By Brianna Krueger
It took being broken up with to realize what I want in a relationship – someone that makes me want to be a better me. Someone that I won’t say necessarily completes me, but adds to me. Someone who teaches and challenges me to step out of what I’m accustomed to as being me. Someone who doesn’t necessarily want to deliberately change me, but being with them opens me up to new versions of myself I never thought I’d be – like maybe someone who could persuade me to like vegetables (it’s possible). Someone who adds value to who I am and how I live.
I think of who I was at the beginning of that relationship, to who I was at the end, to who I am now, and the change is drastic. Who the hell did I use to be?! She was good, but she’s not as great as she is today – and that says a lot from where I came from after first becoming a party of one.
At the time, I didn’t realize the better me he’d helped me become. And when I lost him, I couldn’t believe the person he had bettered me into – even in some silly, minute, and weird ways. He had an impact on me.
Bettering yourself (read me in this case) doesn’t have to be something drastic or grand. It can be something as simple as getting me to try vegetables and learning I like more than just corn, carrots, beans, and broccoli, or introducing me to archery, even if my aim still isn’t perfect. Maybe it’s expanding my friend circle to include people I never would have otherwise had the chance of meeting, or redefining what I thought a relationship was – as in having to come out of my independent shell and actually spend more than three days a week with the person. (Honestly, I blame that last one on my first boyfriend, who was equally as independent, quiet, and introverted as me.)
However, not all bettering and value-adding comes from a relationship. You can learn a lot about yourself by being on your own.
It started out as a toxic and pathetic ploy to deliberately change myself into everything my ex said I wasn’t and couldn’t be, but then I discovered something else inside of me, something that makes me better: someone who likes taking on challenges and proving people wrong – most of all, myself. I now know I thrive on doing and trying things people tell me ‘no’ to.
Don’t have enough in common because I won’t try snowboarding? Wrong; I spent 3 hours on the slopes. It may have left with bruises on my butt, but my ego swelled more – because I did try. And I liked that feeling.
Once I learned I could, I couldn’t stop ‘could-ing’. (A bit ironic, that wording). ‘Could-ing’ allowed me to continue bettering myself – I didn’t need a companion for that.
Hated running? Ran a freaking 5K. Scared of the jet ski? Now I drive it on my own. Afraid of fire? I’m kinda pyro now, lighting bonfires with roman candles and jumping into lakes with sparklers. Fearful of rejection? I’m currently querying my novel to agents and taking a chance by asking a guy or two out. Watched too much TV? My TV knowledge and interest in the Kardashians won trivia for my team and $30. Still not a fan of all vegetables? Now I eat more vegetables than my dad. I even like Brussel sprouts.
Facing my fears first terrifies me, but then betters me. And I love knowing I can do it myself…but that doesn’t mean I’ll always want to.
Having a companion and partner-in-crime could be pretty darn helpful. One can only better themselves so much on their own. Facing my fears is awesome, but there’s still a world of fears I haven’t comprehended, that I’m waiting for someone to challenge me with. Waiting for someone to make me see it as something I need in my life. Waiting for something I didn’t even know I needed.
Plus, I’d like to be able to impact someone the way I’ve been impacted, to make them feel like they’re becoming the best version of themselves, to make them feel like I’ve added value to their lives.
But then I worry. What “bettering” do I give out in return? Anxiety and other doubts often make me question my ability to give back to the people in my life. For example, I try to identify myself by what characteristics or things I give back and contribute to people, or when people think about me and are asked to say something positive about me – what would they say beyond the generic she’s nice, helpful, sometimes funny, definitely a bit awkward, and usually hardworking? Those are great qualities – but they’re not an exclusive trait to me. I want to have a quality that makes me stand out.
Thinking back to that ex, I can’t really say I bettered him in the ways he bettered me.
When I spoke to friends about this, they assured me it wasn’t true and went through the typical lists of how nice, funny, great, pretty, etc. I am, and how my writing and grammar is a ‘resource’ people associate with me that I can give back.
The thing is, it’s not always going to be an indefinable trait, characteristic, thing, or adjective that defines you for how you’re best at bettering someone. It truly depends on who you’re interacting with – and can be crazy, whackadoodle things, like it has been for me, where they’re so small and silly, but still impactful. All the bettering I listed that my ex did? It’s not summed up into one word; it’s a spectrum, and when I continued my bettering on my own, it’s still a spectrum because it dealt with me and what I was ‘missing.’ That varies from person to person because you don’t realize what you’re ‘missing.’
You can better someone by challenging them to take a chance on their art and illustrate a children’s novel, or you can better someone by recommending a book that they’ll devour in a night and come begging you for a new suggestion, or better someone by getting them to try something that bettered yourself (like archery), or better someone by introducing them to clothes outside of tearaways (okay, this is more of an inside joke bettering, but she fully agrees that she loves her leggings, scarves, sweaters, and even the occasional heels now!).
Bettering is in the eye of the beholder.
So Dear Mr. Next Guy, if you’re reading this, this is what a girl (read: me) wants: Better me. Add to me. Teach and challenge me. Open me up to new versions of myself. Add value to who I am and how I live. It doesn’t have too big and earth shattering – it could be as small and simple as getting me into country music.
In return, I’ll better you (worries and anxiety be damned). Add to you. Teach and challenge you (trust me, I can stubborn AF, so it’s definitely a challenge). I’ll open you up to new versions of yourself. I’ll add value to who you are and how you live. It may not be big and earth shattering – it may be as small and simple as getting you into pop music in return.