THURSDAY, JANUARY 17TH, 2019

DEAR JAMIE:

My confidence and self-esteem dropped significantly after someone whom I thought liked me got into a relationship with another girl. (He and I were exclusive, not friends with benefits by the way.) It was pretty clear to me that we both liked each other, which made the situation that much worse once I found out he started dating someone else.

Even though this happened about a year ago and I’ve moved on with my life (we were both juniors in high school at the time), I still find myself thinking about it and feeling like I wasn’t good enough. He never really gave me the closure I needed, nor did I even try to talk to him after he got into that relationship. He did however try to keep in touch with me every now and then, but nothing was the same, and I found myself not knowing how to talk to him, so eventually we just drifted apart and never talked again.

— CONFUSED

DEAR CONFUSED:

I wish I could give you a hug! It is not easy when a close relationship falls apart, especially when your lasting feelings seem one-sided. I know it is hard when thoughts and emotions from the past resurface, but I promise that is normal and okay; that will happen with any emotional scars or important memories.

Though only you fully understand your own experience, others who have gone through similar moments, including myself, empathize with you.

The best way to move on is to acknowledge and accept your feelings for what they are, not fight or avoid them. Otherwise, your feelings may accumulate and catch you off guard later. This does not mean to wallow in your emotions; rather, take time to non-judgementally ask yourself questions about how you feel and think.

For instance, why do you think this past experience is still affecting you, and what is it that you want? Do you still miss him or the idea of him? Are you confused because there is a nagging, empty loneliness within you — maybe one that seems connected to this boy?

Only you can reflect on and answer these questions yourself. If you answered the last question with yes, I want you to know that loneliness is human and within everyone. It may have become more obvious through your experience with this one boy, but it was not created by him nor will it be filled by him or any other person. It also won’t always feel so gaping, and it will not pervade your entire life.

Honestly, things probably won’t ever be exactly the same, but that is not necessarily bad. Rather, it can create room for improvement. For instance, it is possible for the two of you to become friends with clear boundaries. Because that requires effort on both sides, you must decide if the investment is worth it.

You also don’t have to maintain ties with him. Consider your situation and desires thoroughly before deciding.

Many people, including myself, prefer closure, but sometimes we don’t receive it. Especially after a year of separation, complete closure is unlikely.

The best thing you can do is learn from this experience. If you know you feel most comfortable with a clear future and settled conclusions, seek those in your future relationships and friendships by initiating clarifying conversations early on.

Sometimes, you will find that the other person doesn’t have the same desires or views as you.

In that case, you can still try to work things out by communicating what you are comfortable with or deciding to wait before defining a set goal. If that doesn’t work because the two of you are on completely different pages, don’t beat yourself up for it; some relationships are just  not the best fit, especially at certain times. Ultimately, you will be more reassured knowing that you gave your best effort, and, if you do prefer settlement, avoiding a helpless, endless guessing game.

Most importantly, remember that another person can neither define nor lessen your self-worth. I know it hurts to feel left by someone, but an “unsuccessful” relationship and not being “good enough” for one boy are irrelevant to your value as a person. As long as you respect other people, who you are is good enough.

You can seek to understand another person without letting him or her completely change or define you. Your confidence can be rebuilt as long as you commit to restoring and loving yourself.

I wish I could do more to help, but in the end, it is up to you. Whatever you decide, with wise discernment, have faith in hope for better. One boy will move on, life will continue forward and so will you.

WITH LOVE: JAMIE

Dr. Moira Kessler, a child psychiatrist at the Stanford University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, offers feedback to the column writer. She is not providing any clinical services.

For questions, email dearjamie16@gmail.com.

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