“I am still here because I refuse to let anything or anyone decide what I get to have. I am still here because I refuse to let my trauma have the last word. I am still here because I will not let a nightmare have more power than my dreams. I am still here because I didn’t allow the hard time to make me weak; I willed it to make me strong. You can survive losing a piece of your heart without losing the core of who you are. More than merely surviving the loss, you can thrive.” ~ Rachel Hollis
While Paris is known for being the city of romance, one of my best friends and I found love in a different sense when we visited. For both of us, it was proving to ourselves that love didn’t define us. Proving to ourselves we had the strength to survive abusive relationships from men who wanted to break us. Proof that we could still enjoy life without having to be validated by others of where our lives were or comparing it. An accomplishment that there was a whole world out there that can be enjoyed while being single. The truth we both came to realize was that it’s better to be lonely than in a toxic relationship. I will always admire the great example my friend set for me in traveling to every place her ex and her went and replacing it with new memories. She’s an inspiration to me in that way and has helped me find my value in pushing me out of my comfort zone. Our struggles build character and not allowing another person break you takes strength.
In our romance obsessed culture, it takes strength to be alone. Being surrounded by unrealistic entertainment, love songs, the commercial world, it all paints an unrealistic picture of what love is. Yes, love exists. Yes, it requires work. Yes, it’s hard. But the bottom line is love is proven through action and it either builds the other one up, supports them, cherishes them, encourages them or it isn’t true love. While we are all shaped by how we are raised, we have a choice whether to follow bad patterns or to evolve and become more. Loneliness can be hard to handle some days. No matter what your focus is as a women when there is no man involved you have to constantly defend that. Throughout my whole life, I constantly settled in what I deserved from men thinking my life couldn’t be complete without being a relationship. Sadly over and over I was abused, hurt, lied to and crushed, all in the faith that if I give all of me I will get the same back. No more. The truth is that we all have choices in how we allow ourselves to be treated and if someone doesn’t value you, respect you and give back what you give them they aren’t worth your time.
For me, it took having a daughter to raise my standards, who is looking to me to be her protector, role model, and example. I would allow myself to be treated badly, but when it came to her, I would not allow anyone to cause her pain. She deserves better and taught me that so do I. While being a single mom is very hard most days, at least I can go to bed each night her knowing we’re safe, that we don’t need men to complete our life and specifically don’t need men who don’t know how to love wholeheartedly and care enough to give their all. Break the cycle.
Even through all the pain I’ve experienced, I still will always believe in love and see plenty of healthy relationships around me to know it exists in the world. But, the most valuable lesson all women need to remind their selves is that your first must be to love yourself and be secure enough to be content being alone. Go to dinner alone, a movie, a trip, prove to yourself that you are strong enough to enjoy life independently. Too many women stay in bad relationships out of fear, for financial reasons, caring too much what others think, for their kids and don’t realize that you are giving up a part of themselves to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Be an inspiration to others, your children, your family, your friends in knowing sometimes you have to walk away. It’s not a weakness, but rather a strength in believing in yourself that no one has the right to hurt you in any way. Change and mistakes are a great opportunity for growth that should be admired.
Be your own hero of your fairy tale. Find your value. Dig deep for the strength to not always take the easiest route. Learn to love yourself and while you will never be perfect, you can be enough. Let no one define you but yourself.