Sometimes the most important messages come when you least expect them. When I came across this recent post by Jada Pinkett Smith, the forever soothsayer of my hidden emotions, I had to stop in my tracks for a moment to digest. The post threw me all the way back to my own first heartbreak.
We can all admit to having our hearts broken: whether it was our first experience with puppy love, to breaking up with a long-time partner, or even growing apart from a close friend or family member. Heartbreak hurts and it's real. For me, my heart truly "broke" for the first time in college. It began as a whirlwind of emotions.
He was the person I always imagined would become a part of my future until he had quickly and painfully became a part of my past.
At that age, I didn't really have the capacity to process what was happening. I was in the midst of living in an entirely new part of the country, learning how to survive on my own, and trying to make new friends all while finding a way to be a successful student, varsity cheerleader, and an active member of all of the extracurricular activities at the same time. I remember feeling overwhelmed and destroyed.
No one ever taught me about how I would feel when my expectations were met with disappointment. No one told me how much it would hurt to have to maintain my composure when all I wanted to do was stay in my dorm room and cry. And, certainly, no one could have prepared me for the years it took for me to truly move past the hurt, regain my self-esteem, and move forward in a productive and healthy way.
Everyone's first experience with heartbreak is different, but one thing that we all have in common is that there is real pain involved.
As with any type of trauma, we may develop coping mechanisms, ways to avoid the pain, and even, at times, we miss the mark in healing our own hearts. When Jada Pinkett Smith recently took to Instagram, she gave us the game that many of us need.
The actress revealed that her first heartbreak was from her own father and that it wasn't until she developed a relationship with a higher power that she was truly able to begin to heal from it.
"For me, my first heartbreak was from my father at 7 years old, and then many people and circumstances on top of that disappointed me and broke my heart. And it wasn't until I developed a really strong relationship with a higher power that my brokenness and my heartbreak could be healed. But it also made me realize that people don't break my heart. It's my false beliefs around love and my unrealistic expectations of people that break my heart."
Jada reiterated one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received along my journey in love and relationships. When you keep your heart open but your expectations in check, you realize that you can't control what others say or do, but you can control your reactions to them.
By keeping expectations at bay, you realize that others will never be responsible for your reactions: you, and only you, control how you feel and what you think.
Before I knew this, I was definitely guilty of using others to try and fill the cracks in my heart. It's easy to focus on what feels like a new love or new connection and then forget that you still have some work to do on yourself before you bring another love into the picture. For me, because I wasn't fully healed, I wasn't able to allow myself to fully open myself up to the next person, and, in turn, the connection faded because there was no foundation to start with. To Jada, this is another product of our expectations of others. In her caption, she wrote:
"Often times we expect people we love to heal our broken hearts. When we realize our loved ones can't heal our brokenness (for they are broken too) ... we often feel deeply disappointed and/or have feelings of being betrayed even. We can also spend a lot of time punishing people and having deep resentment towards our loved ones for not behaving in a certain manner that makes our wounded hearts feel good ... all day, everyday."
Now that I've been through my own handful of heartbreaks, I've finally had the time to process my part in my own pain as well as any pain I may have caused those around me. But I truly do not believe that I would have been able to start this process without a real effort to start focusing on myself and my spirituality.
God truly began to answer my calls when I was in the depths of my pain. When I asked him "What do You want me to do now?", He guided me through a religious and spiritual experience that included a lot of self-reflection, a lot of tears, prayer and mindfulness, and an overall life evaluation that I don't think would have happened without that call. It forced me to realize that I am responsible for how I feel and no one else could take on that responsibility for me.
In order to lift myself out of any of the pain and despair I might have felt, I had to focus on feeling good rather than looking to someone else to fill those voids.
One of the hardest things to do is admit that we really are in control of how we feel, even if someone else did do things that cause us pain. Jada revealed that she spent a period of time angry with the Higher Power because she felt "entitled to everyone's best behavior and love." The 47-year-old admits that it wasn't until she humbled herself that she realized that she was demanding things from others that she should be demanding of herself. That's when she finally had a breakthrough. She continued:
Derek Storm / Splash News
"When I realized I'm the only one responsible for my pain, even if it's someone else's fault, I was really angry with the Higher Power because 'I' felt entitled to everyone's best behavior and love. When I finally found some humility and got over myself and surrendered to that Power that is far higher than 'I' and do the work to be for myself what I was demanding everyone else to be FOR me ... I was able to find the Kingdom within and every bit of love and healing I had been looking for all along."
Self-work is hard stuff. It doesn't come overnight, and it takes a lot of time, patience, and forgiveness (for ourselves and others) to truly have that breakthrough. I am the first one to tell you that I am a work in progress, but I feel that because I put in the work, I am much better off than I would be had I ignored the pain and continued to blame others for my unhappiness.
Heartbreaks can be healed, but it's up to us to put in the work and love ourselves first.