Last week, I posted “A Modern-Day Fairy Tale,” which is essentially the abridged version of how I came to be married to my husband. In a fairy tale, there is typically a struggle or challenge that needs to be overcome, and it’s usually some form of evil or oppression. However, a fairy tale almost always ends with some form of “and they lived happily ever after.” To be honest, most modern love stories end that way, too. My assumption, and the assumption that most people make when they watch movies like this or read stories like this, is that everything is perfect once the struggle is overcome.
What does it mean for life to be perfect, though? It is apparently uninteresting to know what happens to the happy couple after they fall madly in love, get married, have children, or whatever. We all know, though, that life continues and new struggles arise.
I’d like to touch on a couple things specifically about my own story that I believe I am not the only woman to have struggled with. Then, I want to talk about recognizing a fairy tale when it’s staring you in the face.
1. Striving for perfection. I mentioned in the story that I constantly strove for perfection with the men I dated in the past. I tried to be whatever they wanted me to be. Or, whatever I thought they wanted me to be. Therefore, after being in a perpetual relationship cycle for much of my high school and college years, I had no idea who I really was, what I wanted to do with my life, or what my needs were from a relationship. I just figured I would do whatever the man I was with wanted me to, or follow along with whatever he wanted me to do.
This mentality, I came to discover, is unacceptable. I did a Shutterstock search for images of “perfection,” and this is what I got:
No wonder young women feel such a need to fit the body image of “perfection” that our society leads us to believe we should have. Frankly, no matter how hard I strived for “perfection,” there was always going to be someone more “beautiful” than me. Always.
I realized that I am beautiful just the way I am, and what makes me beautiful is not how thin I am, what color my hair is, how much my thighs rub together when I walk, how clear my skin is, or how many miles I can run. What makes me beautiful is allowing myself to be me. Nothing more than that. It is NOT how beautiful others think I am, or how my body or facial features compare to the girl working out on the elliptical as I write this.
Once I started loving myself, figuring out who I want to be and what impact I want to make on the world, I became the most beautiful me I could be. Period.
2. The notion that no one will love me if I leave. This is completely untrue, and something I had to learn the hard way. After years (4, to be exact), of fighting, emotional distress, lack of confidence in myself, trying to leave and being made to feel that if I left no one else would ever love me, I finally discovered that I didn’t care. I didn’t care if no one else in the world would love me or want to be with me. I would take being alone for the rest of my life over the emotional abuse. It took me 4 years, but I finally realized that I am better than that and worth more than that.
This is, as I discovered, an easy trap to fall into for many women. The man I was with was very manipulative. If I got angry with him for something, he would somehow turn it around and make it seem like it was all my fault. If I got angry because I spent the day in class and then another 5 hours working until 11PM and walked in to a messy house, and an unemployed boyfriend sitting on the couch playing video games, it was my fault because I wasn’t letting him do the things he wanted to do. I was holding him back, which is why his life was in the state it was in. Ever wanting to be the perfect woman, I believed he was right. I would try harder.
I do not think I’m the only woman who goes through this. I was lucky I made the decision to leave, even if it took longer than it should have. It took me a long time to be willing to admit these things to myself. But eventually, I accepted that I was not wrong, my wants and needs are important too, and I am already perfect.
Fairy tales do happen, if we look hard enough…
As I said, in real life, things don’t just end after you overcome adversity and find your happiness. They definitely don’t continue on a so-happy-you-could-and-sometimes-do-cry level forever.
If I were to look at my life today, at this moment, I would be forced to admit that there is no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that this is a fairy tale. However, if you look at my story as I wrote it in my last post, it sure could be, but only if you take a moment to realize it.
Often we don’t recognize our own “happy endings” because every ending is a new beginning as well. My “happy ending” of finding a man who was perfect for me and marrying him was also a “happy” beginning of house remodeling, selling a house, living apart for 3 months, moving from Wisconsin to Colorado, and dropping from two full-time incomes to one while my husband attends school so he can do something he will love.
And that is exactly why we can and should take a moment to recognize those moments or events that indicate a happy ending and a new beginning. Ultimately, that is what a fairy tale is anyway — a “happily ever after” that signifies the beginning of something more and, hopefully, better.