Reliving the short destruction of self-worth

“We weren’t dating, I was just a placeholder,” I say confidently, holding the mug to my lips, slit-like eyes watching you across the table, sipping coffee, my tongue burning at the taste. “Wow,” you reply, “that’s very honest of you to say, not many women would ever admit that.” I smile, a triumphant feeling of self-awareness brooding within me, noting internally that I am not like other women, a point I have repeated to myself for a long time. And as that point sinks in, I realize that it was the same one which also led me to walk down a terrible narrative, one where I eventually became a placeholder girl.

As you talk about yourself, what you do, what your goals are, your baritone voice going down the check-list elephant in the room that is present in most dating situations, I nod quietly, occasionally offering myself, too, to be examined, dissected, and torn apart for the sake of compatibility. I note quietly, that I am tired of playing this game. The thought of being here again after being a placeholder is something I cannot fathom and for a moment I want to blurt out:

“I’m not looking for anything serious right now, just meeting people and having fun.”

After all, this was the very line that led me to the table laid for me in the presence of my insecurities, my cup overflown with eventual grief. It is no longer difficult to remember what led me to my own emotional demise, one where my insecurities and a fractured sense of self allowed me to ride the wave of “I’m not ready for a relationship because X” and “I’m not ready for a relationship because Y.” Unaware, occasionally ignorant to the fact that I was warming the proverbial bed for someone else, I carried on in something I like to call a lesson in social situations, and a “what the fuck was I thinking” when I’m taking a long shower at night.

The realization will not come swiftly. It creeps, like ivy, on the house of “self.” The “I love you”’ and “I care about you” will be sandwiched between “I’m not ready,”“I don’t know if I can give you what you want,” and like a child, you will find yourself picking at it like a piece of bread, eager to remove the burned ends and scouring to get to the middle. Love is not compartmentalized, and you will find out the hard way. The part of you that needs healing will seek validation in the form of pining, trying, asking, pleading, all embarrassingly, but to no avail. The confusion will come, when actions betray what has been said by the one you “love,” your friends will warn you from the sidelines, their worried eyes watching you dig your own emotional grave. And when you are to be replaced, as expected, the blow will be swift and painful because deep down you have always known, and it is the disappointment in yourself, and not the betrayal that will send you to sleep.

But you’ll survive.

You don’t know it, but you will. You’ll survive because you have told yourself that you are not like other women (whatever that means). Perhaps you will not be as dramatic, watching yourself go through the five stages of grief, holding on especially to anger because in some sick way, there is a stronger ability to move on by holding on to the terrible things someone has done. You’ll learn to be, you’ll start going outside yourself again, you’ll write down the entire relationship in detail on paper, and regard it from an outsider’s perspective, seeing yourself with new eyes. You will also see your mistakes, and if you are smart, you will try to work on it, because the part of you invested in a better future for yourself, knows that the possibility of something better is on the horizon. And because you have been hurt, you will feel a strength in the scar, regarding its place on your sleeve where your heart used to be, when someone else comes along with a similar agenda. Like a radar, you will smell the bullshit before it even appears, no longer relishing in the illusionary thought that someone might “miss you” because in truth they probably won’t. But going home, turning on the shower, reliving a scenario where you were a smaller version of yourself and instead of saying “what the fuck,” you smile, water spewing in your eyes, and you will murmur:

“Shit happens.”

This essay was written by Sheba Anyanwu. If you like what you just read, please hit the “recommend” button so others can find and share this as well.

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