How many times have we said out loud, “He/she broke my heart,” or “It breaks my heart when…”?
The truth is: we break our own hearts.
This is a painful truth to face.
I’ve lost count how many times my own heart has been broken. I could argue that the breaking of my heart was done to me by another person. I could easily make myself the victim of my stories of heartache and loss. But I’ve come to realize that in each situation, I had a choice. And my choices were the cause of many broken hearts.
I am in no way suggesting that we won’t sometimes have our heart broken by another person when we do everything right, even when we make the best choices for ourselves. Because that’s part of life. Our hearts are fragile and vulnerable to the actions of others.
But there are things we all do that lead to heartbreak and I think awareness of some of these things can possibly spare all of us from breaking our own damn hearts in the future.
1. Don’t have expectations. I know this is like saying go into a five-star restaurant and don’t expect the food to be good. Of course we expect the food to be good…it’s a five-star restaurant!
But our expectations of the exact experience we must have with someone or something are what lead to the disappointment and heartbreak, not the actual experience itself.
This is so hard not to do but I promise that if you have expectations of a person, situation or relationship, you’re going to break your own heart. Go into everything with no attachment to the outcome. Allow things to unfold into what they are meant to be. We may be disappointed by the experience or let down that it’s not what we had hoped for, but our chances of actually being heartbroken are a whole lot less.
2. Don’t expect someone to show up differently than who they are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed or devastated by the way someone treated me, even after I watched them treat everyone before me the exact same way.
If a man was emotionally unavailable to every woman before me, I would still allow myself to believe I was special enough to make him open up and be emotionally available to me. If he had a pattern of running when relationships got too serious, I believed he just hadn’t met the right person yet and maybe that person was me.
Want to break your own heart? Keep doing this. People show you who they are right up front. As Maya Angelou says, “Believe them the first time.”
3. Don’t put your happiness in the hands of another person. We all intellectually know this. Happiness is an inside job. Nobody and nothing outside of ourselves can make us happy. Yet we go into different situations in our lives and most of our relationships throwing the monumental task of making us happy onto another person.
Don’t give anyone else this power over you. We’re all responsible for our own happiness and that includes our choices to stay in relationships or situations that aren’t bringing us what we truly want. If the relationship, job, or situation we are in is no longer serving us or in alignment with what we truly desire, we have the choice to let it go to create space for something better.
4. Don’t make everything about you. This one is incredibly hard because we make so much about us. When people treat us poorly. When someone doesn’t choose us. When our partner is unfaithful. When we don’t get a job we want…we make it all about us.
It’s never really about us. It’s about them.
People’s choices are simply that—their choices. Just as we choose what is best for us, other people choose what is best for them and sometimes their choices hurt us.
When someone I cared deeply about ended the relationship with me, the first place I went was, “Why wasn’t I enough?” This seemed like a logical thought at the time. If I was enough, he wouldn’t have walked away and then immediately dove into a relationship with somebody else.
But that’s not the whole truth. When people choose something else, it rarely has anything to do with us and more to do with them. They simply chose something different. Different doesn’t mean better. It just means different. It’s like when we’re perfectly content eating the same thing for breakfast every day until one day we see something else that captures our attention—and it looks a whole lot better than what we’ve been eating. We want to try it.
The same thing happens with people. Sometimes, people just need to try something different. Don’t make it about you.
5. Always honor your real feelings. Some of us try so hard to fight our real feelings—whether they’re toward a person, a relationship, a situation or a decision somebody else is pressing us to make—we go one way when our heart and intuition are screaming something entirely different.
We live in a society that dictates a lot of “shoulds.” I should be strong. I should be attracted to this kind of person. I should do the responsible thing and not pursue this passion that is calling to my heart every single day. Not honoring our most authentic self and desires will always break our hearts. Every single time.
6. Love yourself. That’s right. Love and accept every single thing about yourself. The good, the bad and the ugly. The perceived flaws and weaknesses. The things about yourself you think (or others think) need fixing. This is what makes you, you.
Trying to be someone you’re not. Trying to mold yourself into something you think you need to be, or hating yourself for the way you are—whether it’s sensitive, impatient, gullible, moody, too short, too fat, too loud, whatever it is. This will break your heart every time.
We are all unique, special and incredible to the people in our lives who truly love and care about us. So surround yourself with those people and love on yourself more than anyone. Because you can’t expect other people to love you if you aren’t doing the same.
7. Accept what is. Every 12 step program has a prayer they recite at meetings that has always carried me through life:
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
When I am disturbed,
It is because I find some person, place, thing, situation—
Some fact of my life—unacceptable to me,
And I can find no serenity until I accept
That person, place, thing, or situation
As being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Anytime we find ourselves struggling emotionally or in turmoil about a situation, it’s because we aren’t in acceptance with what exists in the moment. And being in that place creates so much heartache for us.
I’ve found in my own life that I don’t have to like what’s happening. I just have to accept what’s happening. It’s the only way through and any other way breaks my heart and causes a whole lot of pain.
So on this last one I’m going to share a personal experience because I know that there are a lot of people reading this who may be going through the same thing.
Like many people, I’m a single parent. Holidays are still incredibly hard for me. My parents are still married and make a big deal about the holidays. I’ve never had to go between two homes or split the holidays with them. Now, I spend a lot of holidays without my children. Do I cry about this still? Yes I do. Do I accept the situation for what it us?
I can allow my heart to be broken every holiday and tell myself how unfair this is. I can tell myself how this wasn’t my choice, that this is not what I signed on for when I got married and had children and nurse my broken heart every time. Or I can just accept it. And the truth is, the acceptance is what gets me through. It’s the only path to not feeling broken anymore.
Don’t break your own heart. We have more control over this than we think. It just requires a little bit of practice.
Author: Dina Strada
Image: Lauren Treece/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman