How Falling for the Wrong Person Helped Me Find Myself

Zoe Rader, 18

My friend (let’s call her Jennifer) let her life be consumed by a guy (who we'll call Connor) for about four months. Like a lot of girls, Jennifer was an insecure, angsty teenager who believed a boyfriend would improve her circling pool of adolescent problems. Connor was supposedly her saving grace, the light that she had been grasping for but couldn’t quite reach. It took eight months and a long-overdue intervention to get Jennifer to lift her blinders and realize what kind of guy Connor really was. He had anger issues. He was incredibly aggressive and indifferent about other people's' feelings. He was rude and demeaning.  

Jennifer lost part of herself during that relationship. She became secretive and closed off, distant and submissive. She sacrificed herself and her friendships for this guy.

I see this happen with my friends, classmates, in the media—and I am also guilty of this behavior. Only last week, I realized how much of myself I had given to a guy I've liked for most of my senior year. For too long, he consumed my every thought. I started doing most things for him. What I wore, ate, liked, believed in—all went through a filter of his figurative approval and left my sense of self in the dust. Of course he wouldn't know when I chose to listen to Pink Floyd over Adele because of him, but the belief that this would somehow make him like me overshadowed any idea of me liking me. And the people around me strengthened my obsession; when I saw any of my friends, all they’d ask me about was this guy, as if there was literally nothing else to Zoe Rader. I lavished in this new, exciting attention, however. I was perceived as more interesting and relatable with this boy drama.

I tried texting him more than once to hang out, but he never followed through on anything. I watched him flirt with other girls. I saw him do things I didn’t agree with. I watched him disrespect me and the things I believe in. But none of it fazed me. The idea of a guy being attracted to you is more powerful than anything else for many teenage girls.  

I am a feminist. I am a strong person. I like to think I don’t take crap from others. But I don’t think I am alone in saying that a guy can quickly overtake me. He becomes the puppet master of my thoughts, maneuvering my mind with his very existence. He can dispose of any of my qualities that do not suit him, do not match his, or do not level up to his standards. He can make me sacrifice anything and everything—my friends, my health, my beliefs, my life—and he does this all unknowingly. His attention is incredibly valuable to me—it's the thing so many of us girls learn to cherish and try to sustain at all costs. Society tells us that having a guy will bring us happiness, support, confidence, security, love, and a sense of self. He'll supposedly make you more conversational, optimistic, fun, and relatable. Sure, he might—but that isn’t the only (or healthiest) way to achieve these desirable qualities.  

After realizing that I needed to move on from this guy, I was essentially paralyzed. I had morphed into a different identity so long ago that it was hard to crawl back to my former self. But slowly, I am making my way.

It's important that we all work toward developing personal happiness, confidence, and a strong sense of self, so that when you bring someone into your life, they will strengthen your positive characteristics. That's what I'm working on. I can't promise I won't lose some parts of myself the next time I fall for someone, but I hope that if I’m in the mood for Adele, I’ll still blast her emotional hits like it’s nobody’s business.


Photo courtesy of Keyshort/iStockphoto