Who is this Person? Self Love & Dating


A few weeks after I locked the door on my husband for the last time, I went out with friends to a bar. After twelve years in a relationship, I had no intention of dating anyone for a very long time.  I wanted only a nice night out, away from all the worries of filing for divorce and the hard conversations I knew were coming.

I don’t even know if he came up to me, or I to him. But I remember he wore a soft, white turtleneck sweater, and he spoke with the most glorious accent.

His name was Ben*. Originally from South Africa, he went to boarding school in England and arrived stateside to train aspiring athletes in tennis for world-class competitions. Somehow, in the middle of Minnesota, on my first night out, I’d met a foreign tennis pro who wanted to take me out to dinner. Maybe it was the second glass of pinot grigio talking, but I said yes.

Next, over the course of a few months, I misplaced my mind.

With a divorce in the works, a young son to care for, a new job to learn, a novel to write, and my sanity to maintain, Ben was the perfect distraction. Instead of worrying about custody arrangements, I worried if Ben would text me back. Instead of fretting that my boss took a leave of absence only a couple of weeks after I started my new job, I obsessed over what he meant by, “See you later.” I’m not suggesting that I didn’t handle my business or stay devoted to my young son. I did. But, because I had Ben and this silly little romance to occupy my mind, I worried much less about the “real” stuff. The elephant-sized problem, however, had become obvious to me from my very first date with Ben. We had nothing whatsoever in common. He reminded me of my not-yet-ex-husband: a man-child struggling to grow up.

Though he had the best of manners and paid me all kinds of compliments—the very things I needed to hear at that moment—no topic of conversation interesting to me could hold his attention. I did not want to date him. Did not. But here I was, thinking about him, wondering when he’d text me and when I’d see him again.

He’d already told me he didn’t want to get too romantically involved with a not-yet-divorced woman. I’d agreed with him. We weren’t “involved.” The logical, rational part of my brain knew that. But, the other part, the emotional part, had other ideas.

This thing was going nowhere, and yet when I didn’t hear from him for a few days I found myself indignant and frustrated. Why didn’t this guy love me? Isn’t that my job, to get him to love me? I’m attractive enough, successful enough, smart enough. But he held firm. I demanded to know why he didn’t want to date me—not the whole “you’re not divorced yet” excuse but the REAL reason.

Ben, polite and firm, simply said, “That is the real reason. You don’t want to date me. You know you don’t.” I was forced to accept this answer, but my heart still stung. Over the next several months I dissected this tryst as I sorted through the mess of divorce, custody, finances, and all the rest.

Why had a guy I didn’t even really like beyond a polite interest, capture my full, almost desperate, attention?

I’d had the vague sensation through the whole of our “relationship” that something was wrong inside my head. I couldn’t stop myself, but I knew I was playing out the Cliff’s Notes version of my relationship with my ex-husband. How I had been so willing to give up what I wanted in order to serve what he needed. Worse, how I had thought these guys, both Ben and my ex, were the best I deserved and it was my job to engage their interest, never questioning if they truly had mine in return. (Or even if what I wanted mattered at all.)

The confident woman in me looks at that paragraph and cringes. But it’s the truth. I would have told you I deserved a mature, thoughtful, kind, generous, financially stable man. But I didn’t act like it. I acted like a woman desperate for a fixer-upper. Eventually, I understood that these men allowed me to hide. Instead of claiming what I wanted, I distracted myself from the very real business of building a meaningful, creative life.

It was easier to find a man to fix than to focus on myself. If I focused on myself I’d have to confront the truth: I had no idea who this person I called “myself” actually was.

For the first thirty-seven years of my life, I’d been an ostrich with her head in the sand. My single greatest responsibility from the moment I had courage enough to pick my head up, was to understand just how much I had been hiding and what hiding had cost me. Then, the work began to figure out not only who I was, but also who I wanted to be.

I committed to five things:

  • Observing myself without judgment

  • Cultivating deep, mutual friendships

  • Contributing, not competing

  • Saying “yes” to new experiences

  • Embracing vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness

Now, five years later, much has changed. I met and married a man who needs no fixing. I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been. I’m writing, reading, and creating daily. But, the most important change has nothing to do with what I’m “doing” or how successful I may be.

The most important change is simply this: I’m not hiding anymore. I’ve found and continue to cultivate the courage to be present, to be wrong, to be afraid and yet still love this person—this “me” I get to be.

I am a portrait never finished, a garden ever growing, a clock in need of winding. In other words, I’m myself. And that’s enough.

About the Author:

Angela Noel lives and writes in Minneapolis. In between fiction projects, she posts inspiring stories about interesting ideas and compelling people on the You are Awesome blog. She enjoys yoga and loves books, humans, wine, and chocolate (but not necessarily in that order).  Connect with her on Twitter at or Facebook or subscribe to her blog for a new post each week.




  1. lakeafton | 8th Nov 17

    Happy you made it through the morass.

  2. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle | 8th Nov 17

    I love this so much! I think it’s so important to remember that we are enough. We don’t have to change ourselves just to impress a guy. They need to love us for us.

  3. Danielle | 8th Nov 17

    It’s amazing how we can sometimes lose ourselves in a person or in the idea of a person or a relationship. What was once a distraction becomes something more. And unhealthy something.

  4. jmanandmillerbug | 8th Nov 17

    I think taking stock in yourself and knowing who you are definitely helps with relationships. I am so sorry to hear about your divorce and I am hoping that in the future we will find the love you’re looking for.

  5. Allison | 8th Nov 17

    Your five commitments are great guidelines for anyone trying to live a meaningful life! Thank you for practicing what you preach (vulnerability) and sharing your story!

  6. angelanoelauthor | 8th Nov 17

    Thank you to Steph for hosting me on your blog! The graphic looks amazing! The comments from all readers so far have been so supportive and I’m grateful to be in this life’s journey with so many other caring souls. I often quote Glenn Close from the movie “The Natural” when I think of my life. She says something like: “You know, I believe we have two lives: the one we learn with, and the one we live with after.” I love the idea that hardship and adversity are what we learn with–but what we make of it afterwards means so much more.

    • stephaniewp | 8th Nov 17

      Beautifully put Angela! I am so grateful to you for sharing your story and writing for my blog. I feel the same way the lessons that we learn in life are sometimes a matter of perspective and the more we look for the beauty the more our life will be full of beauty. Or something like that! Thanks again for writing for me. Lots of love.

  7. fashionbeyondforty | 9th Nov 17

    This is an VERY inspiring and empowering article! It is so great that you discovered this about yourself. MANY women go through this so this is very relatable! You are not alone. It’s amazing what, or who we draw to us when we focus on ourselves first. So happy for you!

  8. marysa | 9th Nov 17

    Sounds like you really found yourself and your happiness. I’m glad to hear that everything worked out and you had such a revelation about your life and your relationships.

  9. Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place | 9th Nov 17

    That is beautifully said. We all have that time in our lives when we feel like we want something to happen but in reality, it’s really not what we want at the moment. It’s just because we’re going through something else that makes this other thing more interesting. In the end, we’ll meet someone who makes being ourselves the best thing ever.

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  11. mimicutelips | 9th Nov 17

    I love this, thanks for sharing your truth. Seeing us for who we really are can be tough. Kudos to you for doing the work and finding happy within yourself.

  12. Ruth I. | 9th Nov 17

    Sometimes we meet people who just don’t want to go out of our minds, it’s a little crazy but new. Just keep calm and breathe honey. If life knocks you down don’t say “why me”, say “ try me.

  13. Victoria Heckstall | 9th Nov 17

    I really love reading your article. I’m glad to hear that everything worked out and you had such a confession about your life.

  14. Kyle | 9th Nov 17

    What I find so inspirational about this particular writing is that I met Angela at leadership retreat a couple of years ago and I could see all five of the things she “committed to” coming through her personality. It was a week where I learned how to let go and be myself moving forward too, which is also ironic. It is easy to lose sight of who we really are deep down when we are trying to get through our daily lives, but once you start living the life of being yourself again, it is a much easier and happy life to live. I really enjoyed this blog post, as I do from just about anything Angela writes. Now, I get to explore this blog too!

  15. Melissa Dixon | 9th Nov 17

    I love seeing people find themselves and their happiness. My mom has also went through a divorce and she has not been able to find anyone yet but I will have to share this with her, it may inspire her to make a change.

  16. Kathy | 9th Nov 17

    I love this post. So beautifully written too. I think it’s great to be able to actually find yourself. That’s so important.

  17. achildof | 9th Nov 17

    Thank you for sharing. So wonderful to read of someone else going thru a similar version of what I did. Knowing you are not alone and actually reading a version of it, are two wonderfully different things 😉

  18. thebeasley | 9th Nov 17

    Yes! I think we’ve all been there with a man (at least once) desperately trying to make them like you, putting in all the effort & not really knowing why. I would love to know why women sometimes do this (have possibly found a book that might go some way to explain this in the next book club list). Anyway, we are definitely enough. And anybody who doesn’t find us enough is not meant to be in our lives & we should just move on from each other (whether that’s a love interest, friend or acquaintance). Very truthful post, Angela.

  19. josypheen | 9th Nov 17

    This is such a sweet and honest post. It must have been quite tough to write.
    You really are awesome Angela. I am so glad things are going better these days.

  20. angelanoelauthor | 9th Nov 17

    What wonderful comments! I’m not sure how to reply to each of your individual comments. But, please know I’m reading and appreciating your support and encouragement. The journey to our “selves” is never ending. Knowing we have to do the work as individuals, but have support along the way makes all the difference.

  21. Amanda | 9th Nov 17

    It’s wonderful that you took what is a stressful and anxiety ridden time of your life to focus on yourself and grow. All the best to you on your journey.

  22. Aduke Schulist | 10th Nov 17

    It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like this. I’m glad your story has a happy ending. I’m still looking for mine.

  23. Ave Hla | 10th Nov 17

    What an inspiring story! I’m glad that you are not hiding anymore and found the man for you!

  24. Lynndee | 10th Nov 17

    Love reading posts or articles like this…very heartwarming. Glad that you are happier and healthier now. All the best for you.

  25. Unbound Roots | 11th Nov 17

    Beautiful post, Angela! I’m so happy you found the beauty in YOU. This is the greatest gift you could have given yourself and your family. You are beautiful, inside and out. Your beautiful family is lucky to have you.

  26. Lisa Orchard | 12th Nov 17

    I’m glad to see you’re not struggling any more. We all need to appreciate ourselves more. I’m glad you’ve reached that summit. You are a beautiful person, Angela! Keep shining your bright light.

  27. Kathy (aka Mom) | 15th Nov 17

    Angela, you’ve set lofty goals and you have succeeded in embracing each one. You’ve taught me many things over the years, and I learn more about you as you grow through life. I have always been proud of you. Your strength of character and your seeking to honor the best in others continues to inspire me.

  28. kingajpg | 18th Nov 17

    This was such an interesting post! Loved reading this <3 I am so happy for you

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