I developed a crush on a guy who messaged me through this blog last year. Our connection felt intense from the start; our emails back and forth often included several paragraphs each. Over the course of several months, a decent amount happened: we both admitted to feeling some romantic desire, he wanted space to heal from a recent breakup before we talked further, and most recently, he shared he only wanted me as a friend. Cue, an image of me crying to “in my head” by Ariana Grande while driving on the highway from Virginia to Maryland at 1am.
Over the past week, I felt so much self-hatred for having ever trusted and wanted this guy who I literally only talked to over the internet so maybe we wouldn’t have been compatible anyway lol. Considering my past history with men who have used me and then left, I felt foolish for making the same mistake: liking a guy who in the end would only take advantage of me. In a therapy session, I said that I knew for a fact that I, Thomas, am indeed the most foolish, naïve, good-for-nothing person on the planet for trusting this man. I felt so much shame for how I opened up to him about my fears and my inner world, how I said I liked him and believed him when he said he liked me too.
Over the past week, I have taken a lot of time to talk with close friends, journal and self-reflect, and work my way toward self-forgiveness. In my most lucid moments, I can listen to my friends and understand I did not do much wrong: I felt interested in this guy, I opened up to him as he opened up to me, how could I have known he would treat me like he did? As one of my close friends reminded me, I form relationships with people through vulnerability, so of course it would hurt when a guy takes advantage of that, just as it feels so great when my friends treat that vulnerability with reciprocal sharing and empathy. Still, when I think about how I opened up to this guy, I want to take a permanent shower to cleanse myself of how dirty I feel or fill the pipes with acid water so my skin burns off and I never have to have feelings for a man again, I’m kidding.
But then I remind myself: sometimes we fall for not-so-great men, and we still survive. I think about Ariana Grande, who literally got engaged to the problematic, kinda mediocre comedian Pete Davidson, then ended her engagement and released the most healing, self-compassionate bop “thank u, next.” Or I think about Caroline Knapp, one of my feminist writing inspirations, who dated an emotionally distant man before releasing her powerful memoir about food and feminism and hunger and desire, Appetites. Or I think about Jenny from my favorite film An Education, who drops out of school to pursue a relationship with a con artist, before recognizing the error of her ways and recommitting to empowering herself. If each of these women can survive tumultuous relationships with problematic men, I can survive an unsuccessful crush I held for a few months wow when I write it like that it really feels like I’m kinda complaining about nothing oops there goes this post.
I liked this guy a lot, and I wanted him to like me too. In the end it did not work out. But throughout it all, I held onto myself. I put a lot of effort into my close friendships, I spent so much time on activities that aligned with my values, I played tennis and read books and bopped to BlackPink and Ariana Grande. I have not arrived at a place of complete self-forgiveness yet, and at the same time, I feel more ready to forgive myself than ever.
As Ariana Grande sings in “thank u, next”, I am learning from the pain and turning out amazing. What I have learned from this, especially in regard to potential romantic relationships: I want a guy like this guy in terms of how much he amazed me with his passion, yet I want someone who also practices active listening, who prioritizes consistency and healthy communication, and who will invest a similar amount into me as I do for them. Just like what I find in my close friends, if I do ever date a guy, I want someone I can trust, not some rando who opens up about his fear of commitment and then executes that fear of commitment with little self-awareness toward how it affects me not like that happened to me recently, nope, not the case at all. If a guy that meets my standards shows up in my life, great, and if not, no worries, because I have me. I will apply those same standards of caring and communicativeness to myself, for my students, my clients, and the people who have helped me the most throughout all of this: my friends.
Thank you all for creating a safe space for me to share my healing process! Would love to hear how you all have handled disappointing men (and I guess disappointments in general). I am so sorry for not yet responding to people’s super compassionate comments and messages; they have meant the absolute world to me and have helped me out so much, work has just been hectic this month and surviving work while making time to heal and process has been a lot. Will respond to all of them as soon as possible. In the mean time, hope you are all well. Until next post.
17 responses to “Forgiving the Most Foolish Person on the Planet, Myself”
I have felt foolish for being vulnerable to people I recently met or aren’t super close to. In the end, I tell myself that being vulnerable is not something to be ashamed of. Me being vulnerable has helped other people.
Yes, I love this perspective, that vulnerability helps others and can help ourselves even when sometimes it doesn’t work out or you feel foolish for doing it. Thank you for your solidarity. (:
Great post 😄
No problem 🙂 check out my blog when you get the chance 😄
I’ve learned to approach life with a sense of gratitude. I may invest so much time and effort on people and they might not reciprocate, they might hurt me, but I did live bravely. I put myself out there with all knowledge that the outcome is uncertain, but at the same time completely grateful for having this life, having friends and having the opportunity to continue and be brave.
This was such a helpful comment for me to read, thank you! Yes, gratitude is important, and your comment helped me reflect on how I’m grateful to myself for at least practicing vulnerability, as well as all the people I’ve had the privilege of sharing vulnerability in a reciprocal, compassionate way. Hope you are well.
I think heart break may be part of life. We can develop a better sense of who to trust and who not to, but I don’t think it’s possible to know what will work out and what won’t. We have to try things.
Yes, I so appreciate this perspective, that if you live meaningfully and invest in things and care about things, hurt and heart break are bound to happen – it’s about still trying and putting yourself out there despite that pain. Thank you.
Glad to see you are doing well. I know how it is to feel like a biggest fool on earth. I too, have those days that I just couldn’t forgive myself and was drowning in my shame. I remember one day, my beautiful amazing therapist suddenly figure out what could be the reason for that- why it would be so hard for me to forgive myself. We both enjoyed that ” aha” moment. I felt so grateful to have her compassion and support. But I also know someday maybe I will feel being crushed again. But I know I can handle it. First, it will be much much harder to fool me again, because I have learned how to trust. And second, I also have been inspired by my role models. From great people in my life, like my grandma. And from others, writers, artists. You will be stronger. Wish you all the best.
Yes Xin I love this resilience and vulnerability so much, thank you for sharing! I’m glad you had that moment of insight with your therapist, and it’s so inspiring to me the idea that even if you are crushed again in the future, you can handle it better now than perhaps before. Thank you for sharing your strength and inspiring me to be strong too. Hope you are well.
I wish I had good advice about handling disappointment. So far my strategy is to…feel like a failure, bury it deeply, and avoid all similar feelings so it never happens again? Great strategy, 10/10, fully recommend, no I'm not crying myself to sleep, why do you ask?
In all seriousness, a few things that are helping me in the journey:
*the reminder that I cannot selectively numb. If I choose to shut off certain feelings, I'm probably choosing to dull all my feelings. (I love Brene Brown's work about this.)
*the truth that even when things feel terrible and disappointing, they have consistently gotten better. The darkness won't last.
*the idea that everyone's doing the best they can. It helps me to remember that that means *I'm* doing the best I can, and also that other people aren't intentionally disappointing me. They're just doing the best they can with their limited emotional resources.
You keep taking all these steps toward your own self-care and self-love, and improving how you interact with others, how you create your community and that's *AMAZING.* Those things make a difference. You're already handling this disappointment so much better than you would have a year ago or, heaven forbid, 6+ years ago when I first "met" you. You're doing great.
And I hope that some man someday treats you like the absolute treasure you are.
Thank you so so so so so much for this meaningful and compassionate and thoughtful comment. Love the vulnerability (even if it’s joking vulnerability) in the beginning b/c the temptation to avoid/numb is present, and I also so deeply appreciate all the different strategies you share. As a huge feeler I def have had the urge to numb emotions but as you write it’s more healthful and meaningful to feel deeply and get hurt sometimes than to not feel at all. And I appreciate the note that things do get better when things are bad and how things don’t stay bad forever. And, your point about recognizing that people are doing the best they can with their limited emotional capacity is an interesting one, because while I do feel like sometimes people aren’t doing their best with their limited emotional capacity, sometimes people are (just thinking about my most recent crush and how he got out of a several year relationship recently and how that’s affected his capacity to see me or things in general clearly). So much insight from your post and I’m so so grateful we’ve been able to stay in touch via blogging over the past several years. ❤
You have a wonderful network of friends.
I hope you were able to quickly forgive yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong. Showing vulnerability, trust and expressing them is a gift. You’re a good man.
Keep writing (… I mean oversharing). 🙂
Thank you for this wonderful comment, yes, my network of friends is iconic. 🙂 And I appreciate you reminding me that being vulnerable and trusting and expressing those emotions is a gift. And hahahaha I love that you brought back the oversharing joke from a recent blog post, I’m so grateful to have a dedicated and kind reader such as yourself!
Oh my goodness I have made a complete pranny of myself over so many people, romantic ones and friendships I messed up. We all have to do it. It’s crap and we learn from it HOORAY GREAT but it happens. I find it hard to forgive myself, and certainly the ex I see around a fair bit (he’s friends with the people across the road – more hooray – I think what the actual heck??? I’m glad you have these brilliant friends and that you’re nourishing yourself. Keeping talking and authentic is key, I think.
Thank you so much for your support Liz, means so much to me to know that someone as iconic and mature and talented as yourself has also made a pranny of yourself in the past. Whew at seeing your ex, that’s rough, I hope that you’re able to cope with seeing him in a way that’s kind to yourself. Yes, talking with my friends has been hugely helpful and having wonderful readers like yourself keeps me motivated to write on here. (: