When your hard things can’t compete

I’ve been through a lot in the past year, but you probably wouldn’t know it if you spent time with me.  In fact, I doubt anyone knows all of it.

We don’t exist in a vacuum.  While your life is going on, there are 7 billion other lives simultaneously happening.  When you’re going through hard things, there are always people around you who are also going through hard things.

This is a problem for me.  This year, when I was going through hard things, so were a lot of other people.  I’m a very sensitive empathetic person, so I pick up on a lot.  Everywhere I looked, there were people going through things that were bigger than mine and people who were more vocal about their hard things than I was, which is pretty easy since I don’t talk about my things.  To everyone around me I probably seem annoyingly bright and chipper all of the time.  I’m not.

I try to be a positive person, to be someone who provides a spot of calm in peoples’ chaotic worlds.  Since everyone I knew was going through hard things, it was my job to be happy and try to bring sunshine to the people I came into contact with.  Everyone was already floundering under the load of their own stuff plus the stuff of the Really Deserving People and the Really Vocal People, so no one had room for my hard things.  At least that’s what I told myself.  I still don’t know whether or not it was true.

So I didn’t ever talk about my things and I fell through the cracks.  This happens to me a lot.

If you thought I was going to have revolutionary advice on how to deal with this, this is the part where I tell you that you’re wrong.  I still haven’t figured out how to handle this.  Sometimes the hard truth is that other people have harder things than you.  Sometimes people have things that are easier than yours but they are needy enough to get all of the attention, and that sucks.  Sometimes your friends support you, but your hard thing keeps lasting and lasting and lasting far past when you know people are sick of it still being a thing.

All I know is that this leads to a lot of resentment.  It’s hard, so hard, to feel like everyone around you gets support while you’re invisible, even if it’s your own fault.  It’s hard not to know how to talk about things because you have a deep-seated loathing of seeming needy or attention-seeking.  It’s hard when you try to open up to people who have good intentions but have no clue how to help you feel better and end up only making it worse.  It’s hard when you’re afraid that no one can handle having to deal with one more person’s struggles and that opening up will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for your friends.  It’s hard feeling like you have to be the strong, secure one when inside you’re anything but.

Sometimes everything is just hard, and while I still don’t have any advice about what to do about it, one thing I know is that you are always allowed to have hard things.  Other people’s hard things don’t neutralize yours, and just because someone else is going through something “worse” than you doesn’t negate your experience.  Your feelings and experiences aren’t contingent on anyone else’s.

Just knowing that and validating your feelings can help a lot.  One thing I’ve learned is that you have to admit that things are hard, even if it’s just to yourself.  That whole thing with trying to be positive at all times to everyone?  I have no idea whether or not it worked on everyone else, but it didn’t work out so great for me.

But that’s all I know.  I still don’t know what else to do when I feel like my hard things can’t compete (which, for me, is pretty much always).  I know that there are a lot of people like me out there who struggle but go unrecognized because they keep quiet and don’t want to add to all of the turmoil and pain in the world.  This post is for you – you’re not alone.  I see you, and sometimes being seen is just what we need.

So to those people: your hard things are still hard.  Don’t try to compare them to other peoples’ – it’s apples and oranges.  Every single individual is so unique that your hard things wouldn’t affect someone else the same way they do you and vice versa.  The combination of you and your situation makes your struggles completely unique.  Don’t downplay that.  Your hard things matter.

And to the people who feel that they have a support network or at least that people know what you’re going through: you might not know it, but you’re one of the lucky ones.  Be on the lookout for the people who aren’t so blessed.

Here’s a little secret: no one is happy all of the time.  No one.  Even when everything is going great in their lives, all people will have at least the occasional bump in the road.  So if you know one of those people who is always, always bright and cheerful, they’re probably one of the quiet ones who downplay their difficulties to keep others happy.  It’s a huge sacrifice that typically goes unnoticed and isn’t sustainable in the long run.  Let them know that you care and that you’re there if they are ever going through a hard thing.  Even if they aren’t at the moment, and they really might not be, they will appreciate having somewhere to turn when the hard things do happen.  And if they should happen to open up to you, listen without offering advice (unless specifically asked) and without comparing it to your personal experiences.  Believe me, if they’re at the point where they’re talking to you, they’ve probably already thought of any advice you could give them, and no one wants to feel like their struggles are being marginalized in comparison with your past struggles.

So really, I guess this whole rambling thing has a little bit of advice to people on both sides.  Quiet people: acknowledge and validate your feelings, even if just to yourself.  Vocal people: make sure you pause occasionally to listen to the quiet people.  They need it more than you know.

When you feel like your hard things can’t compete, just remember: they don’t have to.  

Your things are allowed to be hard all on their own.

Love is not a verb

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I found this quote on Instagram quite a while ago and I feel like it goes perfectly with the thoughts I have about this post.

We’ve all experienced them: the sermons, books, lectures, and online articles about love as a verb.  They tell us that true love is an action, not just a feeling.  They say that long after the euphoria wears off, we must choose to love every hour and every day, even if we aren’t feeling particularly loving at that very moment.

These thoughts are well-intentioned and carry a lot of truth.  The issue comes in when people use them in the wrong context.

These posts or sermons are usually aimed in one of three directions.  By far the most common is the application to marriage, where the author or speaker tells us that love extends beyond feeling and includes staying committed and acting lovingly even if we aren’t feeling it at the moment.  Secondary applications that I’ve seen are either in reference to our relationship with family or to our actions towards people with whom we may be having conflict.

One area that this topic is not intended for is a dating relationship.

In my world, at a relatively conservative Christian college, most people take dating seriously.  We aren’t casual; we “date with a purpose”.  In general, this means that most people are proponents of not dating someone you couldn’t see a future with.  This can absolutely be a good baseline – I mean, who wants to waste time with someone that you don’t feel compatible with?

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that in this high-pressure, marriage-oriented bubble, many people, especially girls, start to treat dating like marriage.

I know because I was one of them.

The problem is that dating is not marriage and was never meant to be.  When you’re dating someone, you should be with them because everything feels wonderful and perfect and not because love is a verb.

It took me a long time to realize this.  I stayed in a wrong relationship for way too long because love is a verb, right?  I made a commitment to this person, right?  I should stick with this even if I’m not feeling it, because love is an action.

Right?

He was a good person with a lot of great qualities.  He checked all of the boxes on my theoretical checklist.  He was smart, funny, and a great catch by anyone’s standards.  Everyone thought we were perfect together.  People asked me regularly when we were going to get married.  He’s a good person, I told myself.  He’s a great catch, I said.  I could have a good life with him, I said.  I love him, I said.

It didn’t feel quite right.

Don’t dwell on it, I said.  No one is perfect, and I myself am very imperfect.  I’m lucky to have someone like this, I said.  There is no such thing as a perfect relationship.  I could have a good life with him.  I could make this work, I told myself.

Love is an action, not a feeling, I said.

I started to get sad a lot.  I was anxious a lot.  I had giant swings in how I felt about the relationship from day to day and even from hour to hour.  It occupied my mind all of the time.

You’re lucky to have someone who puts up with all of this, I said.  You’re falling apart but he’s holding you together, I said.  If this ends, who else would want to deal with you?  You have a lot of problems.  You’d fall to pieces.

Something feels wrong, but I can’t articulate anything.  I’m being paranoid, I said.  I love him, I said.

And love is a choice, right?

So I chose.  I chose to stay, and stay, and stay.

This relationship wasn’t saving me.  It wasn’t holding me together.

It was shredding me, and I let it, because no one is perfect and love is a choice.  Love is a choice.  Love is a choice.  I can’t tell you how many times I repeated that to myself, over and over, until I was sad and numb and confused and I spent another day and another week and another month deciding to stay.

Until one day, I realized that it was all a lie.

Love in dating shouldn’t be all about commitment and choices and careful rationalization and deciding to stay.

It should be about being insanely, giddily, head-over-heels in love with some unbelievably perfect person who seems to incredible to be real.  It should be about deep happiness that overshadows everything else when you are with that person.  It should be about quiet contentment and feeling safer with them than with anyone else.

It shouldn’t be about anxiety and depression and fear of failure or of falling apart or falling out of love.  It shouldn’t be about making it work and putting your shoulder to the grindstone and riding it out.  I mean, sure, you could do that, but do you really want to?  Do you want to spend the rest of your life having to force yourself to choose love day after day and week after week and year after year?

It shouldn’t be about having a pretty good life.

It should be about having a great life that exceeds your wildest dreams.

He was a good person, but he wasn’t my good person.  He checked all of my boxes, but it turns out that there are more important things than box-checking.  He was smart and funny and good-looking, but that couldn’t make it right.  Everyone thought we were perfect, but I outgrew the relationship.

He could have given me a good life.

It took a lot of courage, but I finally decided to choose a great one.

I’m happy most of the time now.  It was strange at first.  I had forgotten what it was like to be happy, every day, for no particular reason.  I had forgotten what it was like to feel excitement about my future instead of dread.

I had forgotten what it was like to be me.

So that’s why I feel that it’s so, so important for girls like me to hear this message.  Don’t stay stuck in a dating relationship out of obligation.  Dating comes before marriage for an enormously important reason.  Don’t skip out on that or turn it into a pseudo-marriage.  Don’t stay in a relationship where you feel ambivalent, because that shouldn’t be where marriage comes from.

Don’t settle for “good enough”.

I chose to search for a great life.

Will you?

Lent: Weeks 5 & 6

Welp… the Whole30 has pretty much died in these here parts.  I think spring break was really the nail in the coffin.  However, it’s left me very conscious of what I’m consuming and has led me to consistently make better choices about my diet, which is what I’d hoped to get out of it anyways.  I’m really enjoying eating well because I WANT to, not because I have to.  It’s surprisingly freeing.

If you’re interested, here are some of the things I’ve been doing differently since Whole30:

  • Eating more veggies – doing the Whole30 really made me aware of how few vegetables I was actually eating.  Now I always try to cram in as many as I can!
  • Choosing fruit as a side – this is mainly for fast food.  For example, instead of getting fries at Chick Fil A, usually I’ll get a fruit cup with my grilled nuggets.
  • Eating more protein – I’ve been tracking my macronutrients using MyFitnessPal, and one thing I noticed is that I really struggle to get in an adequate amount of protein.  One way I’ve been addressing this is by eating 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt mixed with a scoop of chocolate protein powder for breakfast.  It tastes good and has over 30 grams of protein, and I noticed that not only does it keep me full until lunch, it also helps keep me focused and alert for the rest of the day!
  • Avoiding junk food at the cafeteria – although I’m allowing myself treats now, I’m trying to use them as just that: treats.  That means no ice cream in the cafeteria just because.
  • Fitbit – I just got this for my birthday and I love it!  It helps me track how many steps I’ve taken and how well I sleep, to name just a couple of its many features.

Overall, I feel that although I didn’t complete the Whole30, I did get most of the results I was hoping for.  If you’re considering giving it a shot, I’d strongly recommend it!

Paleo Banana Bread {no added sweetener}

My ongoing attempt at some semblance of a paleo diet has prompted me to look for healthier versions of foods I enjoy.  The idea behind this banana bread recipe was sparked from the classic paleo banana-egg pancake idea.  (In case you haven’t seen it, it’s literally a banana and 2 eggs blended to make pancake batter.)  It turned out way better than I had hoped, and it’s perfect for all sorts of special dietary restrictions – it’s grain free, dairy free, paleo, and unsweetened.  If you’re not hardcore paleo, I find this absolutely delicious with honey and butter.

Paleo Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

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Process

  • Preheat oven to 350 and grease a bread pan.
  • Place eggs, bananas, oil, and vanilla in a blender or food processor and blend well.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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I hope you’ll give this recipe a shot!  It’s so simple and healthy and has quickly become a new favorite of mine.  Enjoy!

Lent: Weeks 3 & 4

Well guys, my computer was out of commission last weekend so this post will have to combine the pas 2 weeks.

Honestly, I haven’t been sticking to the plan very strictly.  Spring Sing and spring break happened back-to-back, making it really hard to eat only Whole30 approved foods.  However, I’m still at least attempting to keep with it, which I think is the important part.  Hopefully it will be easier from here on out.

Really, that’s what has been on my mind these couple of weeks in a spiritual way as well.  It’s helped to remind me that although we will never be perfect, it’s imperative not to use that as an excuse to give up.  Even when things don’t go as planned, the best thing you can do is to get back on track as quickly as possible.

And that’s really all I have for this post!  I know it’s a short one but it’s spring break and I don’t feel like thinking too hard.  See you guys next weekend!

Lent: week 2


Guys, I totally cheated some the second half of this week.  I have been eating Whole30 for meals, but I also ate some junk food with friends.  I blame Spring Sing.  ‘Nuff said.

Anyways, I am still going to continue with my Whole30.  I’ve decided to allow myself to use butter for cooking because I feel that it’s healthier than using vegetable oil.  I’m also debating leaving the option open to do some Paleo baking (with nut flours and honey as sweetener) on the weekends, but I’m not sure.  I did it this weekend and I definitely notice that I do feel better when I stick to healthier foods.  However, baking is a huge passion of mine and is something that Calvin and I have really enjoyed doing together, so we’ll see.

I’ve been really surprised this week at how much reflection Lent has prompted.  I mean, I knew the purpose of it was to provoke thought, but I didn’t expect this sort of depth.  I feel like I’ve learned several things about myself this week, including the following:

  • I’m impatient.  This surprised me a little bit because I’ve never really thought of myself as an impatient person.  I’m the oldest of 8 and I work with kids on a daily basis as part of my job, so patience sort of goes with the territory.  However, apparently that’s just something I’ve cultivated in that specific area that doesn’t extend into all parts of my life.  It should NOT be as hard as it is for me to delay gratification and wait a few measly weeks to have sweets.
  •   I’m self-centered.  I don’t mean in the way that I promote my self-interest at the expense of others.  Rather, I’ve realized that I tend to fall into the “I deserve _____” mindset far too often.  I feel like this is a very American phenomenon – we’ve all been quite effectively trained to believe that we should never feel any discomfort.  It’s interesting to me that I learned this in conjunction with food, as I believe that this mindset plays a large part in America’s obesity epidemic.  Instead of being viewed as normal, hunger is viewed as something which must be fixed right away.  This also leads me to my next point.
  • I have a warped relationship with food. Although I’m at a very healthy weight and don’t have an overeating problem, this week has shown me that I don’t have a healthy relationship with food.  I’ve noticed that I tend to link food with happiness and relaxation – if I want to feel happy and relaxed, I feel like I need to eat.  This is a link I’d like to break as I know it will really come back to bite me as I get older.
  • I’m imperfect.  When I think about how difficult it is for me to make some simple changes to my diet for just a short period of time, it really leaves me in awe of Jesus’ example of devotion and self-control throughout his lifetime.  It gives me a newfound respect for what it really meant for him to be subject to all temptations known to man and yet to remain pure.  I mean, he willingly subjected himself to 40 days without ANY food, and then refused to make bread for himself!  That’s some pretty serious determination right there.

Overall, I feel like this has been a good week for me.  Although I didn’t stick to my goals perfectly, deviating actually taught me some valuable lessons.  I learned that I really do feel better when I eat better, and as I listed above, it also provided a lot of food for thought regarding my spiritual growth.  I’m actually looking forwards to getting back on track and feeling better in the coming week!

Lent: Week 1


Well, it’s actually only been half of a week so far, but whatevs.

I started my Whole30 on Wednesday of this week, so today is day 4.  It’s definitely been interesting to have to pay such close attention to what I eat – it’s like a throwback to my early days of being gluten free.  I’ve been at that so long that it’s practically second nature now and I hardly ever even think about it any more, but eating Whole30 compliant involves a whole new level of thought about what I eat.

Overall it’s been going well. The first day I ate a piece of valentine’s candy without even thinking about it, but past that I have been able to stick to the plan.  It’s interesting to me how my first inclination around many types of food (mostly candy) is to pop it in my mouth without a second thought.

My body is having to get used to getting its fuel from healthy sources – I’m definitely having lots of sugar cravings!  Weird confession: I’ve even started a recipe board on Pinterest for all of the things I want to make after Lent is over.  The list is quite extensive.

As for the spiritual aspect of all this, it has definitely given me a pretty big reality check about my perspective on life.  When I realize that the thought of going without cookies or ice cream for 40 days makes me feel like I’m dyyyyyying, I’m reminded of how Jesus went 40 days in the wilderness without ANY food.  It also makes me start thinking about the many people around the globe who subsist on little more than bare necessities, and yet here I am groaning on about a break from my chocolate.  Definitely some food for thought.

Well, that’s my first week. Hopefully by next weekend I’ll be better adjusted to the sugar withdrawals!  I’m interested to see how my taste in food changes as my body detoxes from my major sweet tooth.

Listen to me: you are not unreasonable.

Today, I saw this article posted on Facebook.  It’s a worthwhile read and does a great job of identifying many traits of abusers that may often fly under the radar.  After I read it, I took a look at the comments on the Facebook post and found one that read:

This is a good article in some ways, but I did kind of think unless the guy is Jesus incarnate, he won’t make the cut.

And that makes me sad.

Abusive people are tricky.  They have an uncanny way of imperceptibly shifting your view of what is normal until finally your own version of reality doesn’t match up with real life.  They are exceptionally gifted at making you feel guilty for their actions, and one way they do this is by making their victims feel as though they are being unreasonable by holding to a certain standard of expected behavior.

Listen to me: you are not unreasonable.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect absolutely zero physical violence.  None. Zip. Zilch.  It is not normal for someone to physically harm you in reaction to ANYTHING.  This also includes things that may not hurt but are intended to frighten you, such as refusing to let go of your arm.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to be able to handle any concern you have over their behavior.  Refusal to listen or angry outbursts are not normal or acceptable.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect acceptance of a differing opinion.  Normal people do not feel threatened when someone else’s thoughts are not the same as their thoughts, but for a manipulator, this is a sign that his control is slipping and will trigger frantic scrambling to get you to “come around”.  Don’t come around.  You are entitled to your own opinions.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to be truthful.  Period.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to treat other people with common courtesy.  All other people.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect and insist on respect for any personal boundaries you have set.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect to be treated as an equal.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect communication without yelling, berating, or belittling.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to own up to and take responsibility for their own actions.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect autonomy over your own self and your actions – including what you eat, drink, wear and do, who you spend time with and where you go, what job you hold, etc.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to deal with any negative fallout resulting from their own actions without shifting the blame or expecting you to come to the rescue.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to take the initiative on any personal change they want to enact without requiring your involvement.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect for your own needs to be given weight and value.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to take no for an answer.

Finally, it is absolutely reasonable to set and adhere to standards of expected behavior in others.

To a healthy person with healthy relationships, all of these seem to be plain common sense.  To someone in an abusive relationship, any of these can seem almost sacrilegious.  They are not.  Please, please take the time to really look over these and let them sink in.  If anything mentioned here makes you uncomfortable, that should be an enormous red flag that somewhere, something is seriously wrong.

You are equal to and have just as many rights as every other person on this planet.  Always remember that.

You are not unreasonable.

Listen to me.

Why I’m Observing Lent

I made a decision a few weeks ago to observe Lent, which begins on February 18th this year. This will be the first time I’ve done so, and I’d like to attempt to blog as a way of journaling through the process. My plan right now is to post a recap at the end of every week.

Since this is my first experience with Lent, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m not Catholic.  So why am I choosing to observe Lent this year?  I have several reasons, but first I’d like to talk about reasons that are not a factor in my decision.

Reasons that are NOT why I’m observing Lent:

  • Because I’m Catholic.  I was raised in the Church of Christ and still attend one today, although I don’t feel particularly strongly about identifying with a certain denomination.  Because of this, Lent has never been a part of my religious experience.
  • Because I believe that Christians are called to observe Lent. I do not feel that Lent is a command, but rather that it is a tool which some people may choose to use if they find it helpful for their own spiritual journey.
  • Because I think it will make me holier.  I do not believe that any actions I can do will make me “holier” or more acceptable to God.  In a weird way, you could almost say that this is something I’m doing for myself and not for God, in the sense that I’m doing it for my own spiritual growth and not solely to please him.
  • Because it allows me to share in the suffering of Jesus.  I’ve heard this explanation of Lent before, but I’m not sure if it’s a view held by the who actually observe it or one held by those who don’t understand it.  Either way, I think it’s incredibly degrading to compare your suffering from lack of chocolate to the suffering Jesus felt while being crucified.

Well, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to discuss why I did decide to observe Lent.  I’ve put a lot of thought into this during the past couple of weeks, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Reasons why I am observing Lent:

  • Because it’s a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Although I stated above that I do NOT think Lent allows me to share in the suffering of Jesus, I do think it is a great way to turn my mind towards the sacrifice he made.  Every time I think of or desire whatever I’ve chosen to give up, it will be like a little post-it note reminder to think of what he gave up.
  • Because it’s a physical manifestation of a spiritual matter. It seems to me that some people greatly benefit from being able to have concrete physical experiences of God, while others get along perfectly well without.  I think I’m one of the former.  I’m choosing to observe Lent because what is happening with the body mirrors what is happening with the soul. I feel that it will be helpful to me to have a physical expression of the spiritual.
  • Because it’s a useful tool.  This is sort of a re-statement of both the point above and the earlier point about how I don’t believe it’s a command.  I don’t feel that everyone is called to observe Lent because I don’t believe it would benefit everyone in the same way.  For me, I think it will be helpful to have a sort of kinesthetic, hands-on experience.

So what did I decide to give up for Lent?  I’m glad you asked.  Originally, I was leaning towards giving up sweets, because I have a major sweet tooth and end up craving them in some form every day.  However, after a little more thought, I decided to expand on that and do a Whole 30 challenge (only modified for Lent, so it’s actually a Whole 40).  I feel that it’s the perfect thing for me for several reasons:

  • It will require conscious effort at each meal, which will give me ample opportunities for reflection.
  • I like the sort of physical reflection it is for the spiritual: you’re taking careful control of your body and feeding it the same kind of things (whole, pure foods) that you want to feed your soul.
  • In the same vein, you’re removing things like sugar that are pleasant at the time but are not entirely healthy.  This also mirrors an ideal spiritual situation.
  • Finally, it’s something I’ve been interested in doing before, but I’ve never quite had the motivation.  I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to help me stick with it and at the same time receive benefits that I wouldn’t have from trying it at any other time.

Well, there are my thoughts on that.  As I said, I’m hoping to post a recap at the end of every week containing my daily thoughts on how this is affecting me physically and spiritually.  If anyone else is choosing to observe Lent this year, I’d love to hear your experiences as well!

Girls, it’s time to stop dating losers.

But for real though.

I recently overheard a conversation between two of my college-aged peers during which one commiserated to her sympathetic friend about her guy troubles.  Basically, they were a “thing”, but then they broke up, but he says he still loves her and she loves him, but he won’t get back together with her and he keeps changing his mind.  And so then he calls her at 4 AM to pick him up because he’s drunk and they end up sleeping together, but they’re still not really together, you know? Oh yeah, and this has to be kept a secret from all of their friends, who are totally clueless (but not really) about their relationship status.  And she really just doesn’t know what’s going on and it’s so confusing and she wishes he would just make up his mind already.

Sound familiar?

This type story isn’t shocking.  In fact, I’d bet that every girl high-school aged or older has multiple friends or acquaintances who could tell a version of this same story, and that’s if it hasn’t happened to her too.  For some reason, this sort of “relationship” is now viewed as the norm.  No one likes it, as is evidenced by everybody bemoaning complicated relationships to their bestie, but most women seem to see it as an inescapable reality that they’ll have to trudge through if they ever want to find true love.

That’s a lie.

Girls, it’s time to stop dating losers.

Believe it or not, it’s not inevitable.  It’s time to stop accepting the lie we’ve been fed that it’s ok to put up with bad treatment because that’s just how dating works.  I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on this subject lately, and I’d like to offer my thoughts on a few vital points of this issue.

1.  Good relationships start with self respect.

This is true in any area of life, not just in the dating world.  Ladies, your self respect is contagious. As a general rule, no one is going to respect you more than respect yourself.  If you feel that you’re only worth bad or mediocre relationships, they are what you will end up with.  Realize that you have just as much of a right to respect as anyone else, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and demand it.  You’re worth more than mediocre.  In the words of Christopher Robin: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  Take some time to build your sense of self worth and don’t settle.

2.  All guys are not like that.

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Me & my guy

I feel that perhaps the most pervasive part of the jerk-dating phenomenon is the belief that “guys are just like that”.  I’m here to tell you that, shockingly enough, men do exist who will value you for more than just a drunken fling.  I’ve been in an amazing relationship with an absolutely wonderful guy for nearly two years now, and having first-hand experience with being loved and respected only makes me see more clearly the contrast between this and the way that many guys use girls.  When it comes to dating, you’ll end up with the kind of guy you’re expecting – so make sure your expectations are high.  There are guys out there looking for girls who care.  Promise.

3.  People will live up to – or down to – your expectations.

This point is really just an extension of the two above.  I’ve mostly heard it used in the context of working with children, but boy, does it ever apply to relationships as well.  If you expect men to treat you with respect and integrity, they will – otherwise, you wouldn’t be spending your time around them.  Conversely, if you expect to be used and objectified, you will allow yourself to be treated in ways that you shouldn’t.  In many ways, relationships are a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – your preconceived notions about how things should be, even the subconscious ones, will eventually play out.  It pays to re-examine your beliefs and make doubly sure that you are holding the bar high enough.

4.  You don’t need a boyfriend.

Think about this concept.  I know it’s flung around to the point that it sort of goes in one ear and out the other, but take a minute to really think about it.  You don’t need a boyfriend.  In fact, everyone needs some time without a boyfriend.  You need time from a single perspective to figure out who you are and realize that you are a pretty awesome person all on your own.  You need to learn to love and respect yourself so that in the future you are able to hold others to that standard as well.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but before you have a boyfriend, you should be in a place where you are comfortable with not having one.  To have a strong, healthy relationship, you need to be able to love the individual you – and to realize that the person you truly are isn’t in any way affected by your relationship status.

I’m writing this post with the hope that I can help you to realize how much you truly are worth.  I know of so many people who deserve so much better than they are getting and don’t even realize it.  Please, don’t let that be you.  If you need to, take some time off of dating to get to know yourself again.  Learn to love yourself and cultivate a healthy amount of self-worth.  Realize what a perfect and unique creation you are.  As Dr. Seuss says:

“Today you are you; that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is you-er than you.”

Girls, always remember that.  Don’t let anyone treat you like you are anything less than the insanely amazing person that you are.

Because you are worth it.