You Want To Stop Being A #HurtBae: Stop Doubting Yourself
Since we’re all oversharing, let me tell you about the most important lesson I learned from my last relationship: trust.
There were things about him that I liked: he was smart, confident, funny and ambitious.
Things I did not like about him: he was broke. He was an ex-felon. He had a bad relationship with his mother. And he was overly-critical and judgmental.
I know what some of you are thinking: those attributes are horrible and superficial reasons to write someone off as a romantic partner. And that’s what I told myself too.
I told myself that I was an independent woman and not a gold digger. As such, money shouldn’t matter as much as the content of his character.
I reminded myself of how in my lower-income neighborhood mass incarceration has almost become a right of passage for the hordes of Black able-bodied men who languished away on street corners. And as a self-proclaimed intersectional feminist, I had a duty to make my love political and resist the urge to reject him for what had disenfranchised so many.
I told myself that his criticisms were similar in kind to that of my father. And like my father, he nitpicked and prodded at my very existence because he wanted me to reach my highest potential, not because he was trying to erode my self-esteem.
I second guessed things that should have been red flags. I wanted to see the good in him. I wanted to give him the same chance at unconditional love I wanted him – and the world for that matter – to give me. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But that confidence that I had in him wasn’t enough to guard against the fights about money. I was mad about having to constantly pay for groceries and other necessities while he spent what little he had frivolously and selfishly– all while accusing me of emasculating him because I dared ask him about his spending habits. And my confidence in him wasn’t enough to stop him from lying, cheating and saying emotionally abusive stuff to me.
It was a horrible courtship and we ended it on horrible terms. I left feeling broken, traumatized and used. But as much as it hurt and as bad as I thought he was, it was the wake-up call I needed.
After the hurt and bitterness that goes along with giving too much of myself began to wash away, I started to come to my own realization that he was not the first ungrateful taker. But rather he was just a tiny stitch in a pattern of folks who I had unconditionally put my confidence into. And that investment I was making into them was actually work-avoidance on myself.
Like the men I attracted, I too needed support, forgiveness and compassion. But unlike the men in my life, I was the last one who I would give it all too.
Why am I talking about this?
Well, I share this story because of #HurtBae and much of the reaction to it. I share this because of Karrueche, her much-publicized restraining order as well as her final come to Jesus moment about who and what Chris Brown has always been. I share this because I know there are grown womenfolks still caught up in this cycle of abuse and self-mutilation. And I share this as a reminder to myself in moments of weakness and doubt.
That relationship was two years ago. And I am proud to say that I am much more adapt at putting self first unapologetically. Does it mean that I am permanently free from doubt?
We are a culture that continues to be haunted by mixed messages of what love is supposed to look like for women. On one hand, we believe a woman’s greatest strength lies in her ability to endure and struggle with a man. But on the other hand we call a woman “stupid” and “foolish” for staying too long. On one hand, we demand women protect their hearts and vaginas by choosing wisely. Yet the other hand will finger-wag her for having too high of a standard. And on one hand we will mock a “side chick’s” singleness on Valentine’s Day while using the other hand to slap the “main chick” for bringing us sour lemonade.
My point is, in a culture that simultaneously blames women for broken relationships while absolving men from any of the emotional labor, there are many opportunities presented to second-guess ourselves.
But all is not hopeless. And we can survive and even thrive.
Two years after my epitome, I can say that I am more confident than I have ever been in life. The time I spend now investing in myself – as opposed to investing in my wants and dreams into men – has pushed me to reach for goals in life that I previously doubted were for me.
I am less lonely too – at least a lot less lonelier than I was when I was dating and supposedly in relationships with all the wrong men.
And in those moments when I am ready to throw my hands up and believe all of the lies ever told to me; all the lies I have ever told myself, I remember to: 1. breathe; 2. be kind to myself; 3. listen to my own voice; and most importantly 4. trust that I know what’s best.
I can honestly say, that process has never failed me.
Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic and smarty-pants Black feminist from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.