“Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande is one of those songs you can’t help but sing. The song is an ode to past relationships that made Ari who she is today. About the 30th (or so) time I heard the song, I started to think about what I learned from my past relationships and how they’ve shaped who I am today.
My list of relationships past is long and paved with many dead ends, heartbreak, and turmoil. I’d like to tell you I learned something different from each one, but the truth is I often made the same mistake over and over again with different men.
I did not make good choices with men.
It took me a long time to come to that conclusion and even longer to vocalize that realization. From a young age, I knew what a healthy and loving relationship looked like. I was raised to be very independent. I didn’t have “Daddy issues.” So why did I keep making bad choices?
I’ve never experienced severe trauma in my relationships. I knew there were things I absolutely would not tolerate without question, such as physical abuse or control. I was never scared. But it is clear to me now that I didn’t value myself in most of these relationships. I was always apologizing-even when it wasn’t my fault. I constantly put the needs of the other person before my own. I often suppressed my true feelings to avoid conflict. I never wanted to give up on whatever relationship that I was in. I allowed these men to make me feel like I was not enough. I lived in fear that I would lose the person I was with and that they would find someone better than me.
After the (many) mistakes of my early twenties, I knew that I needed to figure some things about myself and I wanted a clear mind to do it. I avoided dating completely. I spent a lot of time alone or with my friends and family. I really got to know and love who I was as a person. I learned my strengths, my faults, and the value I bring to all relationships. I journaled a lot. I traveled alone. I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I became incredibly comfortable with who I was. And I started to fall in love with myself.
After years of therapy, self-improvement work, and a lot of time alone, I began to understand that I am enough. Actually, I’m more than enough. For the last four years, I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man. I was not looking for him or any type of relationship at all when he showed up in my life. And when he showed up, I couldn’t ignore him or the way I felt about him. I knew he was different. His favorite thing about me is my confidence-that I know who I am and I don’t apologize for it.
“I am enough. Actually, I’m more than enough.”
We talk through our issues. We are honest with each other-even if it hurts. We speak to each other with kindness and love. We challenge and motivate each other. We understand and respect each other’s need for alone time and self-care. We have a mutually respectful and loving relationship.
On the worst days, I remind myself that he is a good man and loves me for everything that I am-flaws and all. He’s never once asked me to change anything about myself. I know that’s he committed to me 100%. He’s supportive, genuine, and inspires me to be the best version of myself. I am happy-and not just because I am with him. I am happy because I know who I am and because I love myself.
My self-discovery process never ends. If you think about it, you’re always changing and growing. I’m not the same person I was at 21, 27, or even 30. And when 40 rolls around, I know I’ll be a different person than I am now. Learning from my past has made me stronger and it’s helped me appreciate my experiences. Every experience, good or bad, has taught me something. And from now until the day I die, I know…
I am enough.