For years, I found comfort in my identity as a giver. I saw myself as a nurturer. I didn’t need help, because I could take care of myself and everyone else. This was my badge of honor. But I eventually realized that this was just a mask for how I truly felt. I didn’t believe that I deserved to be loved, to be cared for, so instead, I took it upon myself to love everyone and convince myself that I didn’t need anything in return.
It’s no surprise that I fell in love with the opposite of my overeager, overgiving self. I gave too eagerly; he took too eagerly.
All breakups have challenges, but the shame that comes from realizing you spent months or years of your life abandoning your values, your boundaries, and yourself can take a long time to move through. For a long time, I couldn’t see myself as anything other than pathetic.
But I couldn’t live like that forever. Even when I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, the negativity was bubbling away under the surface, and it was exhausting me, draining the life out of me. How could I get back to being the bright, confident girl I used to be? How could I learn to see my own value again?
I tried everything I could think of—therapists, healers, shopping, dating, travel, wine—to get out of the doldrums and start living again. I tried everything except the one thing that would let me move on. It’s always the last thing you try that solves the problem. There’s no two ways about that.
When I’d thrown away so much money, time, and energy that I had to try something else, I finally got really honest with myself. I stared the cold, hard truth right in the face.
I had to forgive the bastard. I knew it. And I knew that would mean digging up the pain, the shame, and the heartbreak of that experience. That’s why I’d tried everything else I could before I hacked into the nitty-gritty. But facing my shadow—doing the hardest thing I could possibly imagine—was the only thing that could prove to me that I deserved better.
Here’s the process that finally helped me heal and move on: