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“My mother has only five years left to live and she doesn’t like you. You’re too—what’s the word?—different. That’s why I’m breaking up with you.”

That’s what someone with no balls to own his decisions told me several years back. Thankfully, his mother was still alive the last time I checked.

Oh, and hello to all my girlfriends out there who were dumped for being too different!

Several years back, I was in love with the idea of being in love. For years, I chased the idea that being in a relationship was the ultimate sign of a happy, successful life. After all, I had my career down pat. I had family. I had friends. Now, I only had to chase the elusive perfect relationship.

As expected, nothing went as planned.

I went after guys who weren’t the right fit for me. It wasn’t that I was too smart or too ambitious for them, even though I very likely was. It was just that I went after every guy who showed the slightest bit of interest in me. I was too engrossed in the idea of being in a relationship with someone, anyone that it didn’t even cross my mind to consider if this guy actually was up to my usual standards or not. In fact, when it came to relationships, my standards were lower than the Marianas Trench.

It is embarrassing to admit, but that’s what it was.

Back then, my identity depended on the relationships I had. I simply didn’t have enough sense of who I was. And so, every time these guys dumped me—yes, they all dumped me—I would scream and cry and beg for them to come back, as if my identity, my very survival depended on staying in their lives.

For a while, my identity did depend on these relationships. But if you’re a smart, ambitious girl and you’ve been dumped not once, not twice, but three times under similar circumstances, you’re probably not so smart and ambitious at all if you don’t stop and think, “What the hell am I doing wrong?”

I didn’t have to think much about it. I simply assumed I was doing everything wrong when it came to relationships. So I stopped doing them. I stopped wanting to be in a relationship. I stopped thinking about all that was missing in my life. And I started focusing on the things that were already there—family, friends, school, work, and a lot of time and space to explore who I truly was.

Back then, I was only starting to grasp the slightest idea of who I was. But it was there and it was ever so slightly growing every single day. It wasn’t that I didn’t know who I was when I was in my earlier relationships. It was just that I had forgotten. But when I stopped and took a break from chasing relationships, I began to remember.

To this day, I can’t say I fully remember who I am, but the memory gets clearer every day. And every day, I make it a point to plant myself in that growing clarity, in that increasing confidence, so that whatever happens, I always have something unbreakable to fall back on—that is, who I am.

In hindsight, I can say this is how I have completely turned my relationship situation around. Once, I was the girl who turned a blind eye to guys who couldn’t spell the word “potatoes” but would mansplain the English language to me. I pretended I didn’t care that they were playing video games all day long, all week long while I was traversing the busy highways of Manila to get to work. I ignored the fact that these guys were completely ungrounded in their masculine energy and, therefore, just didn’t have the ability to love, care for, and support me.

And now that I think about it, it’s not just the romantic relationships I chased. I also chased friendships I wanted so bad to be part of. I kept doing favors for other people even though the red flags were already there. I believed they were my friends, even though I could sense their embarrassment for my being too much. And I almost diluted my too muchness just to fit in with their sense of what normal was supposed to be like.

But thank God I didn’t. Thank God I came back to my being too much, too different, too smart for her own good. If I didn’t, I’d still be chasing relationships right now instead of enjoying and growing in the one I’m in right now.

It’s one of the greatest paradoxes of life. That for you to have what you want, you have to insist upon what you want. And yet, you also have to be able to live with the possibility that you might not ever have what you want. It’s when you lay out to God, the Universe, the fairies—whomever you pray to—in all honesty the full terms of what you want, and then let it all go and focus on loving, enjoying, basking in the goodness of what the present can offer, the things you’ve always dreamed of but never thought possible slowly, quietly creep into your life.

And then one day, you simply realize that the things you asked for years ago you already have in your life. They’re never really the same as what you asked for. Often, they’re better, much better in ways you couldn’t have expected and therefore couldn’t have asked for.

I asked for a happy, healthy relationship with a handsome, smart, and kind person. But he’s not just handsome, he’s grounded in masculine energy and has the strength to provide for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He’s not just smart, he knows how to access that infinite source of wisdom when he needs it—that’s how he calms me down when I’m all over the place and finds solutions to problems when seemingly there were none. He’s not just kind, he knows how to open his heart and let people in. And we’re not just happy. We’re growing together as individuals and inspiring each other even more.

I didn’t ask for any of that, but here it is. And if you’d like to have you some of that, here’s what I recommend you do:

Focus entirely on yourself.

Know who you really are.

And every day, plant yourself in that knowingness. Nourish yourself with thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that help you grow and prune out everything else that is weighing you down.

One day, you just might realize that what you were asking for you already have all along.

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