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September 23, 2015 10:34 AM   Subscribe

How do I become a more positive, optimistic person who is happy with who they are?

I'm finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and need some advice how to get there.

My ex and I broke up about 10 months ago- I absolutely adored him and in a lot of ways, he was what I was looking for in a partner: an amazing sense of humor, kindness, a good, supportive family, spiritual, intelligent. The main issue was, well frankly, he wasn't that into me. Oh, he told me he loved me every day and was even affectionate at times, but he couldn't make up his mind if he wanted to be with me long-term and his ambivalence permeated in all aspects of our relationship. He was hot and cold, he'd push me away, and it turned me into an insecure mess. Looking back, I certainly don't accept all the blame for the relationship's demise, but wish I had been more assertive in my needs. And it sucked being with someone who made me feel like I wasn't good enough, which I think has contributed to my diminished self-esteem.

My ex and I haven't spoken in a while now. The little I do know is that he's been dating a string of much younger, hotter girls since me. We tried to remain friends after the breakup, but I realized that it was impossible for me. Several months ago, I decided to once and for all cut him out of my life for good. I'm ready to find that life partner and as much as I was hoping that it would be him, I realized that was never going to happen. I had always felt like the one who wanted the commitment more and I always felt like he was using me until something better came along.

In the past 6 years, I've had two longish term relationships with guys that I loved deeply who both ended up breaking my heart because they lost interest. I just can't help but take that personally. After this last breakup, I seemed to have lost that spark and confidence that I once had. I had hoped so much that we would be able to work things out, and that didn't happen. Now it's difficult to get my hopes up about anything. I'm still independent, but I just feel like the wind is out of my sails and I don't know how to get it back.

I feel like I'm carrying this negativity with me everywhere. I catch myself complaining to friends and to my family. I go on dates and never hear back; probably because I'm somehow emitting these negative vibes.

I want to get to that place where I know I'm the one that got away and it's their loss! I want to be that bubbly woman again that loves life. I know what I want in a long-term partner, but I just don't know how to go about getting myself to that place where I can accept love, be open to it, and to recognize it.


Note: I'm in therapy, have been for a while, but I just don't feel like it's helping. It's mainly me discussing how frustrated I am with life.
posted by Lillypad331 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I always recommend to my coaching clients that they take a break from dating and from looking, usually at least 6 months. I have them pick a date and it is NON NEGOTIABLE. This takes the pressure off and they can go about other business for 180 days.

Also, sometimes to get out of your head, you need to get into your body.

Are you working out on a regular basis?
If not going to the gym are you at least getting out and breaking a sweat doing something 3 times a week, if not more?
Are you surrounding yourself with positive people? I recommend MeetUp to find other snowflakes that are into what you're into, no matter what that is.
Are you giving? I also recommend doing volunteer work at least one day a month to just FEEL GOOD and get those Feel Good chemicals swimming in your blood stream. Sometimes your body forgets :)

I firmly believe that the above will get you back on the positivity track in no time.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

What do you value about yourself that has nothing to do with whether guys want to get with you?

Make a genuine list. Make it as long as you need to. Ask your friends and family for help (seriously! People are really nice about this if you allow yourself to be vulnerable).

Then think about things that make you feel more like those things. So if you are good at your job, think about ways that you can measure that and reinforce that to yourself. If you are kind to people, look for opportunities to be kind.

And just...let yourself be angry and vulnerable about this and just feel shitty about it for a while. It's ok to be mad. You must be mad as hell at this guy, and that is fine and totally appropriate.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:47 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't be the first on the green to recommend the book Feeling Good (and I do think it's valuable).

But Anthony de Mello's Awareness may be more helpful right now. It's easy to read (even in bits and pieces), and it addresses issues of what happiness really is.

It's not at all limited to relationships. It's more about reaching a fundamental state of acceptance and contentment. You say:
I want to be that bubbly woman again that loves life.

I think that's a great place to start, and I think being content comes before being happy (unless the happiness is fleeting anyway), so I'd start there.
posted by whoiam at 10:57 AM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

I just stopped in to say, that first guy you described like this: an amazing sense of humor, kindness, a good, supportive family, spiritual, intelligent, well, to me he doesn't sound kind at all. He made you feel insecure; he jerked you around and treated you coldly when it suited him. You should recognize this in hindsight. Not a great guy, not if he made you doubt yourself. A great guy treats you with respect, makes you feel proud and loved, and and is honest about his intentions.

I agree you need a break from dating. Just clear your head, concentrate on doing the things you love, travel if it's in the budget, look for a volunteer outlet connected to something you believe in, and catch your breath. Find something to laugh about every day, stop looking for love and focus on loving yourself. That sense of happiness that people respond to comes from within and you need to find that before you find another boyfriend. It's there ..
posted by Kangaroo at 11:04 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I agree with MMMD and ifds,sn9 (and others, on preview) - stop dating altogether for a good while, and identify and do things that have you operating from a position of strength and give you pleasure. If you've always wanted to try something, try it now. 2nd getting physical - work out, take a martial arts class, dance - all that stuff is grounding and will give you energy.

Reframe what happened. It wasn't about you not having met some standard, of not being good or attractive or whatever enough. And while obviously, good communication is important, I don't think it makes much of a difference if there isn't a basic emotional compatibility. These last two relationships were not good matches. There are other guys out there who suit you better.

I think it's a selection thing. When you're ready to date again (i.e. not now, 6 months is a good timeframe to think about): if you feel unsteady around a person, or like you have to impress him, or if you feel like he's the one with emotional veto power, stop that thing right in its tracks. If you feel strong and centred and like yourself around someone - natural, easy - and he's gung-ho about seeing you (excited, working to make it happen), and you like him, go for it.

Don't chase people. Be you, do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you and stay. - Wu Tang
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [16 favorites]

Well, my best ever shrink was an existentialist, and that worked for me. The conclusions we led to were about using honesty - real honesty, the vulnerable, weak stuff - as a laser cannon against shame. And finding an identity that's more concrete, and finding more meaning in the world. Which is all stuff to work through in (possibly) therapy, with art - yours and others - and experience, with writing down lots of stuff for only you to read, by forming new kinds of relationships, and (repeating myself): extinguishing shame as much as possible.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:45 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

if you feel unsteady around a person, or like you have to impress him, or if you feel like he's the one with emotional veto power, stop that thing right in its tracks. If you feel strong and centred and like yourself around someone - natural, easy - and he's gung-ho about seeing you (excited, working to make it happen), and you like him, go for it.

Seconding this so hard.
posted by palomar at 2:26 PM on September 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

From your story I would guess you are a lovely and beautiful person.

Two things...

Did these men really break down something positive in you? Were you a truly bubbly energetic positive person before all that happened? Or has there been negativity in you for a longer time? Because it sounds like you have a negative self image, if other girls are "hotter" and "younger" in your eyes.

Did you truly grieve your loss? If you feel the need to complain to friends, I don't know... maybe you just need to cry a river about what happened. It's not an easy thing to go through, from what you describe. Sometimes it's hard to move on before you have really cried and raged about what was taken from you.

Good luck!
posted by hz37 at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have been there after a string of really bad relationships where people just didn't seem to like me all that much. I always thought I needed to change something about myself. I'd suggest you take the tack (whether you now believe it or not) that you are perfect just as you are. Tara Brach's there is nothing wrong with you approach may be helpful here.

I think what will happen, as with me and many others, is that you will meet someone who really likes you a lot, and whether you're young or hot or bubbly or whatever the media says you have to be won't really matter because they'll just like you for yourself.

You can't do anything to make this happen sooner or later. You just have to wait until it does. It sucks, I know.
posted by 3491again at 3:45 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Are you surrounding yourself with positive people?

Speaking as a sad sack, this is pretty important. Being surrounded by idiots or people who just enable your negativity (consciously or not - some just like seeing people vent out for gossip material, others might just want to help, even if they're not) just leads to more negativity.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:13 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Remember yourself as a child, before you ever grew up and fell in love with any guy. That has always helped me the most.

Also, truly accept that you may never find love and it's okay and your life still has meaning. That's a doozy and will take a lot of work and a paradigm shift.
posted by quincunx at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think you might benefit from working on being compassionate to yourself, while also seeing how your fears and desires kept you in a bad relationship for too long (and forgiving yourself for that too).

Accept how you feel right now, connect with it instead of fighting it or beating yourself up for having the feelings, and then investigate what is causing those feelings. Is it thoughts concerning the past? Is it stuff like "I need a relationship to be happy?", etc. This is how insights that can change long-held emotional patterns happen.

Before dating again I would work on the self esteem/shame/not good enough thing you feel because I think no matter who you meet/date it will still be there. It's normal to want a loving longterm relationship but at the end of the day someone else's love won't change those issues, they'll just reflect them back to you and even if things are good you'll still be relying on them to keep things feeling good instead of having that sense of well-being within yourself. All that said though there is nothing wrong with you and you can/will meet someone who wants to build a life with you (but I do think you'll meet someone better suited for longterm happiness if you wait and do some work first). Dating is hard for everyone, everyone gets rejected and finds it hard to meet many people they "click" with, so again that's why it's important to be aware of what you're bringing from the past and what filters you're working with.
posted by lafemma at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank you all so much for the thoughtful responses. I think you're right about working on my self-esteem and trying to forgive myself for staying in that relationship where I allowed him to get away with a lot of not-cool behavior. That's what I'll focus on now- trying to forgive myself for that. You're awesome mefites!
posted by Lillypad331 at 5:56 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do fun things that challenge you that have nothing to do with romantic relationships. I do a lot of hooping and dance classes. It's MY thing, not my partner's, and nobody can ever take it away from me. It also means I have fun and laugh a lot, all while surrounded by others who are having fun and enjoying themselves too. Through these things I form my own goals and focus, which again is unrelated to my romantic relationship.

Nthing the "Let people come to you" ideas in this thread so hard. I have said it a million times here but it feels good when you don't have to beg for someone's love or attention. Let these things happen organically, friendships and romantic relationships included.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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