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"The Pieces of My Heart"

Shronda Armstrong

EXERCISING SELF-LOVE IN RELATIONSHIPS IN ORDER TO HEAL

A huge part of self-love is tested in our romantic relationships. At some point in our lives, I think we all have romanticized love relationships in our mind to mimic something out of our favorite movie or television series. For plenty of us, our relationship patterns are a direct reflection of the self-love for ourselves or lack thereof. An unhealthy sense of self tends to draw in dysfunction regularly in our love lives. In order to attain healthy relationships in our lives, it is important to take self-assessment to identify which parts of ourselves are in need of healing. For many single people that have gone through a series of broken relationships, it is not easy to pinpoint the common denominator that contributed to our failed unions. One of the hardest things about relationships is the leftover feelings we bottled up once these relationships come to an end.


The most difficult part of healing is practicing self-reflection. In the aftermath of toxic relationships, the easy route is when we direct our energy towards the wrongdoings of the other person who hurt us. The unhealed parts of us find solace in pointing out the monstrous side of the other person while we come out as the innocent sacrificial lamb. But here’s the hard truth: in order to receive the gift of true healing, we have to dig deep and search for the broken pieces within us that attracted us to the elements of the toxic relationship in the first place. I won’t sugarcoat it at all, healing through self-reflection and repair is a hard and ugly process. In doing the work while learning more about ourselves and how our lack of self-love played a huge role in past toxic relationships, it is not to blame ourselves in any way. Self-healing requires commitment, honesty, pain, internal digging and so much more.


For some, this is done through seeking some form of counseling via a licensed therapist. Plenty of us grew up with religious backgrounds where we were conditioned with a prayer versus therapy mindset, thinking that one can’t work without the other. Some believe that spilling your innermost secrets to a stranger is unorthodox and, in most cases, even more damaging. As much as I loved the fictional Fraser Crane, today’s modern therapist is not a stuffy white man wearing a tweed blazer with a sweater vest and smoking a pipe. There are a number of therapists who look just

like you and will make you feel comfortable. Doing the work without a professional can be counterproductive.


When we have physical aches and pains, we typically seek medical help. Therapy is no different when it comes to matters of the heart. Never be afraid to seek the professional help of a therapist in order to heal. The benefit of a therapist is having an unbiased, trained professional to give you a perspective that will get you to the road to healing in a healthy and productive way.


In doing the work, I learned things about my unhealed self that alarmed me severely. As much as I wanted to believe that all of my past relationships were damaged because the man was indeed the bad guy, I had to take ownership of how my heart was broken and in need of repair before some of these relationships even began. My unhealed spirit distorted my perception of what a healthy relationship should be therefore giving me a handicap in the partners I chose to allow in my life.


My lack of self-love and awareness, led to a terrible decline in my relationships with men. As an adolescent, I wasn’t allowed to date or even talk to boys on the phone. Being an awkward teen, a lot of the bullying I received was from young males who were cruel and nasty in teasing me over my looks. I was teased about the size of my nose, my teeth, my glasses, my hair, you name it. I remember one boy in particular called me “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” once. Now I know for some, it appears to be hypersensitive to allow name calling to affect you. However, the hurt and pain associated with constant teasing and humiliation is not something that has an expiration date. I was half the shell of what should have been a happy young woman. The thing that hurt the most about the bullying was that I had already experienced teasing by my own family. For a fragile kid to not have peace at home, or school, it leaves a heavy weight that a young person is not equipped to handle. I had a deep sense of sadness and the bullying only magnified the fact that I never had a place where I felt that I belonged. Experiencing repeated teasing over my appearance gave me a distorted reflection of myself in the mirror. Enter yet another hole in my heart that was labeled as INSECURITY.


With the layers of cruelty, I received at the hands of immature boys, I in turn grew to be a fragile woman that gravitated towards those same immature boys that had now become narcissistic grown men. I was pretty sheltered as I grew older, even being limited from going out much with boys even while I attended college. By the time I met the individual that I ended up marrying, I had very little experience in dating or relationships. Like most typically abusive relationships, the dating to marriage period was fast, tumultuous and dramatic. I was initially enamored by what started out as a man being exceptionally nice to me at the time. Since I had little to no experience with a healthy relationship, it honestly took little to nothing to impress me at the time. Despite growing out of my physical awkwardness and into an attractive woman, I still had the residue of constantly being called the ugly girl.


Because of the pain of the past of never feeling pretty enough, I wore the hidden cloak of insecurity. The thing is, if you’ve ever been torn down over your appearance in the past, it doesn’t matter how many people compliment you moving forward. Those accolades over your physical appearance tend to bounce off in a sunken place. As the ugly duckling turns into the swan, and the caterpillar into the beautiful butterfly, there is always a transformation. Within that transformation, sometimes we simply can’t see or even fathom the beauty that was there all along within the caterpillar and the duckling from the very beginning.


Once I moved on from my abusive and toxic relationships, I began to develop a deep resentment towards the past and what I initially viewed as time wasted on the wrong people. I had to unlearn the past and remove these men out of my calculation of self-worth. As hard as it was, I had to stop blaming the people who hurt me as the cause of my pain. In doing this, I definitely did not excuse any of the things I endured by their actions, yet I decided to give glory to the woman I became now knowing better. I trained myself to view the pain I experienced in the exchange for the keys I obtained in becoming aligned with my highest sense of self-awareness and self-love. For every ounce of pain I carried for so long as a result of these dysfunctional relationships, I received freedom from the weight of that pain and gained the ability to rise above the false feelings of unworthiness.


Healing from the pain I experienced is something that I still work on, as healing from abuse is not a switch you can flip on that turns off that pain. However, the broken part of me that didn’t understand that I deserved better, no longer exists. For me, having the self-love and confidence to truly understand my beauty, intelligence, worth and value gives me the tools I need to set healthy boundaries with peace. While being better equipped to identify early red flags, my self-love has put me in the position of strength to avoid repeating a past of entering into toxic relationships.


How Self-Love Can Guide You to Healthy Romantic Relationships


  • Let Self-Love remind you of your value at all times from the very beginning in any connection you make early on in dating. Pay attention to how your suitor makes you feel at all times. Self-love reminds us that a good and valuable relationship should make us feel good at all times. If anything feels off, don’t take it lightly. Having the full armor of self-love creates a force field that guards your heart from a place of not trusting your intuition. Oftentimes when we are not completely healed, we tend to second guess ourselves when the vibe is off with a person. In being fully whole within the parameters of self-love, you will have the confidence to acknowledge what feels right to you. In addition to the self-love of confidence, you will not feel guilty about walking away unapologetically when something is off.


  • Loving yourself is indeed an inside job. Before entering any new relationship, make sure you have done the work and you aren’t seeking a relationship to fill a void. By putting your happiness in the hands of another person, you are welcoming in the wrong people to have control of something entirely too important to entrust to another person. Don’t wear your insecurities on your sleeve to potential suitors. Use your self-love as a shield and avoid allowing any unhealed parts of you to call on the narcissists with the bat signal of being desperate to be healed.


  • Be in self-love while you are in a state of being single. Don’t allow false timelines or these generic happy couples on social media trigger any sadness over being single. Self-Love is the key to celebrating NOT being in any relationship that doesn’t serve you. In actuality, singleness is a source of peace and solitude. Enjoy your time of loving yourself to build, grow and create the best part of yourself. You are valuable and worthy with and without a partner. At the end of the day, the goal is to be in a healthy relationship and nothing less–and that healthy relationship all starts with yourself.


  • Let your self-love and confidence guide your relationships with the opposite sex. Always put how you feel ahead of your need to please the other individual. Again, if it doesn’t feel right, listen to your heart. Self-love will give you the discernment to identify a healthy and thriving relationship from a toxic one. It’s ok to end a relationship if it is not working out. Our lack of self-love and confidence is generally a catalyst for dysfunction. Never allow your energy to be wasted on any individual who:


  • Is unsure of you

  • Unwilling to commit to you in the way you desire

  • Is not willing to communicate and acknowledge your feelings

  • Undermines your concerns and views them as unimportant

  • Belittles you in any way

  • Is incapable of apologizing

  • Forces you to do things that make you uncomfortable

  • Use self-love to be unapologetic in your decisions to avoid the useless sense of guilt associated with indecisiveness. A lack of self-love is a lack of confidence in yourself. The unhealed parts that lie within us robs us of our power to be firm about our decisions. As young children, we are always taught to be polite and to make sure we never hurt anyone’s feelings. The unhealed child that still lives within us, makes us walk on eggshells more concerned with the feelings of people who benefit from our brokenness. It is important that we embrace self-love to gain the confidence, self-assurance and strength to assert ourselves in our relationships. Be able to say no without feeling guilty about hurting someone else’s feelings. At the end of the day, saying “No” is not being mean. Saying “No” is actually being kind—kind to yourself!

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