“If a man, who says he loves you, won’t tell you the details of a private conversation between him and another woman you can be sure he is not protecting your heart. He is protecting himself and the woman he has feelings for. Wise women simply see things as they are, not as their low self-esteem allows.” — SHANNON L. ALDER
When our heart suffers emotional trauma like a breakup, we often find ourselves looking for ways to understand who we are at the end of the storm. Searching through such debris carried off through the yearly winds becomes an arduous task as we find parts of ourselves we might not even recognize. Along the way, we have graciously maintained our feelings over valuing our true worth.
In an article from MindBodyGreen, writer Sarah Rusca shares a candid tale of discovering her boyfriend cheating on her, but chose to marry him anyway. A year into their marriage, Rusca would find her husband straying again. And again. As she shares in this eloquently written piece, she expected things to get better but realized that nothing was going to change with him, adding, “A piece of my soul left the relationship.”
Finally gaining the courage to leave him after four years of mental and emotional pain, Rusca shares how she felt a sense of pride when she finally walked away. However, it didn’t come without a loss as Rusca was not able to recognize who she once was. Through much soul-searching and falling back in love with herself, she knew that leaving was only the beginning of a life deserved.
And it’s true, despite how difficult it might feel at times. We pick ourselves up and find those displaced fragments that make us who we are—no matter how sharp, no matter how deep, and soon rediscover the beauty in ourselves. Never forget that before everyone else, in quiet moments, we were once our own best friends. And it isn’t difficult to get back there. Like Rusca, it took time for her to see what she really deserved and find comfort in her true self. The thing is—and it’s not easy at all—but until you value yourself, you won’t value the time you take away from gaining positive experiences.
In her article, Rusca shares the four things she learned looking back at her dysfunctional relationship:
1. Your fear of judgment and criticism is worth nothing compared to your happiness.
2. The way you allow yourself to be treated is a reflection of how you value yourself.
3. It’s not about what’s being done to you, but what you’re doing to stop it.
4. You are worth fighting for.
We all know we deserve happiness. Everyone does and it’s a continuous battle to get it, but when love becomes more about hanging on to a memory or a moment in the hope it will change instead of making each other happy, the smartest step is to evaluate your life on your own. Which drives home Rusca’s second point, which I consider to be one of the most important. In many ways, your value is the product of your own thoughts. Never miscalculate your self-worth by multiplying your insecurities and negative experiences.
There are so many couples today who don’t feel they deserve better because of insecurity, but the truth is it can be an incredibly lonely and empty path. One of life’s greatest regrets is living out expectations to sustain a norm, when you really should just be yourself and not regret any choice or decision you make. Often we get so trapped in these lines of unhappiness and doubt, plagued by insecurity and fear of the future that we don’t catch on as quickly in order to help ourselves. But perspective on life and the relationships we form comes best from the cages—rather, toxic relationships—we’re held captive in. Sometimes we find ourselves in a relationship with someone we thought we knew, but instead, they were secretive and deceitful. But people’s behaviors are messages, not a reading or diagnosis. This is when we have to become more adept, with focus on us and not the relationship itself—especially if it’s been extensive behavior from over the years.
Rusca took great pride in herself (as she should), proving that the way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. If you respect yourself, know your real worth when a relationship is not working the way it should. Know that there is a life outside insecurity, doubt and every fear that bombards your anxieties. If you put small value upon yourself, your choices, and your heart, know that the world will not raise your price for you. Only you know what you’re worth and you are worth fighting for in every moment lived.
So many of us rely on our significant others to give us value, but if that’s the way you think a relationship should be, then fine. Do what’s best for you. But in all honesty, it doesn’t work and won’t work down the road, nor help anyone in the relationship. In fact, it creates a bigger wedge between your partner and your own self-worth. And because of that wedge, respect is lost along the way. As New York Times columnist and author, Maureen Dowd says, “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.”
It goes back to Alder’s quote shared that “wise women simply see things as they are, not as their low self-esteem allows.” Self-worth and confidence comes from a deep place, a place we often forget even exists. Having a low opinion of yourself is not being modest or humble. It’s self-destruction at its finest and seeps into your relationships with the other knowing exactly where your tender spots are, thus having them take advantage of a situation and choosing to stray. But cheating and the hardships you face in a relationship aren’t exactly struggles, per se. They’re more or less reasons to understand yourself first and know what you rightfully deserve. As Rusca says, “Sometimes achieving growth and happiness means moving towards the life you were designed to live and leaving the past behind you.”
Moving on isn’t easy and so many of us confuse giving up with letting go, but the reality is letting go makes us stronger. People think holding on and salvaging what’s left is what makes you strong, and maybe it does. But if you feel unhappy doing it, is it worth it? If there’s one thing my own relationships have taught me it’s that one must never allow fear of moving forward rob you of what you know you rightfully deserve. By holding onto something that aches and creates doubt, mental pain, and anxiety as you fall into a bottomless pit, wondering what to do next—you are holding onto suffering. Not the other way around. No one other than you are responsible for how you feel and the pain you’re suffering. Letting go of someone you love doesn’t mean you don’t care about them anymore. It’s just a realization that proves the only person you really have control over is yourself.
And like Rusca says, it’s not easy to walk away from everything you imagined your life to once be. But the courage you build up lies inside you and the value you have for yourself—knowing what you rightfully deserve—is an immense asset that promises a bounty ideal for your well-being.