Oh, this is a tough one!
Anyone who’s ever gone through a breakup, no matter what side of it they’re on, knows the fear-based thoughts that can run rampant as the dust settles.
Cases of the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” can keep us spinning in replay loops about what we could have done differently, and the isolation imposed on so many by the pandemic would certainly only serve to amplify these spiraling thoughts. “Maybe if I would have done more x, or been more y, the relationship would have worked out.”
Am I right?
Then comes the “Am I enough?” game, when our focus shifts to perceived inadequacies, and we question whether we will ever attain that lasting love we crave.
I know this all too well. It was actually five years ago this summer that I had my heart crushed by someone I thought was it for me. At that time, I’d really broken down my barriers to giving and receiving love.
It was probably the first time that I’d vulnerably opened my heart and given all of myself—and there I was blindsided, the day before a holiday calling a car service to come pick me up from his house for a long, teary ride back to the city.
That breakup, as my friends at the time will attest, devastated me. At first, I was in shock. I could barely eat or sleep, and I had a hell of a time trying to function in my day-to-day life. I was experiencing intense emotional pain, but heartbreak is a real thing.
I learned that the length of a relationship isn’t a reliable gauge of the grief you experience afterward—the heart doesn’t have a concept of time once we’ve vulnerably opened ourselves up and let love in.
I also learned that there are two relationships that you must grieve: the one you had, and the one you thought you were going to have.
In the peak of my grief, my friends would try their best to comfort me. “It just takes time,” they’d say. I hated hearing this when all I desperately wanted was some relief, but as someone in recovery, I knew I couldn’t rely on my old ways of checking out of my feelings. I had to walk through them.
I had a choice to make—I was either going to rise from this or crumble under the weight of my heavy heart. And while the latter may have felt more appealing in those initial days, I realized I needed to dig deep, love myself, and let others love me through it too.
I chose to rise, and fittingly the acronym represents the process that worked so well for me during those darker days.
And a process it certainly was.
First came the decision to rely on my resilience, to trust myself and lean on the spiritual tools I’d acquired along the way. I reminded myself that others had gracefully maneuvered through the grief following a breakup. If they had used it as an opportunity for growth, why couldn’t I?
We all have resilience—we just have to tap into it. It often flows from letting go, coming to a place of acceptance about what we can’t control, and trusting that something better is around the corner for us. You just have to create the space for it.
In those early days, my mantra became, “acceptance, forgiveness, release,” and I would repeat this over and over to myself daily. Any time my mind would begin spiraling into those self-defeating thoughts, I would pivot to my mantra. It felt a bit forced at first, but I can tell you, it worked.
Self-inquiry then followed. I got curious about myself, my motivations, and my experiences. Only later did I realize this curiosity was one of the best tools for my personal growth and expanded self-awareness. I questioned, went inside for answers, journaled, meditated—you name it!
The answers I sought weren’t typically available at the surface level. I had to dig deep to access them, but the clarity I gained helped propel me forward.
Where might I have abandoned myself in this relationship?
Where might I have been settling?
What was the relationship here to teach me?
How can I use this experience to grow?
How can I use this opportunity to love myself more?
This process made me aware of the limiting beliefs I had about myself, and helped me see how they were holding me back and and how they’d been recreating the same defeating patterns in my relationships time and time again.
Self-love also started with a conscious decision, and pulled me into the present moment. Each morning I’d ask myself what I could do that day to nourish my spirit. At first it was just simple things, like eating regularly, resting, watching funny movies, letting my friends love me, and crying—let’s not forget this oh-so-necessary emotional release!
Over time, I got really clear about what my needs were and what self-care looked like for me, and gradually, I was able to turn the affection I’d given so readily in my relationship inward.
The decision to consciously love myself made me aware of the negative things I told myself. I became really mindful of my thoughts (a daily meditation practice helps tremendously with this) and worked to turn them around. We rarely talk to our loved ones the way we talk to ourselves.
One exercise that really helped eradicate some of the negative self-talk was asking my friends to share their favorite things about me. I’ll be honest, I had to tap into my vulnerability reserves to even ask, but I found they were all willing to share, and I was surprised by some of their responses. Hearing the qualities people most admired in me made me realize I embodied some great traits that I’d completely overlooked. This was a truly healing experience.
What followed, my expansion, was really the launching pad for a new beginning and a fresh start. I leaned into my future and began to think about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up. I knew that I’d been selling myself short and needed to expand my vision of an ideal relationship. So, I went back to the drawing board:
Who did I want to be in a relationship going forward?
Who did I want my ideal partner to be?
What were the deal breakers and red flags I’d ignored in the past?
What were my core values? My relationship values?
Getting clear about what I wanted the future to look like allowed me to manifest what I truly desired moving forward. This part of the process filled me with hope and allowed me to dream new dreams. This was the reward.
I wish I could tell you there was a quick fix to grief, but learning to love yourself through it is a process.
Somewhere along the way, however, as I moved through the heartbreak, my world became a bit brighter and I began to see my circumstances as a gift, instead of a setback. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but gradually all my efforts, even those that seemed so small at the time, got me to where I needed to be and led me to embody more self-respect and self-love.
Looking back, I’m proud of how I walked through that challenging time. I emerged stronger, more confident, more assured, and more in love with me. I finally saw that I was a catch, and I trusted that the right person would recognize that, and that it would be easy.
And sure enough, just five months later, with a quick swipe to the right, it happened. There he was—the person I’d hoped to find all of my life . . . and I have to say it was easy. There were no games or guessing, the communication and affection flowed effortlessly, and on September 2nd, we’ll celebrate two years of marriage.
I believe in happy endings, so if it’s not happy, it’s not the end.
So, chin up and smile big. Know that you’re beautiful inside and out, and remember that the present moment is a chance to begin again.
We’re all human, we all make mistakes, but we aren’t those mistakes.
It’s not what happens to us that builds our character, but how we choose to handle it that creates our destiny. Our choices give us the ability to rise to new heights and create the life of our dreams.
How can you love yourself a little more today? It’s as easy as making a choice:
I will love myself more than I ever have before. I will embrace imperfection, even my craziness, and know that I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love, and that love starts right here, with me, today.
So, it begins . . . coming home to you.