‘His opinions became my own. ‘You need to figure out who you are.’ I was terrified of being alone.’: After toxic relationship, woman turns to yoga, ‘I finally know who I am’

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“When I was 21, I met a guy who I thought was going to be the one. Our relationship took off – weekends together, parties from sunup to sundown, cheesy text messages and phone calls when we weren’t physically together. The whole nine. Our relationship was an addiction, both of us taking from one another that which we didn’t have ourselves. But neither of us knew that at the time, as most 21-year olds don’t.

Being the emotionally sensitive person I am, I gave wholly and unquestioningly. I put his needs, wants, and desires on the line, like goals for the week, and I went after them because I believed pleasing him was my way of keeping him around. I was so terrified of being alone I stayed in a relationship in which I was holding both sides of the curtain, desperate to keep it from dropping to the floor.

I was never the type of girl who had many boyfriends or crushes, and I often fell into the shadows of my popular girlfriends. When he showed up – handsome, charming, confident, and open-hearted — I couldn’t believe he would like someone like me. Soon enough, his likes, dislikes, and opinions became my own. I didn’t know how to identify without our relationship being the centerpiece. It was unhealthy, and no matter how distanced I became from friends and family, I truly believed this was love and what I was giving was the sacrifice a girlfriend needed to make.

One day, after not hearing from him all weekend, he called me at work and broke up with me. Just like that. He said he was bored, and that I needed to figure out who I was. To say I was crushed is an understatement. I was numb. I felt like someone had just unplugged me, and I was slowly dying out. Rejection is a pretty strong word, but even that didn’t cut down to the core of my feelings. What cut me the most was not knowing what I had done wrong. It took many years to learn that asking that question was the root of the problem.

Fast forward six years, and I am writing this post from the headspace of a woman I never dreamed I would become. After we broke up, I found solace in yoga and meditation. It became a practice – a sadhana – that would pull me out of my self-sabotaging darkness, and into the very lesson my ex-boyfriend was trying to teach me all along. Be selfish.

What angered me most in our relationship was the fact that he was always putting himself first. It made me feel unwanted, unseen, and unwelcomed, like I wasn’t a part of his life plan. What he and the Universe were trying to teach me was that I wasn’t! I wasn’t a part of his life because I had never made a point to be a part of my own. I put so much of myself into maintaining some semblance of love for him, I depleted all the love reserves I needed for myself. He didn’t. He never lost sight of himself, even when he broke up with me. He did it because it was in his highest good, and I took it as a rejection because I didn’t realize he was giving me back a gift I had so easily tossed to the wind: myself.

In the time being single, I turned inward. In yoga, we call this pratyahara. Once all the distractions of the world fall away, and once you’re rejected from someone else, there’s nowhere else to go, girl. It’s time to come home. So, I faced myself. I faced all of my demons, triggers, traumas, and dark corners that have never seen the light of day. I sought help and support, and I never gave up on my yoga practice. In 2014, I started my Yoga Teacher Training, and that following May, I taught my very first yoga class. I still get goosebumps and teary eyes reflecting back on a class full of my peers, cheering me on as I taught.

Yoga gave me not only a purpose in which to get back to my own self-care and love, but it gave me my voice! It returned me to a kind of strength and courage to speak my truth, set my boundaries, and never lose myself. Today, I teach beautiful students, I write, I travel, and I live my life with purpose, authenticity, and passion. I finally know who I am.

And I know I would have never arrived at such a gift without the pain of being rejected in that relationship. For this, I am grateful beyond words. I shed massive layers of the shy, reserved, afraid, and dependent girl I was at 21. I took back the power I placed in the palms of other men, and I placed it back into my very own being. And it was like coming home! The voice which I used to teach my yoga was the same voice I used to say ‘no’ more often than I said ‘yes,’ in fear that I wouldn’t be liked or accepted. And I believed in my heart of hearts that the love that I was worthy of was first my own. Somewhere out there, a like-hearted man will believe in the same for himself, and our paths will cross when each of us is ready for the other.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Aleksandra Slijepcevic. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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