Do You Love Me? Losing My Virginity and Searching for Approval

approval

Seeking approval is a part of being human. Maslow said being respected by others is one of our basic needs. However, particularly seeking approval of who we are from outside sources will only lead to frustration, inauthenticity, exhaustion, and feeling captive to the opinions of others. No one wants that.

But can’t it be terrifying and difficult not to care about what other people think? Heck yes! It’s scary knowing that by revealing who you are or by making a certain choice, other people may be disappointed in you, disrespect you, or dislike you. The more you love and respect someone, the harder it is.

Is it worth the risk?

I say yes. Even if it means someone doesn’t want to date or hang out with you. Even if someone thinks less of you. You will be content because you are loving and accepting yourself. In situations where it’s tempting to look to others for my worth, I always think, “This is who I am. I have shown you my authentic and vulnerable self, and if you don’t like me, there is nothing I can do about it.”

Kevin G from Mean Girls

But all of this can be told another way, a story illustrating my—disastrous—search for approval and eventual realization that “your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”

The Bad Beginning

When I was a senior in high school, I started dating my first boyfriend. Three months later, he broke up with me over text because he “couldn’t be in a relationship with me and God at the same time.” That was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard and didn’t accept it as a valid reason.

Are you serious?

Doing the exact opposite of what I should have done, I continued to pursue him. I spit in logic’s face, hopped in my car, and went 100 mph down Hormone Highway. But why would I do this?

  1. It was my first romantic relationship, and I had no idea what I was doing.
  2. Hormones. All of them.
  3. I quickly and deeply care about people—especially him—and I genuinely wanted to do whatever I could to make him happy. I thought that if I could only prove to him how much I cared, then he would want to be with me. Right? Right? Bueller?
  4. No one likes being rejected—especially those of us who always seek to be the best. The rational part of me knew I was worthy of dating him, making his rejection all the more confusing. For the majority of my life, failure just wasn’t an option. It wasn’t something that I grew from: it was a devastating example of inadequacy. Thus, I started my mission to prove my worth to him.
  5. Finally, I wanted him to accept my point of view and say he was wrong about not being able to have a relationship with me and God at the same time. We came from very different religious points of view, and his didn’t make any sense to me. Instead of just acknowledging what he believed and moving on, I argued. I pushed. I tried to persuade. Brilliant idea, right?

The Dastardly Deed

Let’s fast forward a few months to the day of my high school graduation. Not much had changed between him and me, mostly just the dating label. So how did I pull off this comeback? In the most naive and demeaning way. I knew his biggest weakness was his physical attraction toward me, so I exploited that. Because I thought if I could physically entice him into spending time with me, then I would have an opportunity to show him how much I cared about him and to talk about getting back together. Did anyone just cringe out of humiliation after reading that? Yeah, I did too.

Cringe face of Jack from Jacksfilms
We all know this isn’t going to end well.

So, it was graduation day. We were together. In my bed.

“We should have sex,” he said. Instantly, I froze. I was in no way ready for this unexpected proposition. “C’mon. Just a little. Just to see what it feels like. Please?”

Janice from Mean Girls

Even though my common sense, my morals, and my sympathetic nervous system were sounding the retreat, the part of me that thought his wanting to have sex meant that he wanted to be in a committed relationship with me—the part that desperately sought his approval—won.

A few days later I learned he was pursuing someone else. After a week of silence, he finally responded to my communication. Over text, of course. He said these words that are eternally branded into my mind. “You’re right. I used you for sex. I never really liked you.”

Cue Brenna’s self-worth shattering.

Pull out my heart

The Annihilating Aftermath

I was utterly devastated, livid, betrayed, and broken. How could he? I offered every part of myself to him, but ultimately I meant nothing. For a year after that, I was lost. Combine my bad decision making with the religious crisis that I was going through, and I started questioning everything, incapable of making a decision without asking multiple people’s advice. My friends noticed, and I felt myself losing their respect.

Even after all the pain my ex-boyfriend inflicted upon me, I spent the next seven months in an arduous, yet successful campaign to date him again. While there were many noble reasons why I did this including love and forgiveness, one was selfish—one was needing to prove I was good enough for him, and the only way I would be satisfied was if we started dating again.

The Illuminated Insight

It wasn’t until three years later when we broke up for good that I fully understood someone’s not wanting to date me doesn’t mean I am worth anything less. It doesn’t mean I am not good enough. And it definitely doesn’t mean I failed.

Asking yourself, “What could I have done better? What’s wrong with me? Did they ever really care? Why am I not good enough?” are all questions that will never lead to answers but will always lead to agony and strife. We were never getting back together, so I had to make a choice: love and accept myself, move on, and be happy or dwell and be miserable.

This mindset has revolutionized how I deal with ending relationships. Earlier this year after dating someone, he told me he didn’t want to pursue a relationship. All I responded with was, “Okay! That’s cool,” and I meant it.

  1. I’m done trying to convince people who don’t care about me that I am worthy of being cared about. It’s an emotionally exhausting sales job with zero return on investment.
  2. In a romantic sense, this man couldn’t control his feelings of indifference toward me anymore than I could control my feelings of admiration for him. How could I fault him?
  3. I have nothing to feel bad about or regret when I present myself as genuinely as possible.
  4. I consciously decide that no one is allowed to bring me down. No one controls my happiness but me.

Everyone, I implore you to experience the vast and uplifting freedom that is not letting the opinions of others determine your self-worth. I know it isn’t easy. However, you will have the courage to be authentic when you understand that you are enough. Trust me—you are.

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8 Reasons to Choose Love Over Hate: Part 2

Here is Part 1 if you haven’t already read it.

Maybe Atticus Finch said it best. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

5. Most people aren’t trying to hurt you—they’re trying to find their own happiness.

People don’t cheat on their significant other because it would be fun to hurt him or her. People don’t boast about themselves because they want everyone else to feel annoyed and inferior. People don’t lie to make others feel betrayed. They are just struggling to find happiness and making bad decisions trying to get there. Thinking about this makes you feel a lot less attacked, betrayed, and hurt.

6. People are broken

Like my last point, understanding that people are broken redirects the target of someone’s actions away from you. People have been hurt and continue to hurt. They carry the weight of their struggles with them and never heal their scars. When people are so broken that they are hurting others, they don’t need you to be angry at them—they need love, help, and empathy.

7. The fundamental attribution error

AP psychology alums will recognize the term fundamental attribution error. This is when someone overestimates the effect of someone’s personality and underestimates the effect of situation on someone’s behavior. Remembering this concept will transform the way you interact with people! Instead of quickly judging someone, which is the easy thing to do, try thinking about why someone is acting that way. Talk to him or her. Try to understand. For example, if someone is constantly crabby and negative, don’t get angry at him or her for having a bad attitude: try to understand why this person is acting that way. Maybe he or she is having relationship issues, doesn’t have enough money to pay a bill, or is even depressed. Making people feel understood is one of the best gifts you can give them.

8. You would want someone to forgive you

If you hurt someone and were sorry, wouldn’t you want someone to forgive you? Then, why won’t you do it for other people? Not forgiving people leaves a burden of anger with you like I talked about in Part 1. We all mess up; that is guaranteed. We all also deserve love and forgiveness—without a prerequisite. Even though it is difficult, when people hurt you, love them more and forgive them. Give them the freedom to try again and improve. Make people’s hurtful actions actions bring out the best in you, not the worst.

The power of empathy is immense!

Love, Brenna

8 Reasons To Choose Love Over Hate: Part 1

no time

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recently, a friend and I were talking about someone who had severely hurt me, and she asked, “Don’t you hate him?” I truthfully replied, “Not at all.” Let me share with you why it is so important to choose love and understanding over hate when someone has hurt you.

1. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There are so many better ways to use your time, especially if you are as busy as I am. Use your free time to think about important and positive things like a career goal, a book you are reading, or what you could do nice for someone today.

2. Hating people sucks your energy and weighs you down.

It takes effort to keep thinking about how upset you are at someone and talking about it over and over to your friends. Think about negativity as a parachute  attached to your back. Every time you try to move forward, it catches the air, pulls you back, and slows you down. Free yourself! Instead of feeling upset about someone who just brings negativity to your life, you could be putting your energy into relationships with people who truly care about you.

3. Hating someone isn’t hurting him or her—it’s only hurting you.

Your being angry has no effect on someone else whatsoever, but it is making you frustrated, distracted, obsessive, and negative. Moreover, your continuing to be upset isn’t moving the situation toward a resolution.

4. Sometimes, someone didn’t actually hurt you: you just don’t like what happened.

For example, so many times I have seen a guy not want to date a girl, and suddenly the guy becomes this monster. She and her friends call him a bunch of awful names and pick apart his flaws. Maybe that guy truly did things to justify feeling hurt, BUT you can’t get mad at someone just because he or she doesn’t want to date you. That doesn’t make him a bad person. Next time when you have a strong emotional reaction, take five minutes to think about what you are truly feeling and what caused you to feel that way. Are you upset, or are you actually disappointed, scared, jealous, or feeling attacked?

Make love a habit. Come back for part two, which will be up in the next few days!

Brenna

Remember who you are

Dear women,

            Soon before my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I sought the counsel of one of my professors who always helps me see life clearly and leads me in the right direction. At the end of our conversation, he said, “I think you know exactly what you need to do.” He was right. I knew almost from the very beginning of our three-and-a-half-year relationship that my ex-boyfriend and I shouldn’t be together.

When I called upon a psychologist to help me through my religious crisis, all the sessions lead up to his telling me, “You know what you truly believe, and you are never going to change.”

In both situations I spent years trying to rationalize things I knew weren’t right out of fear, social pressure, and even love. Boy, I was stressed—major cognitive dissonance! It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to live contrary to who you truly are.

Sociologist and author of “Finding Your Own North StarMartha Beck says everyone has an essential self and a social self or who we are and who we think we should be. She says our bodies give us clear signs when we are going against our essential selves. “That feeling of choked hostility, or numb depression, or nauseated helplessness is a sure sign you’re steering…toward a life you were not meant to live.”

When I finally surrendered and accepted myself, I felt such blissful freedom. Ladies, take time to truly listen to your intuition and your feelings about whatever you are dealing with. Asking a million people for their advice will only confuse you and frustrate you, and it won’t change your life. Be brave and live life the way you want to live it even if it seems scary. When you do, you will feel lighter, freer, less stressed, and more whole because there is no longer a battle going on inside of you.

Love,

Brenna