I used to spend a great deal of my time pining after a perfect romantic relationship, which I have since discovered doesn’t exist. But that didn’t stop sixth-grade me from writing countless diary entries about the boy in my Spanish class who had sparkly blue eyes and an unhealthy obsession with fantasy football (which I enjoy myself, but this kid was intense). One day, as we were leaving our middle school art class, I asked a mutual friend to ask my crush if he liked me back. He responded that he didn’t. Turns out he liked—not one—but two girls who were not me (one on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other on Wednesdays and Thursdays was his rationale, if anyone is curious about the logistics). After this happened, I went straight to my journal. He’s got a sensitive side, so he’s probably just scared of his feelings! I wrote in my diary, defending myself and my questionable type. Once I got older and my relationships and potential relationships became more mature, I found myself continuing this same pattern. People would show that they were wrong for me, but I would continue to idealize them in my head. I would make excuses in the name of something I thought was love (or something mutually fulfilling at the very least), but was really just infatuation. Like many others I know, I have been guilty a few times of wanting something even though I knew it was bad for me. This was how I not only got my heart broken, but broke my own heart when I knew better deep down.
There’s no getting around it—heartbreak sucks. Rejection sucks. Feeling like you’re not good enough for the person you once prioritized and appreciated immensely is beyond difficult to handle. This feeling can come from losing a friend, romantic partner, or even getting rejected from a college or job. Everyone copes differently. In my experience, I have battled loneliness and low self-worth in the aftermath of such situations. Heartache can make you feel like you’re going crazy, like you can’t get out of bed, or like your mind won’t stop racing. It can make you feel all of these things at once and more. But what I didn’t realize until I reached the other side is that it can also teach you so much.
Any new time I get my heart broken, I have to relearn this fact. At the same time, I learn a new lesson unique to the situation. These lessons are extremely valuable because you can’t get them from just love itself. As I have discovered and am still discovering, sometimes you have to hurt in order to grow. Some of the most valuable things I’ve learned about love I have learned from getting my heart broken. I am only 19, so I’m sure I’m not through with my life’s heartbreaks, but I am getting stronger with each one. On that note, here are a few of the things heartbreak has taught me so far.
It’s okay to miss something without wanting it back.
For a sentimental person/hopeless romantic like myself, this is a lesson that I often need a refresher on. Even so, getting my heart broken has taught me that it is totally valid to miss people or miss the way they were. I allowed myself to feel through things like sadness, nostalgia, and frustration. I let myself think things along the lines of remember the time we did…? Appreciating the good times for what they were can be part of the healing process. But at the same time, you have to be able to appreciate the good times while also recognizing that other times weren’t so great. Maybe some of these things are even indicative of why a relationship is over or why a certain period of your life is behind you. It is a beautiful thing that these memories made you happy when they did, but accept the fact that you are learning and growing in ways that will make you capable of having even better memories. If you can be so happy with the wrong thing, imagine how happy you can be with the right one.
If you look at things with a grateful attitude, life becomes easier.
I subscribe to the mindset that bitterness and animosity, especially when unnecessary and unwarranted, make things more difficult. In the wake of a heartache, it is easy to succumb to your negative feelings. I’m definitely guilty of doing so. But I’ve found that looking at things through a positive lens can change so much. It’s easier said than done of course, but practice this mindset whenever you can. Like anything, mastering it comes with time. Try to avoid holding grudges and going over countless what-if’s. Instead of focusing on what you lost, appreciate what you had and what you learned at a given time and how it can better you going forward. Don’t beat yourself up. Mistakes don’t make you a bad person and feeling a certain way doesn’t make you wrong. Forgive yourself and resolve to do better for yourself and the people who care about you, whether that “better” means a healthier relationship or just a new way of thinking about relationships past and future.
The bad news is, you can’t make someone like, validate, or understand you. The good news is, it doesn’t matter.
This is a big one for me. I care a lot about people and making them happy, so when someone doesn’t like me, doesn’t reciprocate the feelings I have for them, or doesn’t give the same energy as I do, it is easy for me to shut down. But over time I learned that it isn’t possible to get along with everyone, or even have a successful relationship with everyone (regardless of how badly you want to). Some people aren’t compatible. Some people meet each other during an inopportune time or under inconvenient circumstances. As I’ve learned, you can’t make people like you. But as long as you’re continuing to be kind and true to who you are, that doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. I promise. And I’ll get to why.
You will love again and deserve to. One day, you will be surrounded by love.
As hard as it is to suffer more than one heartbreak, the fact that I have been through it multiple times has taught me, if nothing else, that I am capable of loving again and again. When you are feeling the gloom of something’s ending, it is easy to catastrophize and think irrational thoughts. For example, even though I knew deep down it wasn’t true, I used to fall into the trap of thinking I would be unable to find anyone new after something ended. Or I would think I deserved a bitter ending rather than another chance at happiness. If you have ever felt anything similar, it isn’t true. You will love again and deserve to. One day, you will be surrounded by it in a way that you never felt was possible.
In fact, you already are.
Listen up, because this might be the single most important lesson I have learned and still am learning when dealing with heartbreak. Like I mentioned before, I used to dream about having a perfect romantic relationship. Not only does such a thing not exist, but you and I would find ways to be fulfilled without it anyway. To quote the movie my Jewish mom and I watch every Christmas Eve, “When you stop to look around, love actually is all around us.” As cheesy as this quote and rom-coms can be, it is extremely accurate. I’ve felt love cooking dinner with my Nana. I’ve felt love jet skiing with my cousin, and not just because she doesn’t say anything about how loudly I yell into her ear. I’ve felt love singing along in the car with friends. I’ve felt love driving into New York City or taking my dog for a walk. And if you think about your own life, you’ll realize that you have these little glimpses of bliss too. And the little moments are the ones that mean the most, because they tend to remind us of the possibilities that exist for feelings of happiness.
And you need to find that love within yourself, first and foremost.
Okay, I lied, this one’s super important too. In the past, I have struggled a lot with my self-worth. It took me a while to realize that this was impacting all sorts of relationships in my life. If you don’t have that respect for yourself, it’s hard to see what you deserve. Again, this one’s easier said than done, but try to remind yourself often that you are doing your best. You are a person with a heart (regardless of how it bends or breaks!) and with aspirations and goals and so much to offer. And if you can’t do that yet, throw yourself into doing things that make you happy. And surround yourself with people that make you feel like the best version of yourself. With choices like this, you will come to realize that you are so much more than anyone that hurts you. But you are also more than a romantic partner’s ability or wishes to make you happy. My aunt and close friend reminds me of this constantly, telling me that finding happiness and security in someone else can be beautiful, but that will mean nothing if you don’t have that within yourself first. If you don’t feel worthy, someone else insisting that you are won’t have the same value. So, do what you can to remember that you are worth it. Even the littlest steps are enough.
I’m really only scratching the surface here. But, if there is one thing that I can drill into your head, it’s that you are deserving of fulfilling and heart-healing love. In fact, you already have it.
#1: What I looked like in middle school, when I first became exposed to learning lessons from love (or what I thought was love)
#2: A picture I took on my most recent trip to New York City
#3: A picture of me and my aunt
Image Credit: Feature, Author