Clear Head > Lonely Heart

Love and hope are powerful emotions, as is a fear of being alone. Have you ever been in this type of situation? You know, the kind where your heart aches to be with someone, so you just choose the closest person without even stopping to think why this person deserves to be in your life. There is a strong temptation to allow for more heartache by entering the wrong relationship simply because the heart is crying out. The truth is, though, you’re smarter than your loneliness. If you are finding yourself in a situation like this, it’s time to tell your heart to “shut up” and let you think. Thinking is going to allow you to analyze what is right and wrong, and hopefully act in the best manner.

This post is dedicated to one of my best friends, we will call her Saki, who is going through a similar situation. She broke up with her boyfriend of five years a few months ago and she’s questioning her position in life now. There are days when she wants to give up and go back to her ex, and then there are days where she’s willing to move on and goes out on dates. She’s confused. She has heart ache. She doesn’t know what is the right path for her.

Saki and I had a conversation about this topic recently and it brought me back to a few relationships I had put myself into in the past. I think we’ve all been there — those relationships where we know deep down that something isn’t right but we continue with the facade simply because 1. It is what we know, 2. It is what’s most convenient, or 3. It is what is preventing us from being completely on our own.

A few months ago, I went through the whole dating thing. (Most of you know this, and most of you know I’ve pretty much decided to quit looking, focus on work, and let the future happen when it’s meant to happen..) However, during the spring and beginning of summer, I found myself in a few different dating relationships. And as each new person entered my life, my ideals of love and a blossoming relationship seemed to dwindle every day. The dating game is difficult. You begin building this relationship with someone and it breaks, so you begin with someone new and it breaks too. With each new stumble your heart grows a little bit tighter. Trust becomes harder to earn, the will for commitment decreases, and love becomes a distant dream. Everyone needs someone sometimes. However, when you go through a number of someones trying to find the right one, sometimes the appeal gets lost and you JUST. WANT. TO. BE. DONE.

As this appeal is lost, the heart grows lonelier. With each new failure it almost seems as if the heart beats faster and louder. There are so many other factors that magnify the cry of your heart also.

One big factor is the media, such as seeing your friends post cute little statuses about how in love they are and engagement announcements and baby photos and etc… I mean, really? I’ve heard multiple people in my life ask, “Why is my love life nonexistent when that girl from high school is already happily married?! What’s wrong with me?”

Another factor is reputation. Dating numerous people makes others talk. Go on too many first dates, you’re too picky. Meet people in a bar or club, you’re a floozy. Date a number of people at once, you’re a player. It doesn’t matter if everything you do on your dates is innocent, people always think the worst. No one wants to be thought of critically, so clinging to the first person you begin dating who isn’t a psycho might seem ideal.

Personally, I don’t like the dating life. I’m all for meeting new people and socializing, but I like commitment. I like having one person to always be able to confide in, and spend time with, and just enjoy knowing they’re mine. I like being in a relationship, and I miss that component in my life. That ache in my heart ended up hindering me more, though. I began dating someone who was emotionally unavailable. Not only did I enter into such a relation, but I allowed that person to drag me along for three months with no commitment plans. That’s not what I wanted in my life! I didn’t want to go week by week wondering if the guy was back with his ex-girlfriend, or feeling ridiculous because I hadn’t heard from him in days. I wanted someone who wanted me. Wanted me for me. Yet I clung to the first person I saw a glimmer of hope in and wasted the beginning of my summer!

As for Saki and her ex, she’s gone the entire summer bouncing back and forth with him. She knows he’s not good for her, and that they’re not meant to be, but it’s what she knows. She is questioning whether it is better to be with someone wrong for her rather than be by herself for awhile. Is trying to force love better than being lonely? This is a question she asks herself daily.

Yes, being lonely sucks.

But being lonely takes too much time to deal with too.

I finally figured this out when my “summer fling” broke up (I say that loosely because he never wanted to commit so I don’t really classify it as breaking up) with me for the fourth time for no reason at all. That is when I stopped listening to my lonely heart and began thinking with a clear mind.

Yes, I was lonely, but did spending time with this person actually end that loneliness? No. Actually in all honesty, he made me feel lonelier. I knew what I wanted in a relationship and I knew I wasn’t going to have that commitment from this person, but I still chose to hold on. Knowing this caused me to be annoyed and cast blame on myself. I singled myself out; I isolated myself in my own mind. I don’t know if I’ve ever been lonelier.

So I started thinking with my head, rather than my heart. And guess what? I’m pretty smart. I realized the type of potential I have for a relationship. I rediscovered how caring and loving and patient and pleasing I wanted to be to someone else, and how I wanted those things in return. I concluded I deserved more.

We all deserve to be in a relationship with someone who prioritizes our needs and desires amongst their own. Relationships are meant to be a partnering of two people. You give and you take. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s those relationships where the couple can work through disagreements and come out on top that actually work.

You know what you want in a relationship. If you don’t, figure it out before you try to enter into one. The heart can be a great judge sometimes, but it’s not always the most rational — especially when it comes to a lonely heart. Look at the healthy relationships around you and pinpoint what makes them successful. Look at your past, and decide what worked for you and what didn’t. This is something I’ve been doing for awhile now and I’m truly happy with my life at the moment. I’ve quieted my lonely heart by focusing on the positive friendships and family relations in my life, I’m continuing to bring my all to both my jobs, and I’m not worrying where my “soul mate” is or what he’s doing or why he’s not presently in my life.

So that’s my advice, guys: Think with your mind for awhile and make a clear approach to the type of successful love life you want to have. And most importantly, don’t settle for anything less.

Calling Out Toxic Relationships

Certain behaviors are incompatible with a healthy relationship, be it a friendship or romantic. Relationships that are the most debilitating and unhealthy give you the feeling that you’re not being taken care of spiritually, mentally, or physically. At least, not in the ways you should.

I think we’ve probably all been in those relationships where we just don’t feel like ourselves. It’s almost like your authentic self is withering away while you try to appease the other person with a faux version of you. We give away our power to other people sometimes, and becoming someone another person wants us to be rather than the person we are is giving them ALL the power.

The word “toxic” means something drains the life and energy from someone. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you grow weaker and more feeble as you subject yourself to the whim of the person you’ve given your power. That desire to be agreeable is actually suffocating the real you!

All relationships can open our eyes to new perspectives and expand our awareness of society, but some relationships simply shut you in and hinder your development. Certain people are not assets in your life; some are liabilities. Your intuition tells you this, but we don’t always listen, do we? Sometimes the voice inside our head saying change and growth is good can be stifled by self-judgment and fear instilled by those in our lives. It is when you realize this voice is a good thing, however, that you also recognize that you cannot develop healthy relationships before first cutting off these unhealthy ones.

Now there are a few signs to decide whether or not your relationship with another person is toxic. The obvious signs are physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, cheating, lying, and stealing. However, a toxic relationship is any one which causes you to feel isolated, sad, trapped, criticized, or afraid.

Sometimes this means that you feel you can never do anything right. Your friend or partner constantly put you down as not good enough. This sort of treatment might even lead you to begin acting the judging person and acting in ways not true to your character. Or you may simply go into a shell and try to hide the personality traits being mocked and become only part of the person you truly are.

Another sign is when you feel uncomfortable simply being yourself around the other person. You can’t speak your mind, you can’t participate in the things you love, you can’t go to the places you love, you can’t chew the type of gum you like, etc. When you have to put on a different face just to be accepted by this person, then something in the relationship is wrong.

The biggest sign to me is when everything is about the other person, and never about you. Have you ever heard the song “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith? Yeah, it’s great to talk about other people and learn what’s going on in their lives, but you have feelings too! Listen to the conversations you have with this person. If the conversation is completely one-sided — meaning your opinions are not being heard, considered, or respected — then the other person does not care about your side. If they don’t inquire about you and your life, then why keep caring about theirs? This behavior just leaves you feeling isolated.

The reason a toxic relationship is not ideal for anyone is because it does not allow you to grow or change. Is the other person encouraging and supporting your efforts to grow and improve yourself? Evaluate the relationship and be honest — what is the worth of this relationship to you?

Embrace the answers that come from your intuition. Your own conscience is going to want what’s best for you, unlike the friend or partner of your toxic relationship. Don’t sit in an uncomfortable or unsettling relationship until the effects of isolation and sadness push you into a depression. Take deliberate action according to your gut feeling.  You won’t be sorry.

20 Things Not To Do After a Break Up

If there’s one thing that we all know, it’s that breakups suck. The hardest part is, no matter what side of the break up you’re on, the effects will eventually hit you and it won’t be pretty. It’s up to you how you choose to handle your sad feelings, and there are many options from which to choose. In hindsight, I may not have chosen the best options every day after my break ups, but now I’m all the wiser and able to provide some insight (along with the helpful suggestions from conversations with my friends) on 20 things you definitely should not do while navigating a break up.

1. Date just because everyone says you should

Just because your friends and family are constantly asking when you’re going to “get back on the saddle” does not mean you have to start dating again. No matter the pressure, date only when and whom you want; don’t let the free dinner and drinks get in the way. Maybe you’re simply not ready or maybe you want to spend time on other things.

2. Be depressed in public
No one wants to be seen with someone with visible tear stains on their cheeks and a frown that could make Droopy cringe. There’s a big chance that your friends invited you out to get your mind off everything so don’t let them down! Smile, flirt, throw your head back and laugh; be confident and irresistible no matter the war raging in your head.

3. Stop caring about your appearance
We’ve all seen the movie with the heartbroken girl sobbing into a gallon of ice cream, right? So cliche, but also so true! I know just how tempting a pint of cinnamon roll Ben & Jerry can be, and hey, go for it every now and then! Enjoy wearing those sweatpants and not having to suck it in with Spanx. Just make sure you don’t host ice cream socials on a daily basis. You might be hating your ex right now, but those feelings can quickly become self-loathing thoughts after too many binges.

4. Care too much about your appearance
In the opposite scheme, it’s a good thing to be lazy and disgusting every now and then. Lounge around the house for a day, forget to comb your hair, don’t shave your legs, because guess what? No one cares! Everyone has their own lives to live and no one will be completely focused on you and your appearance 24/7.

Find a balance for yourself: hit the gym, eat healthy, binge appropriately, relax and enjoy life. There’s nothing wrong with you and the way you look; you’re one damn good-looking single individual and you know it!

5. Lower your standards when you do decide to date
Take this newly found “you” time to raise your standards in a future mate. Don’t date someone who is damaged, a player, or a potential project. You have neither the time nor patience to actually settle for such a person, so why not aim for the moon?

6. Drunk text your ex (or text your ex in general)
I am a known supporter of the statement, “Nothing good comes from texting.” A person cannot hear the tone behind a text which can result in unwarranted fights, some texts don’t send right away causing a whole mess of potential scenarios, and texting can even kill behind the wheel. I much prefer hearing another person’s actual voice. But no matter the circumstance, nothing good ever comes from being drunk and owning a cellphone.

Whether you’re drunk or not, just don’t converse with your ex. He/she could end up saying nothing, but they could also say something you don’t want/need to hear, or say the perfect thing and get you right back into a chaotic web. Leave them alone for awhile so you can familiarize yourself with your singleness — you might actually find out that the break up was for the best!

7. Casually hook up with your ex
Ladies and gents… Just. No. Hooking up will not convince your ex to get back with you. Instead, it’ll only leave you feeling worse than before. Respect yourself and don’t go back to someone who didn’t fight for you in the first place.

8. Innocently (but not really) think your ex and you can still be “just friends”
Here are a few reasons why it is virtually impossible to be friends with an ex:

  • You honestly think you’ll be happy when your ex starts dating again? No way, and unfortunately real friends want each other to be happy.
  • There are too many memories, inside jokes, and emotions in the past to allow for a fresh start. You’re more likely to fall into old dating patterns even when not romantically involved.
  • Admit it or not, attempting to be friends with your ex leads to false hope in an already-failed relationship.
  • Think of it this way: your ex and you broke up for a reason. You’ve had your heart broken because you’ve discovered this person is not right for you, even though you wanted them to be. Why not invest your time and energy in the people who make you happy, not the ones who have hurt you deeply?

We all know the line “Let’s just be friends” is easy enough to say, but is simply meant to ease the pain of a broken heart. It is not supposed to be taken as a promise.

9. Rebound into a serious relationship
Coming straight out of a long-term relationship and attempting to enter another is means for disaster. You’re bringing a lot of baggage with you. It’s unfair to the new person who is interested in a happy ending. Work through your issues first and then look to devote your heart to someone else.

10. Seek revenge
Revenge is a petty action. Don’t be a petty person — don’t get even, get over it. Focus your time on yourself not on the waste who left you.

11. Drive by your ex’s home, friends’ homes, place of employment, baseball field, etc.
For those of you who read the above and hung your heads: be not ashamed! Such undeniably crazy behavior is one that a lot of heartbroken individuals find themselves participating. I’ve done it (in the form of borrowing a friend’s car and driving past my ex’s regular hangout at the time he usually arrived while drinking an actual-hot-chocolate-but-in-a-coffee-cup-for-coolness-factor and pretending I was an out-of-state tourist lost and confused while circling the block), my hard-ass best friend has done it, even my independent and self-declared asexual ex-roommate has done it. Be crazy once or twice, but then stop.

12. Stalk social media
So you think you’re too smart to stalk your ex physically, eh? But what about social media? In a world of constant contact, this no-do is one of the most obvious, but also one of the most destructive.

Don’t go probing into what you ex has been up to. Don’t self-righteously unfriend them just to type their name into the search bar, flip through as many pictures their privacy setting allows, and count how many likes/comments they have made to members of the opposite sex (“He went where with who!?”)

My advice? Block your ex, their closest friends, and their family. It is simply way too easy to track your ex through these outlets and you don’t need that! And honestly, just avoid social media completely right after a breakup. There is nothing helpful with seeing another engagement notice, or baby announcement, or picture of you with your ex.

13. Spontaneously reinvent yourself
Whether it be a drastic new hair-do, moving across the globe, or not remembering how you acquired that full-sleeve tattoo and nipple piercing, everyone goes through the phase of wanting to become someone completely new after a big break up. The problem? In most cases you’ll end up with a lot of regret and cringe-worthy pictures splashed all over the Internet.

Instead of making small changes in yourself, work towards something larger. Become Mister/Miss Determination. Choose to become super successful in your career, pick up interesting and unique hobbies, or work on your physique to make your ex know exactly how much they let go.

14. Become a floozy
If there’s anything worse than being the depressed friend, it’s being the group whore. It seems the longer the committed relationship, the less likely a person will be ready for anything too serious right away. Instead, some people decide to have no commitment with anyone and just let it all hang out. Not a good idea, folks. Stay away from the potential STDs and pregnancies and come to terms with your life. Respect yourself and you’ll respected by others. I may or may not be thinking of a specific friend in this instance…

15. Share “your love story” with everyone you meet
Everyone likes gossip, but no one really need to know how you’ve been wronged. Talk about a snooze fest! Save your heart-to-hearts with your best friends, mom, dog, or journal. The longer you keep holding onto “your story,” the longer it will take you to move on.

16. Answer “I’m fine.” to every question directed at you
(This is probably the #1 uh-oh on my list…) Even though it’s no one’s business, people will ask how you are doing and what happened in the break up. Here’s a secret: you are not obliged to give them an answer! You don’t have to lie, saying you’re okay and you’ve moved on and you couldn’t be happier. You’ll only be hiding a problem and giving yourself false reassurance. Simply tell people you’re working on you and don’t feel like talking about anything yet. Only say “I’m fine.” when you truly are!

17. Wallow forever
Like I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with going through the acceptance phase and crying your heart out a few times. However, don’t sit in this phase forever. Listen to Miranda’s mama and go fix your makeup and start actin’ like a lady. The world isn’t quitting for you — might as well take it on and save yourself in the process.

18. Spend all your savings for self-discovery
With break up comes an entourage of new friends: self-help books, trending mediation exercises and yoga poses, and inspirational movies. Don’t take your solace in the form of emptying your savings account though! Unlike Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love, why not take a short weekend and go camping or to a spa? You’ll find your alone time, indulge in the finer things of life, and not break the bank. It’s a win-win!

19. Hold on to memorabilia
I’m not saying to dump all the keepsakes, but put those memory-triggers out of the public eye. Just like with anything unhealthy, now is a time to detox.

In my own experience, I felt much better after the memorabilia was absent. I found a slightly-abused box to put all my pictures, notes, and various memories and asked my father to place it in our attic. (I’ve lived in my parents’ house for 22 years and have never ventured up there…) I want to be able to show my future children who my first love was, but I didn’t want the temptation of crying over our past so soon after the break up.

20. Focus on the relapses
Relapses happen. Especially around anniversaries, birthdays, half-anniversaries, family holidays, annual cookout events, etc. You get the picture. The key is to remind yourself that you are not with your ex anymore for a reason. Choose to keep moving forward and live a happy life without that person.

Enjoy being single. It’s an adventure! Revel in the freedom of being able to make decisions without having to include someone else. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and enjoy being around you. Start doing things for yourself, like traveling, reading a novel, or going to the spin classes you never had time to do before.

Keep yourself together. Don’t lose yourself in the heartbreak. Respect yourself and present yourself with poise. Know that you are perfectly capable of being alone and are happy to do so, because ultimately, you will want to love and be loved again. In order to be loved, you have to love yourself first.

Staying Adrift in a Sea of Compliments

“If you live off a man’s compliments, you’ll die by his criticism.” -Cornelius Lindsey

I think every girl goes through a phase where she hits rock bottom in the “self esteem” department. For some this phase is during those awkward middle school years, or perhaps during her first few relationships. For others the phase may stretch into her adulthood and not only detriment the majority of her relationships, but also her career and social life. Still, others may never truly overcome their low self esteem and live in a fear of never being enough for their entire life.

I classify myself in the first category. I have recognized that when, after my first long-term relationship ended, I had hit rock bottom. I didn’t even find myself having low self esteem; I had no self esteem.

Looking back, this fact saddens me. Not only did I believe myself incapable of ever finding love again, I also criticized my body, my appearance, my abilities, and my reputation. With this kind of thinking, it’s now easy to see how I allowed certain people into my life who had no benefit to my overall health and success so soon after the breakup.

I had such a sour outlook on myself that the only real sustenance I consumed were compliments. There is one case in specific I’d like to share: I was dating this guy who really knew how to articulate his “feelings” well. It seemed that everything I wanted to hear, he said. I was told how beautiful I am, how strong, how determined, how special of a person I am with unlimited potential and capabilities. All these things were the exact opposite of how I felt at the time. For a girl whose mirror is so clouded with fear and sadness, these compliments became more than they were meant to be; these compliments became my life line.

To ensure my caloric-fill of compliments, I made some poor life choices. I visited the bar with this guy almost every night for a month. I starved my body of real nutrition to fend off any “fat thoughts.” I completed the bare minimum in all my coursework, denied myself of sleep in fear of dreaming, and focused more on my outward appearance than on my inner stability. I became an empty shell whose only fill was smooth words. So it’s no wonder that when the relationship ended and the compliments ceased, I felt as if I was drowning.

As I waded through the crowds, sometimes a kind statement or small gesture kept me afloat. However, I began to find that no compliment truly ebbed my insecurities. This revelation was what I had been seeking. It was as if a mountain peak had finally caught my attention. It took only a few moments to decide I didn’t want to drown, so I started to swim towards the island.

The salt-water of compliments changed to the fresh-water of clear thinking. As my swim neared the island, I found my feet skimming sandbars. I was able to stand, on my own, with my own two feet. I didn’t need any flotation devices, and I definitely didn’t need anyone’s assistance. I stood strong. I stood proud. I had won.

In hindsight, it is still unclear to me what finally caused that mountain to peak. Maybe I had a dream, or God answered a prayer through a simple meandering thought. It doesn’t really matter though. What matters is that I was once completely lost, living on compliments, and focusing solely on what the world thought of me. I didn’t care what I thought about myself. And then, out of the blue, I questioned new aspects of life and my reality shifted.

One of the biggest questions for me was this: why is it that it seems some people believe only the best about themselves, while others, especially women, seize onto the most self-critical thoughts they can come up with? Well, ladies, it may actually be a physical and intellectual habit that we cannot control. In our brains there is this thing called the anterior cingulate cortex (I’m no scientist, I just know how to use Google…) that actually causes judgmental thoughts and negative thinking. In women, this part of our brain is actually larger and more influential than that in men. It helps us observe the emotions in others, so it’s like we’re built to be responsive to the needs of those around us. We are more emotionally sensitive by nature, especially with disapproval and rejection.

So it is no wonder that my rock-bottom came after my love was rejected. My womanly worry overtook me. Yet, even in the worst of times, I somehow managed to navigate life fairly well, graduate college, earn an income, and strengthen the most meaningful relationships with my friends and family. I could walk without weaving and chew without spitting. I continued to live.

No amount of flattery can undo the progress I have made in approving of myself and loving who I have become. A kind word here or there can still make me blush, but I no longer intake those compliments to fill my heart or build myself up. Though the future is full of crashing waves, I won’t be knocked back down. I am who I am, and I could not be happier.

5 Lies I’ve Been Telling Myself

It isn’t a secret, but it also hasn’t been made into public news: I am now single. After four years and an engagement, my life has completely changed and in all honesty, I sometimes feel as if I am living a roller coaster. Some days I could not be happier, and others I am a sniffling puddle of a woman.

In time my wounds will heal, but as I wait I find myself becoming more aware of what my past relationship truly was and was not. I have never had to go through a heartbreak before, but I have begun to learn some very valuable lessons during my emotional recovery — sometimes love just ain’t enough.

The end of my relationship left me feeling lost and confused. So much so that I have found myself grasping to any fringe of hope connected to the past. But no more! It is time to break from the repeated lies I have been telling myself and honestly try to move on with my life…

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