Have you ever stopped to think about all your heartbreaks in life and the lessons they’ve taught you? And better yet, have you ever taken the time to acknowledge and thank each heartbreak for those lessons?
By heartbreak, I mean anytime you’ve followed your heart and it didn’t go as anticipated.
I’m participating in an online course called Wholehearted. It’s a 6-week course lead by Ashlie Woods that helps us to move out of our head and into our heart space. Following each session, we have exercises and homework. This week we were invited to list out every time that we followed our heart and it didn’t work out. List the heartbreak, acknowledge the lessons learned, and the growth that came from going through that heartbreak.
Heartbreak is not fun, and really just sucks.
And often when we are experiencing it, we vow we will never allow ourselves to be in that place again. Why? Because it hurts and sometimes cuts so deep that we feel we’ll never repair it. But when you allow yourself to push through and feel all the pain and heartache, beauty often comes.
While going through this exercise, I was surprised at how many times in my life I’ve followed my heart. And I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t all from chasing after men. We may think heartbreak can only come from putting our heart on the line for another person, when in reality, it can come from anything you’re putting your whole self into.
Consider it your heart, or intuition…that deep knowing within you.
I look back at my life and remember times when I would go after my heart and really pour myself into something. In high school it was following my love for public speaking and being on stage. I was the President of my school’s Forensics team (speech, acting, and debate…not dead bodies). I loved leading my team and competing. It brought out my competitive, go-getter side, and pushed me to give it my all. During my senior year, I was competing at the state and national qualifying level. I practiced so much that I could do my speech in my sleep. While you want to know your material and be polished, there is also a level of authenticity that comes into play, and I had let my authenticity go. I remember speaking in front of a whole room and having the experience of being outside of my body. It was as if I was watching myself perform. At one point in the middle of my speech I realized I was on autopilot—I was speaking and had no idea what I was saying or where I was in my speech. I had memorized my speech so much that it actually threw me off. When I realized I didn’t know where I was in my speech, I fumbled and messed up. Reality kicked in and I lost my words. I ended up not making it to the next level and lost my chances of making it to Nationals. I was crushed.
I had worked so hard to get to this point, and lost it in an instant.
I carried a lot of heartache, guilt, and disappointment in myself after that. And I even let go of being a leader because I felt by not winning, I had let my team down. Looking back now, I can see how that loss made me a better communicator. I learned to not be so focused on perfection. And I learned to not take things so seriously. Rather have fun, be myself, and share my message.
When it comes to heartbreak involving another person, however, it can often sting more.
I once was hiking in the Texas Hill Country and came across a sign with a quote from Mother Teresa that read, “Some people come into your life as blessings, others come into your life as lessons.”
And for me, it’s both/and. I believe that each person I chased after or who chased after me was both a blessing and a lesson in my life.
On more than one occasion, I have followed my heart cross country to take a chance on another person. And each time, I have been rejected, let go, or not given a chance. And each time it hurt like hell.
But If I hadn’t taken a chance and gotten on the plane, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I saw a quality in each person that I aspire in myself, and when I found myself in the deepest of pain from heartbreak, I discovered more about who I am and what I want and don’t want. I learned to how to heal, love myself even more, step into my power, and own it. In fact one heartbreak, lead to me putting myself out there in the most vulnerable way - dancing on camera and sharing it with the world.
The past can serve as a reminder of pain and heartbreak, and cause you to not put yourself out there again or put your heart on the line. As I stated earlier, heartbreak sucks. But when you let go of how it was and lean into trusting your heart and how it could be, you’ll begin to shed those old layers and be reminded of the strengths and lessons that followed.
And sometimes you’ll follow your heart and it will be everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Last year I followed my heart towards my dream of traveling the world. I left behind the safety and comfort of having a steady paycheck, quit my career of 11 years, sold much of my possessions, and set off on my first solo journey. It was an incredible year, and in some ways the journey has just begun.
When are some moments in your life when you instinctively knew it was time to take a jump or a leap, or a chance on something you desired? And after following that intuition, did it work out how you had anticipated it would go?
If you’ve never looked back at your past heartbreaks, I encourage you to take some time to reflect. Write down what the heartbreak was, how it impacted you, and what lessons you’ve learned since that time that have enriched your life rather than diminished it. It’s not a fun exercise and will likely bring up a lot of old feelings. I found myself many times reliving old memories and feeling a missing from the opportunity or the person in which the heartbreak ensued. Stick with the exercise though. You’ll be surprised to see just how far you’ve come, and find reassurance that no matter what the pain, you can move through it.