So much of how we heal after great pain depends on where we were in our lives when the painful incident happened. For this reason, the healing process looks different for everyone. None of this is universal; not every person will go through all of these processes. These processes are also not linear.
1. To love someone means to be invested in their growth as much as you are invested in your own. When you’re dumped, you are acutely aware that you wanted to make this investment when someone else did not want to make this investment with you. It is ok now to prioritise yourself in every way; you don’t have to stay friends with someone who left you.
2. Never internalize someone’s rejection as a measure of your worth. Someone ending things because they have lost feelings, don’t have strong enough feelings, can’t commit, or any variation of these things means absolutely nothing about you.
3. It’s ok to fight for a relationship to continue when you’re initially dumped. You showing commitment to a relationship and working through issues is not a weakness; it’s a strength. It’s not something to feel ashamed about; it’s something to respect deeply about yourself – you are able to connect to people, fight for relationships to continue. But…
4. Never beg someone to stay. They will show you through their own committed presence, or lack thereof, in your life exactly how much you mean to them.
5. Ego has a strange way of manifesting its presence in times of great emotional distress, especially when we feel inadequate, hopeless, helpless, or not enough. For those of us without a strong sense of self, ego serves as a shell-self, a curious protective layer from fully feeling the emotions of inadequacy, loss, or helplessness. Ego tells us it didn’t matter anyway and anesthetizes the pain. Ego tells us to be angry in order to assert a boundary, a need, or assert a temporary, external mirror of sense of independence and respect. Ego is a self-conscious thing, but not a very Self-conscious thing…so the shell-self only works for so long. For me, I felt stupid after being dumped by someone I was starting to love. “Why?” He asked. “I don’t know,” I said. Later, I knew I felt really stupid for thinking things could work out. But this is because my deep seated fears around inadequacy and not being enough were triggered through my partner dumping me. My ego knew that it had to protect me from those terrible feelings, so it settled on “well you were stupid this time for thinking it could work, and yeah, you never really know *shrug*.” The “meh” response is usually ego. But after a point, I found dating to be really difficult because I couldn’t trust anyone. After a point, when you feel you want to move on, ego prevents you from trusting others, trusting yourself, or believing in a reality where your flaws will be accepted because for so long, the role of ego was to ignore your flaws entirely to preserve, (and present at least to the external world) a sense of self. And so…
6. at this point, you will have to re-envision what love and acceptance means for you. If you always thought of other people validating you as love, you need to reconsider this. For many who are survivors, or who grew up in homes where love was often validation (and rejection meant being unloved), this is a hard lesson. Love is not validation. Love is Love is being one hundred percent invested in someone else’s growth and journey as much as you are in your own. If there are things you have trouble accepting about yourself, explore those areas. Because now is a great chance to…
7. Take stock of your flaws – without ego or self pity. Rejections immediately highlight places in our lives where we are most vulnerable. We think “I shared this hidden and secret thing with this person, and they did not like this part of me.” That may be true, but we still have to like ourselves, and see ourselves clearly. We can work to improve our flaws, not to impress someone else, but to reconnect with our idealized versions of ourselves – what would our highest selves want for us? Use that as a guiding question to work on your flaws from a place of self-love.
8. Address your flaws – kindly. It’s ok to grow and be better to yourself. If you feel inadequate in any way, just remember that there really is nothing permanently and/or deeply wrong with you. Yes, everyone has places they can work on, but that’s what dating and loving and relationships are: choosing what flaws we want to tolerate in our partners, and help them grow through. If someone rejected your specific flaws, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person or unworthy of love; it just means they couldn’t envision themselves working with you to help you through yours, or they couldn’t envision you helping them through theirs. Sometimes, this is because they have spent serious time thinking about how you both work – but sometimes? The fact that they can’t choose you is their flaw – and those are the ones that always come back or who have trouble fully letting go.
9. Let yourself respond emotionally more flexibly to how people treat you. Often, we do the opposite; we say: “this person is a good person/good to me/my best friend, so even though that was hurtful, I’m going to laugh along or pretend it wasn’t a big deal.” Eventually, friendships, connections, and relationships like this explode. Instead, learn to do the opposite: stand in the truth of your feelings without being mired in feelings as the only truth. Let your actions come from a place that answers to a higher self in you. If someone in your life hurts you, it’s ok to tell them that they hurt you – and that your needs for a relationship look different. After a breakup, learn what you need from relationships and start asserting that when you meet new people. For those dealing with a history of abandonment, it’s ok if the screen you apply to new candidates is one around commitment. It may sound boring or not exciting but guess what – it’s a need you have that deserves a place to exist if the relationship is going to work.
10. Figure out how to listen to your self-respect voice and figure out what it wants to tell the world. For me, my self respect tells me that I am enough, that I’m not inadequate, that I don’t need ego so long as I feel accountable to a higher moral self, that it’s amazing that I tried to make something work, that me being rejected is not at all a signifier of anything about me in regards to future partnerships, that I deserve to be in a relationship where I am wanted and respected as much as I offer those things to myself and to my partner, and that I am a courageous and generous individual.