… and then I let them hurt me. How can I end this cycle?
Our elder has some strategies to help a letter writer find her self worth.
Dear elders, I am 19 years old and a self-proclaimed serial monogamist. I have always had a boyfriend or a fling of some sort. In college, I have realized a new strange pattern about all the guys I date. They’re either social outcasts (what most people would call weirdos), struggle with mental illness, or a combination of both. I do not see these men as charity cases and I genuinely enjoyed their company. I struggled with mental illness myself in high school and don’t judge these men harshly as some folks may, but as life would have it, obviously these men don’t work out. Hurt people hurt people and I end up getting mistreated and in the end usually, don’t get an apology unless I aggressively contact them explaining why they owe me one because these men are usually cowards. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results so of course, it’s dumb of me to think I can date mentally ill weirdos and expect not to get hurt again. The thing is, before I seek out a guy that doesn’t have serious issues I want to fix the problem within myself. I will think I am over these men and then something like a follow from one of them on social media or a text from an unknown number will send a surge of anxiety through my chest, only to figure out it’s nothing which I know if I’m over them is not normal. Sometimes I feel like I can’t stop living in the past. What I’m really asking is, how can I stop being scared of my ex-boyfriends trying to re-enter my life? How can I assure myself that I am strong enough to not allow them to hurt me again? How can I finally move on and be single happily without feeling the need to prove something to them? I understand nobody at EWC is a therapist so any and all help with this is appreciated.
You are correct on a couple of points. You have correctly quoted Einstein’s definition of insanity, but keep in mind it’s not the only definition. You are also correct that we cannot give professional advice (I couldn’t anyhow since I’m not a therapist). But I think therapy would do you some good. You mentioned mental health in high school, but you didn’t get into any details (not necessary here). But as a layperson, I would be willing to bet you didn’t get to that dark mental place by yourself, so it stands to reason there is no need to get to a better place alone. I think therapy would do you good. Certainly, more good than a single email from me would do. But, I’m not just going to suggest you get some help and leave it at that. I do have a couple of ideas that may (or may not) help. Here goes.
In my opinion, the reason you seem to need the closure of an apology is because you simply don’t have enough confidence (love) for yourself. You’ve been looking for that confirmation of your worth outside yourself, not realizing that kind of confirmation won’t work. If you don’t love and respect yourself, you open the door for others to not love or respect you. You need to believe in yourself and trust yourself. Trust your gut. It knows what is right and what is wrong for you. Trust your gut. It almost always has the right answer. Don’t do anything that your gut tells you is wrong for you no matter who wants you to do it. Trust your heart but use your head. If you do that, you will be OK.
The therapy will help you get there. But, an old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” I have a suggestion for that first, single step. Take a piece of paper and a pencil. Write down 10 things you like about yourself or 10 things you feel you are very good at. Post that list someplace where you will see it each and every morning while you get dressed for the day (absolutely not on social media, I said paper and pencil). Then, each and every morning, read that list two times. The first time to yourself, silently, and the second time out loud. Yes, I agree, it sounds very, very silly. But, for a reason I cannot explain, it works. What happens is that if you do this, during the day, at those times when you feel low or insecure, or afraid, that list will pop into your mind, and you will realize you aren’t so bad, and everything will be OK. Every couple of weeks, edit the list. Add something, take out something. Keep it fresh. I have suggested this to others who have written in asking for advice. They have written back to me that it actually works. I don’t know why, but it does. It works. Try it. You have nothing to lose… except your fear.
Lastly, as for relationships that don’t work out, you need to keep in mind that it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. It only means you weren’t right for him. Here is an analogy that I, personally, love. A man discovers a diamond in the earth, but through ignorance or short-sightedness, he believes it to be a worthless stone and throws it away. Doesn’t this tell us more about the man than the diamond? If you are the diamond (which you are) and someone does not see the value in you, it doesn’t lessen your value any more than the diamond loses its value.
You don’t need a man to be whole. They are nice, but not necessary. If you love yourself enough, then the good ones come around. I hope what I’ve written helps you, even if it’s only a little bit. I hope things work out for you. Feel free to write us back if you ever need advice in the future. Good luck.
Letter #: 449479