim to use the self-reflection for good. It is not a matter of what he didn’t like about you but what do you not like about you? What are your strengths and endearing qualities and how can you accentuate them? See every negative course of action as a chance to become an improved individual. Not only will you find it therapeutic but also, the next time you see that significant other and you are even more incredible and are glowing with happiness, you can feel vindicated that he did not get the best of you and acknowledge that you truly are better off without him.