“Everyone has a little love affair in Bali.”
We all know the famous quote from Eat, Pray, Love written by Elizabeth Gilbert in 2006, and later adapted to the movie with Julia Roberts.
I was no exception to this; I too had my own little love affair in Bali.
But mine didn’t quite end the same way as the book or the movie. In fact, it ended in a breakup, which I could not be happier about. No sarcasm. I am incredibly happy that my love affair ended because I learned so much about myself in the process.
I truly believe that in life we can choose to either be the victim or choose to be a student and then a teacher.
One year after this breakup, I want to share with you the 10 lessons I learned from my Bali love affair.
Lesson #1: Stop trying to avoid the negative feelings.
Upon learning that my partner had cheated on me while on the way back from a sunrise mountain hike, I proceeded to tell my two friends who had gone with me what had happened.
They let me finish and then asked me how I felt about it, to which I replied, “Well he cheated on me and he left me a voice note on my phone just now telling me…” I relayed to them again the series of events somewhat confused why they didn’t get it the first time around that I told them.
“No,” they both replied. “How do you feel?”
I had been so caught up in trying to pretend that I was okay that I didn’t allow myself to even process what had happened. I went immediately to reaction mode instead of letting myself feel it and be human.
“So, how do you feel?”—the question hung heavy. I suddenly felt myself drop into my body and listen in. How did I feel?
As someone in eating disorder recovery, I had long used my control and abuse of food and exercise as a buffer to my emotions. I would describe things that would happen to me from a third-party perspective instead of the one it was happening to in order to keep myself numb and everything at surface-level.
But let me tell you that doing this doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop you from feeling emotions—it just means that they end up coming up 10 times harder later on.
So how did I feel? I felt hurt, sad, angry, disappointed, heavy, tired, embarrassed, disconnected, lonely, scared.
Upon allowing myself to cry at that moment and actually feel all these things, I realized that these negative emotions held no power over me. Rather, it was my avoidance of feeling those emotions that had been painful all these years. But when I just allowed myself to feel them, be in them, and let them pass, they couldn’t hurt me.
Lesson #2: By looking at the tough moments head-on, it stops them from becoming limiting beliefs.
Your central nervous system knows when you are in pain and will do everything it can to avoid you being in that pain again. So when he cheated on me, I was in pain and my nervous system began to form the limiting belief that men can’t be trusted to help protect me from having this ever happen again.
This meant that in the future I would be even more skeptical and closed-off than I already was. I felt my body forming a shield around my heart, protecting me from harm.
But here is the thing: if you allow yourself to look at the tough moments, process them, and move through them, then you release them and move on without needing to create a limiting belief. But if we ignore them, try to pretend we’re fine when we are not, that is when our body will hold onto this pain and try to prevent us from feeling it ever again.
Lesson #3: The worst thing happened, and I am still okay.
I was terrified of getting into a relationship for fear of how I would react if it ended badly.
Would I slide in eating disorder recovery? Would I start drinking again? Would it send me into a depression I couldn’t come back from? There were so many unknowns and it was scary.
I realized that these fears meant I lacked trust in myself, but that they were ultimately unfounded. I discounted the fact that I was not the same woman I once was, but I was stronger and more capable than my younger self who had lived in fear.
I was only through being tested that I realized my own strength and capability to overcome adversity.
A great quote from Glennon Doyle in the book Untamed is, “This is hard and we can do hard things.” Life is hard, things don’t go as planned, but guess what, we can get through it and come out even stronger.
Lesson #4: Importance of having a support system.
If I hadn’t been around other supportive women that day who helped me work through it, I am not sure if I would have processed it in the same way.
For my entire life, I have prided myself on being independent, doing everything on my own, and not needing anyone else, which allowed me to feel better about not having many female friends. I closed myself off to friendships with the excuse of being an independent introvert.
But I have learned that this story I had been telling myself was simply not true. It wasn’t that I was broken; it was that I hadn’t found women who were like me who I could easily connect with. As the years have gone by, I’ve created incredible female friendships, a sisterhood of like-minded women.
At the end of the day, humans require connection to survive. When we talk about our struggles and bring it to the light, they have nowhere to hide, they lose their power, and we can overcome them.
Lesson #5: He’s just not my person.
He chose to go cheat and that’s okay because it just means he’s not the right person for me.
The right person for me is someone who loves me, respects me, and wants to be with me. I can accept his decision without judgment and know that it doesn’t mean anything about me as a person that he decided to go and do that.
We are all doing the best we can at any moment given our past experiences and our current situation. The best he could do at that moment was cheat, and I can’t be mad at him for him doing his best; it just simply means that I am moving on to someone else who’s best is a better match for my best.
Lesson #6: I can still appreciate the memories.
I was looking through all my photos and was annoyed that I was going to have to delete a bunch with him in it or the pictures where we had gone on adventures together because it reminded me of him.
But I didn’t do that because we had an amazing time together, I felt loved, happy, and connected in those photos and videos. So regardless of what happened later on, it does not take away from the person I was and the feelings I experienced in those memories.
Those photos, videos, and memories are not ruined—he is a part of them, and I get to choose how I feel about that. I choose to be happy because I was happy in those moments and I won’t waste my time or energy trying to change how I felt in the past. I will simply honor and accept it for what it was.
Lesson #7: Someone’s inability to see your worth does not diminish it.
One of my favorite quotes at times like these is, “You can be the best damn peach in the whole world but some people just don’t like peaches” (Unknown).
I am the best damn peach, Victoria (me) is the best Victoria—the best version of herself, the best peach—but this guy maybe only likes apples, and I can’t take that to mean anything about how amazing my peach is.
So I will not fixate on what I could change or could have done differently to be a better peach so that he wouldn’t have gone off and kissed the apple, but it ultimately doesn’t matter because I am the best damn peach (and not an apple).
Lesson #8: I get to decide the reason why it didn’t work out.
Why did he go and cheat on me?
Because he couldn’t handle how amazing I was, how strong I am, how smart I am, how I am a badass entrepreneur, how I am changing women’s lives, how I am independent, how I have a killer sense of humor, how my confidence is overflowing.
I can decide that this is why he cheated, whereas my younger self would have decided that it was because I wasn’t skinny enough, not interesting enough, not feminine enough, too sarcastic, not pretty enough, or insert anything else negative.
I get to decide the reason, and I suggest that when given the opportunity, pick a reason that is empowering.
Lesson #9: Stop people-pleasing and set and honor clear boundaries.
I could have pretended that it wasn’t a big deal that he cheated, gone back to him, maybe even said that I was super cool, chill, open, and into multiple partners, but that would have been a lie because that is not me.
Once you start people-pleasing, you become a different version of yourself, and then you must continue to be that person. If I had pretended I was okay with that when I wasn’t, then I would have forced myself into becoming a version of me who I would have had to maintain. This would have gone on for some time before I would have inevitably given in to the fact it was not okay and the relationship would have crumbled.
Setting clear and honest boundaries around yourself and the relationship is essential. If the boundaries of what you need and your current situation do not match up, then don’t try to force the other person or yourself to conform to make it something you’re both not.
A hard boundary for me is being exclusive, and I honored that boundary by ending the relationship when that boundary was broken instead of trying to please-people and pretend that the boundary was not there.
Lesson #10: Everyone comes into your life for a reason and you get to choose what that reason is.
I could have chosen to believe that guys are idiots, cheaters, bad, that I am unlovable, can be cheated on, don’t deserve good things, and am unworthy. Instead, I am choosing the reason he came into my life was to learn all these lessons that I have laid out for you and shared.
What have you learned from your relationships?