I pride myself on knowing my worth. At 27 years old, I have become proud of the woman I am and the woman I want to become. It has truly taken me my whole life to accept and appreciate myself. I have four years sober, a master’s degree, numerous fulfilling relationships, and years of experience with self-discovery and introspection. I was raised to believe that I am smart, capable, worthy, and enough on my own. Somewhere along the way I learned that if I wasn’t in a romantic relationship, something was wrong with me. I was so flawed that no one wanted to be my partner. Without my consent, the insecure part of me started to believe this ridiculous narrative.
We can’t help what we learn. It’s impossible to unlearn something, so what do we do when that information doesn’t work for us anymore? We accumulate new information to replace it. Today I’m challenging the notion that I’m not good enough on my own—that we are not good enough. I’ve come up with a strategy for those of us who need to learn how to be okay, especially when we’re single.
1. Try to love yourself entirely: inside and out, the good and the bad. Find your worth in your actions, the way you treat others, the relationships you have, where your passions live; don’t look for your worth in the number on the scale or how many men find you attractive. No one on their death-bed says, “I wish I had been thinner.” They say, “I wish I had spent more time with my loved ones” or “I wish I had followed my dreams.” Do the things that fill your soul and loving yourself will come naturally.
2. Do not compare yourself to anyone besides your constantly growing self. People in relationships are not always happy. People who have a family or a great job are not always fulfilled. People who are rich in possessions are not always at peace. What you see is rarely what you get. You can compare yourself to who you used to be, though: frequently take the time to notice how much you’ve changed and gratitude will flow into you.
3. Do not downplay your accomplishments to yourself, to your friends, or to the people you date. You worked fucking hard to get where you are and you deserve recognition, at the very least from yourself.
4. Do not lie or omit to the people you date to get them to like you. The right person will like you wholly. Honesty, even when it doesn’t seem particularly important, will make you stronger in your convictions and feel true to yourself.
5. Do not fear rejection. Rejection helps you to weed out shitty people and helps you to choose those people with which you surround yourself more wisely and carefully. Try not to take rejection so personally—not everyone has to be in love with you.
6. Do keep expectations low (in the beginning) from every potential partner. Don’t start planning the wedding on the first date just because the fantasy looks nice. Keep in mind you’re interviewing these people too, and you have a lot of requirements. You know what you want out of a partner and you won’t settle for much less.
7. Do not settle. If you don’t know what you want in a relationship, look inside yourself and figure it out. Look at your past relationships—why did they fail? What did you learn? When you come up with an ideal for a partner, don’t just hold the people you date to that standard. Hold yourself to it. If one of your requirements is “he/she doesn’t cheat or flirt with other people,” can you stay faithful yourself? Don’t expect someone to do or be something if you can’t.
8. Do not write anyone off because they are not perfect. You have flaws and so does every person on this planet. Be with someone whose flaws you can handle and who can handle yours, gently.
9. Just because someone is nice to you and treats you with respect does not mean you are required to date them.
10. Just because someone is hot does not mean you should sleep with them.
11. Do not sleep with people who don’t deserve your time. You may think you’re laid back and progressive when it comes to casual sex, but it seems that every time you fuck a random guy and he doesn’t immediately fall in love with you, you wonder why not. You take it personally and file it under “reasons why I’m not good enough.” Sex is so much more fun, passionate, and enjoyable when it’s meaningful.
12. Do go slowly. Passion is rarely the way it’s portrayed in movies. When you’re falling for someone, you don’t jump them, crawl into bed, then subsequently begin a romantic relationship. You hold hands, you kiss, you rest your head on their shoulder. You get to know each other—figure out what they like, and more importantly, what you like. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s romantic. Don’t skip that part.
13. Do not get into a relationship just to be in one. Giving yourself time alone to get to know yourself, the person you want to be, the person you want to be with, the things you want to accomplish, the things that matter to you, and to do the things that fulfill you is invaluable. Romantic relationships have value too, but they do not make you a more worthy human being.
14. Do treat everyone you come across the way you want to be treated yourself. Looking down on others makes you feel looked down upon. Treating others like a piece of ass makes you feel like you’re only good for sex. Judging others makes you feel judged. Treating people with kindness, tolerance, and love makes you feel like you also deserve those things.
15. Do not use people for attention or for a confidence boost. Do not go looking for affection when you’re feeling lonely, ugly, or depressed. Doing so only reinforces the inaccurate belief that your worth is measured by how many people are interested in you or find you fuckable. It reinforces the notion that you, on your own, are not enough. Loneliness will come and go. Uncomfortable emotions exist and they happen. It is okay to have them and feel them. When you have the desire to get on Tinder to take those negative emotions away, employ self-care instead. Rather than strengthening those negative ideas about yourself, strengthen positive ones. Do esteemable acts to increase self-esteem. Take actions that make you feel you’re enough.
16. Stop keeping tabs on your exes. It’s over for a reason. Be grateful to them for the experiences they provided and the things you’ve learned as a result. You can convince yourself you’re just checking in, but in reality, the act of going to their Instagram gives you a kind of sick satisfaction. It allows you to convince yourself that because it didn’t work out with them, you are not good enough. “Why doesn’t he/she want me,” you’ll ask yourself, which leads to fortifying the belief you already have that you are not wanted, you are not enough, you are not worthy. Replace this ritual with something new: say a mantra to yourself, write some affirmations, call a friend and ask them about their day. Just because it didn’t work out with your ex doesn’t mean it won’t with the right person.
17. Practice radical acceptance. Radical, fucking, acceptance. It’s not easy to let go of control but it’s necessary to happiness. The things you so desperately desire…you may never have them. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Maybe you will have those things but not at the timing you want, or maybe they’ll even come easy. But there’s only so much over which you have power. If you fill your life with things and people that make you happy and fulfilled, the desire for those things you don’t have will fade further into the background as you live your best life. If they never happen, it won’t be so important. If they do come, you’ll be ready for them.