How to Train Your Dragon

What is your dragon? Everyone has a dragon they face. Some of us have more than one. It’s helpful if you can see the dragon, then you can name it. When a beast has a name, it’s easier to defeat. Mine was my father’s emotional abuse. But what I didn’t know for a long time was that there was a second dragon hidden within the first. You can’t defeat something you can’t see.

My father doesn’t know how to properly love the people around him. He can’t. A person can’t love another until he can love himself. My father’s severe self-criticism unfortunately tends to come out as anger. And so, instead of affection and support, I got sarcasm and snide remarks. When the first man in a woman’s life doesn’t know how to love her properly, it can really mess with her sense of self-worth.

I sought validation of my worth in the attention of other men. For many years, this was self-defeating. I was shy and awkward—not to mention overloaded by a mound of emotional baggage—and I wouldn’t have known what to do with the attention once I got it. But it still hurt to feel invisible, especially when meeting guys and dating, and then marriage, seemed so much easier for all my friends.

I didn’t start dating until my mid- to late-twenties, much later than many other girls I knew. And I still had so much to learn. Finally, after I turned 30, I was in a relationship, one of my first semi-serious ones. It was fun to have a boyfriend, to have a man in my life who cared for me. But there was something wrong, and after a while, I could no longer ignore it. I began to notice that I was jealous of my other dating friends’ happiness. Why wasn’t I as blissfully happy as they were? My boyfriend was certainly good enough for me.

Therein lied the rub. Good enough. I finally saw it—a silent dragon of a lie that had been holding me tight in its clutches for a long, long time.

I didn’t believe I deserved the love of a good man.

Once I realized this, it was like I’d found the final clue to solve a never-ending mystery. I began to believe I was worth the true love of a good man. I was worth waiting for him. So, I ended the unhealthy relationship I was in and focused on building the foundations of friendship with the men I met rather than desperately searching for someone to love me. I was no longer searching for my self-worth in a man, and I could feel it growing stronger within me.

Dragons don’t suddenly disappear in a wisp of smoke, but as time went on, I was able to train and ultimately defeat the beast. Once I began healing, things fell into place. I found that good man (or, rather, he found me), and I was able to accept his love. Most importantly, though, I learned that I have the power to defeat the dragons that still may come.

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