I ain’t settling for just getting by
I’ve had enough so-so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high
Just enough ain’t enough this time
I ain’t settling for anything less than everything,
Settlin’ by Sugarland
In 2010, at the age of 25, that Sugarland song became my anthem. I was so done with all the bull. Done with the drama. Over the chase. Tired of being strung along. No longer willing to compromise over things that were actually unacceptable to me. For the first time in my life, I was ready to be alone rather than with someone who didn’t appreciate me for me. This was big stuff for someone who was only “OK” if a guy was paying attention to her.
A Chameleon of Sorts
I’m one of those girls who had string of boyfriends starting in my teens all the way into my 20s. It was rare that I wasn’t seeing someone, or rather chasing someone. The saddest part about it is I lost myself in those relationships time after time. If he was into cars, so was I. Oh you like rap music? That’s my favorite too! Basketball fan? Go Duke! You love Jesus? Me too… *insert story of being saved*
I know I’m not the only person who’s done this. And it might even make sense while we are young. We are still trying to figure out who we are/want to be, so why not try new things. The problem for me was that I had reached a point where I’d do the things I didn’t enjoy or even hated pretending it was great just to ensure he would like me. And if he did, then I wouldn’t feel quite so alone.
So by this point in my mid 20s, I wasn’t really even sure who I was. I didn’t even know with certainty the things I liked and the things I didn’t. A good friend helped me to realize I had been a chameleon most of my life (not just with boys, I changed for my girl friends too). But what was harder to swallow was who I’d become because of this choice to be a chameleon.
Now For Action
In 2010, when my chameleon behavior was revealed to me in my handwriting, I had to make a decision. What now? Clearly, I have figured out what doesn’t work for me. Sounds like it’s time to try something new. Time to exercise an opposite muscle, if you will.
So, I took this ugly list of truths about me, summarized it and came up with the problem. Surprise, the problem was me. And I was able to also condense that list, because I really just I kept doing the same thing over and over, hoping it would get me different results. I was insane. Some may see this as depressing, but that’s not the end of the story!
But once you identify the problem, you can find a solution. If there IS no problem, why do you need a solution? Once I had my shortened list of truths about the woman I’d become, I made a column on the opposite side of the page. I wrote the antonym for each of those characteristics. It was a much nicer looking list. And that “opposite” list became my foundation for the “Ideal” I was ready to create.
When someone suggests you write out your “Ideal” relationship, if you’re like me, you think it sounds pretty great. You want me to make a list of the things I want in a partner? Ok! Handsome, smart, funny, rich, nice car…. am I right?!
But that’s not how it worked for me. Instead, I took a good hard look at my list of opposites. I prayed about what that list meant to me. From there, God helped me to see my history of relationships with a new pair of eyes. He allowed me see clearly that over and over I settled for being good enough and was accepting unacceptable from partners as well as myself.
“Good Enough” for Long Enough
Good enough for a night. Good enough for the summer. Whatever the boy I was into wanted, I could be good enough. I didn’t ask for more from any of them. Heck if I did, they might leave me. Then what would I do — have to find a new one, of course. So I lowered my bar. Time and time again. I kept crossing those lines my younger self had drawn in the sand. And besides, who works harder in a relationship if no one is pushing them to, right?
Since I didn’t push them, I was constantly having this internal battle of what my heart desired and what my will allowed. You might be wondering what that looked like… Well, kind of like a toddler. When I didn’t get what I wanted I saw no problem with throwing a tantrum. Those tantrums took on different forms: silent treatment, meltdowns, overreaction, empty threats, withholding love. Needless to say, I did not make an “Ideal” partner in a relationship.
So this exercise of lists helped me to see the cause and effect relationship of choices I made. The boys weren’t the problem and I was finally in a place where I could accept that. And by continuing to lower my bar, I stopped growing. I became spiritually bankrupt and it is an empty way to live.
So, what do you do when you are at the bottom of the barrel? You slowly start to make your way out. Back to my list of opposites. Wow. Those things sounded nice: honesty, faith, no drama, passion in life, respectful, committed, selfless, life outside of the relationship. Ok, I got my list, now bring the candidates right?
Wrong. Big gut punch after making this list:
If I want these things in a partner, I must become this person.
Ouch. That sounds like a lot of work. Not all of it of course. I mean, I want to be closer to God, and nice to others, and definitely want to pursue my passions. But being selfless is not my default mode. And I’ll be honest, I’m a drama queen. Basically, becoming this new “Ideal” woman was going to take some work. And patience. And being kind to myself as I slowly turn the ship 180 degrees. The cool thing is, I didn’t have to do it alone.
Journey to becoming ME
Thankfully, that same friend I mentioned before agreed to walk alongside me in this journey of “righting the ship” as we called it. She loves me enough to hurt my feelings. Throughout all of this, she was patient and firm and continually pointed me back to my “Ideal” and reminded me that I did it with God. Any time I’d start to cut myself some slack, she’d remind me of what I shared with her. And I’d see that cutting corners was not going to get me to where I wanted to be.
And it was painful. The first Friday night I sat at home alone was the worst thing I’ve experienced in life thus far! (Told you, drama!) And going out to eat alone?! No! Don’t make me. Not having a date option for a date and going with this friend instead? AH! All around me, friends were getting married, starting families and being grown ups, and here I was, learning how to be a friend to myself.
But, soon I could see that this journey was not meant to lead me to my future husband (although eventually, that happened). No, I was on this journey to allow God to change me into the woman He intended me to be. I was finally ready to stop fighting this world and all that I thought I NEEDED to be. Ready to get to know Jessi.
Who is Jessi?
Once I started taking some different actions, including not appearing so available, I started to get to know Jessi. And I found out she’s pretty cool. Guess what? She doesn’t hate cats! She also loves to cook. And clean! And getting up while it’s still dark to go to the gym is one of her favorite routines. Also, she doesn’t hate to be alone, actually, she likes it. Jessi enjoys spending time with women — something she swore up and down she never would like.
But there’s more! She likes quiet evenings alone, as well as sitting one-on-one with another woman. And Jessi really likes coffee and country music. And silly sitcoms and movies. She loves Jesus and desires to be near Him regularly. Church is an important part of her life, and so is her family. Finally, despite the cold, callous front she’s put on for so many years (and found pride in), she’s actually quite compassionate.
Not the End of the Story
During this painful, lonely time, these are the things I learned about Jessi — and the list continues to grow. Who knew I actually loved to write AND read! The Jessi I thought I was for so many years turned out to be a facade I put on for “him”. When I finally allowed myself to just be me and let Jesus into my life, well, let’s just say it opened some pretty amazing doors.
So what I’ve learned is that it’s not about making a list in order to find the perfect guy. That’s so far from the plan. It’s about discovering yourself and learning to live with who you are and becoming the person God created you to be, as an individual. The line that always sticks in my mind is: “No man is right until I’m ready.” So I got ready. And in that process I learned to love me for me, and who that me really is.
I did all this so that someday, when God saw fit, I’d be ready for the next page in my story. And when a handsome bald man approached me for a date — I was able to say yes confidently, but without expectation. After 2 hours with this man on an ACTUAL date, I saw clearly I no longer needed to compromise, lower any bars or cross any lines. I’d found a match to my “Ideal” and knew we’d continue to grow towards that together. But that’s a story for another blog post 🙂