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As a human being, you have no predefined essence — a definition encapsulating all that you are: values, beliefs, goals, etc. You create your essence through the many choices you make after being thrown into this world and becoming conscious of it.
You’re always one step ahead of yourself, creating yourself as you go along. (1)
Sure, you may be influenced by your genetics, aspects of culture, and personal background, yet none of that amasses to a complete essence — a blueprint for producing you.
Jean-Paul Sartre, a leading French existential philosopher, put it best: existence precedes essence. In other words, you exist first and then make something of yourself through your choices and actions. (2)
Now, because you’re always making choices — you always control how you interpret that which happens to you and how you respond to it (even though you can’t always control the thing itself) — you are also inherently responsible for everything you choose to think, do, feel, or experience.
Read that shit again, motherfucker.
You’re always responsible for your breakup, whether you consciously recognize it or not, no matter whose fault it is. And there is no escape.
If you’re not consciously interpreting it, that’s still an interpretation of it. If you’re not choosing to respond to it, that’s still a response to it. Even the choice to not make any choice is ultimately still a choice.
Now, if this all sounds a bit nauseous, it’s because it is.
Taking responsibility for any negative event triggers anxiety in us. A lot of people avoid taking responsibility for their breakup precisely for this reason. Instead, they immediately start making up stories about how it’s not their fault.
They say, “It’s my ex who’s to blame,” “There’s nothing I could’ve done or can do,” The world is unfair, “My parents/peers sabotaged my relationship, and on and on the excuses whizz.
Sartre would call these responses living in “bad faith.” I would call them bullshitting yourself into oblivion. And as you’d guess, the more you do it, the worse you feel.
But suppose you do take responsibility for your breakup. What happens then? Well, a lot of good, actually.
It makes you feel more in control of your life. It helps you leverage your pain and grow in spite of it. And it enables you to transform a brutally negative experience into an empowering one (i.e., the loss of your relationship into an opportunity for growth).
I know this all sounds entirely counterintuitive, but it’s true: taking responsibility for your breakup will liberate you from the pain, anxiety, and hopelessness you feel around it. The more responsibility you take for it, the more power you’ll exercise over it, and vice versa.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how the fuck does this shit translate to real life? Well, here’s a personal example to shine light on the whole thing.
A Responsibility Primer
I was 16 when my first “real” girlfriend dumped me. As you’d expect, the whole thing hurt like being punched in the face 69 times, and I was miserable months after the incident. And making my ex fully responsible for my misery didn’t help, but only exacerbated it further.
You see, I couldn’t control my ex. No matter how many times I’ve pleaded and begged her to come back, I couldn’t control her actions or feelings. Ultimately, while she was to blame for how I felt, she was never responsible for how I felt. That responsibility was on me.
I got into therapy. I started exercising. I began eating clean food. I stopped drinking so much. I made new friends. I started dating again. I started taking my schoolwork more seriously. Slowly but surely, I started to improve myself and all core areas of my life, and ultimately, I started feeling better.
Yes, I still resented my ex for what she did. And it took months of therapy for that resentment to soften. But at least I wasn’t trapped in the victim mentality anymore — at least I didn’t make my ex responsible for my life anymore. And by doing so, I was subconsciously choosing to live a better life.
About a year or two of rigorous self-work later, something funny occurred. When I looked back at my relationships, I realized that I wasn’t so innocent after all. I was inadvertently needy, possessive, and manipulative, and not exactly what you’d call “the best boyfriend of the year.”
I could also see that I wasn’t dating a particularly high-quality woman. In fact, I realized that my ex was made of the same shitstain flavor as me — she was also a glaring red flag.
In other news: I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But have those mistakes made me conclude that I’m not good at relationships and that there is no point in getting into one?
No. I instead took on the responsibility of never making those same mistakes again to help guarantee that I never suffer the same consequences again and make my relationships better in the process.
And fuck, did they get better… Shortly after I took responsibility for my mistakes, I began to improve upon them, and as you’d expect, my love life shot up and began to thrive.
So ultimately, while my ex dumping me was one of the most painful experiences of my life, it was also one of the most important and influential ones.
It forced me to tread down a path of personal growth beyond the scope of anything I’ve ever experienced. And along it, I’ve done what I thought was impossible at the time.
I faced and overcame most of my emotional issues (I learned to manage the rest). I found out how to attract and keep the kind of women I wanted. And I started that online blog business that always seemed so appealing.
But, perhaps most importantly, I discovered who I really am — what I value, believe in, stand for, and where I wanted to steer what remains of my mental and emotional capacity; my fucks, per se. And I became unapologetic about expressing all of it.
Put simply: I’ve grown up.
An Invitation For Change
I have no idea what kind of breakup you’ve got yourself into, but I know that you’re hurting. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.
Maybe your ex cheated on you. Maybe they dumped you. Or maybe they’ve done both. And yes, it may not be entirely your fault, and it sure as shit sucks, yet you know what you must do to overcome that suck. So, I invite you to do it. If you need permission, go ahead — this is it, bitch.
Take responsibility for your breakup.
This is how you’ll steer your proverbial lifeboat toward calmer seas. This is how you obtain a chance to take an honest look at yourself and how your behaviors affect your relationships. This is how you open the motherfucking floodgates to better relationships. This is where real growth and improvement come from.
To simply blame your ex — or others — is only hurting yourself.
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