I grew up longing for people’s affection. I grew up as the girl with the heart on her sleeve, forever trying to get people to laugh, to smile, to see passion in my eyes. I loved the satisfaction I gained in knowing someone was happy being around me, or that I could do something they wanted and all would feel right in the world. Some call it people-pleasing (and it often was, I won’t lie) but there was something about that positive energy I soaked in. Until I got so caught up in others, that I forgot myself.
The world tells us so much—who to be, how to act, what’s important. We get caught up in people’s perspectives of us, of their judgments (good and bad) and of their expectations. And if we aren’t careful, we lose ourselves in the process. We forget who we are and what our identity really rests in.
I was the girl with the heart on her sleeve, and maybe you are too. Here’s what I want you to know about who you are (and why you shouldn’t carry shame):
You have to recognize the beauty in who you are.
I spent so long feeling shame about who I was and the way I loved. I remember vividly in seventh grade, posing a picture with my then-boyfriend. We were walking along the sidewalk to the subdivision where I lived and my friend grabbed my flip phone and asked us to pose in front of a bush.
I remember thinking about how beautiful that moment was—the picture, my arms wrapped around his neck, the sun on our faces. I lived for moments like these, moments where love felt like the center point, the most important piece of my life.
I was teased, later, because that picture never represented the love that I thought was sewn between us. I was devastated, later, because that picture, to me, was printed and hung on my bedroom mirror. He was my everything. I was just a pawn in his game.
I carried shame for years—not just for that seventh-grade boyfriend, but for all the loves to come after. I carried shame about how easily and deeply I fell. For how hard it was to detangle. For how many times I let people come crawling back and forgave, simply because I believed.
And if this sounds like you, sounds like the selfless, free-flowing love that pours from you—please recognize the beauty in who you are.
People don’t love like us anymore. They’re too afraid, too guarded, too disbelieving. The world needs people like us. People who aren’t scared to be all in.
You must let go of the past.
There will be people who break you. There will be relationships that don’t last. There will be heartbreak, oh will there be heartbreak. But please don’t let that change you.
Perhaps grow from the painful moments, find the blessing in the lesson. Perhaps remember that nothing was promised forever—not even this life—and even if you had the best of intentions, sometimes things are not meant to stay.
You can’t carry the guilt of what didn’t work out. You can only let go and move forward, letting yourself love again—hopefully with the right people this time.
When you’re the girl with the heart on her sleeve, you have to unlearn the ways of selfless love.
And this, perhaps, is the hardest lesson to learn. You’ve always prioritized others, you’ve been conditioned to believe that’s what love is—sacrifice. But it’s toxic when you put others first to the point that you hurt yourself in the process. It’s not healthy to lose your goals, your purpose, your dreams, trying to write a story with someone else.
Learn that love is selfless in a back-and-forth, in a give-and-take, in a balance. And the person you’re meant to love won’t take advantage of your big heart. He or she will love you right back—fully, completely, and fearlessly.
Featured Image Credit: Andrea Vehige