8 Ways To Be Single & Happy
Single & Dating with a Plan
I started “actively” dating when I was 22. Confident and hopeful, I was excited to date and meet the love of my life. I thought I would date 3, maybe 4 guys, and then find my person, get married and have kids. I was pretty sure that this could all be accomplished by age 25-28. That seemed reasonable and realistic.
I was VERY ambitious and enthusiastic. I met guys at bars, through friends, and then dating apps became a thing. I hit the dating apps HARD. I went on so many first dates, I couldn’t tell you how many. I was that single friend with so many “dating stories” (horror stories mostly), and ultimately it became like a second job. And then ages 25, 26, 27 and 28 came around and I was still single. I had dated a few guys here and there for 2-3 months at a time but nothing seemed to stick for whatever reason. Whether it was because there wasn’t a “spark,” we didn’t share similar interests, or it felt forced.
It just wasn’t happening.
The more I dated, the more I started over-identifying and obsessing with me being single. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I was still single while more and more of my friends were meeting their long term partners and establishing more meaningful and serious relationships. Aside from work, I prioritized going on dates over most things. I would postpone time with friends to be available for a new prospective partner. I would be so anxious and consumed by my thoughts (i.e. “Will I hear from him again? Will we go out again? Does he like me?).
Even if I wasn’t interested or knew the guy was a jerk, I had a hard time separating myself from these dates and the dating experience. I was unable to be present and enjoy things that I would otherwise typically enjoy. I started to lose sight of who I was, what I cared about and what was important to me.
Naturally, my self-esteem took a huge hit. I started internalizing EVERYTHING and attributing these dating losses to me. It had to be ME, right? What else could possibly explain why I was still single? I started to doubt everything I did, or said, or cared about. The negative self-talk (inner critic) was always there and it impacted so many aspects of my life because I wasn’t confident and secure in myself.
My Personal “Ah-ha Moment”
Finally, I had an epiphany–my “ah-ha” moment. I was exhausted and tired from dating. I was over the pressure I put on myself and decided I needed to make some drastic changes. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to be myself again. I decided that dating would have to be lower on my totem pole. I started prioritizing my values and things that have always been important to me. I got back into my fitness/exercise routine and tried new gyms and fitness studios, I sought and actively pursued new experiences (traveling, joining a kickball league, volunteer work), and made an effort to be present and spend more quality time with friends and family.
The more I honored my values, the more grounded I became. I saw myself in a more accurate lens. I was able to recognize that my self-talk and intrusive thoughts were COMPLETELY irrational and lacking self-compassion. I was able to see myself for who I truly am including all of my strengths and qualities I have to offer not only as a partner but also as a friend, family member, peer, and therapist.
Single & Happy Because Happiness is Key
With this new lens, dating became less of a job or obligation and more of an occasional past time. Not good or bad but an activity that I’ll do every so often to meet someone that I could potentially hit it off with. If we hit it off great, if not that’s okay. There is so much less weight now on the dates and I feel like I can finally be myself. And that’s enough for me.
You would think that as a therapist, I would have known better or at least had the ability to see things more objectively. But I am still very much human and when you are IN IT, you are IN IT. We are also living in a time of social media and technology, which makes it nearly impossible to not compare ourselves to others. This makes it extremely difficult for us to see ourselves accurately and without comparison.
As I work more and more with single, young, professional women, I continue to see the large-scale impact that dating has on self-esteem and happiness. Dating makes so many women question their sense of self-worth. So many women blame themselves for being single and don’t feel like they are good enough or loveable. And this creates so much pain, anxiety, and despair. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your self-concept and identity DOES NOT have to be defined by your relationship status.
A lot of women that seek my help struggle with the idea of being happy while they are single or dating. It is hard for them to believe that they can experience happiness outside of a relationship. But happiness should never be conditional. You should never forego happiness because you aren’t in a relationship. You always deserve to feel happy and good about yourself, with or without a partner. You are not broken. You don’t need a partner to make you feel whole because you are whole all by yourself.
And when you are happy and confident with yourself as a single woman, the less bullshit you will put up with. You will not settle for anything less than what you want and deserve in a partner. You will be able to assert your needs and recognize when someone you are dating isn’t a good fit for YOU. You will have a life outside of dating and KNOW that regardless of if the date goes well or if it works out with that new person, you are STILL that smart/strong/resilient/beautiful woman that you have ALWAYS been.
So how does one get to a place of single and happy?
8 Ways to Shift Your Focus & Be Happy Single
- Don’t consume your life with dating. Don’t do it. There is more to life than going on dates and swiping and texting and messaging. Try to be more present.
- Spend more time with the people you love, have fun with and make you feel good about yourself.
- Do things that you have been putting off (most likely because of dating)! Read that book you have wanted to read. Take that workout class you have always wanted to try. Travel more.
- Pursue that degree, or take up a new hobby.
- Stop comparing yourself. You are enough as you are!
- Take inventory of your values (things that are important to you and that you may have disregarded) and incorporate your values in your day to day life (calling family members, eating healthy, meditating)
- Do more self-care (taking a longer shower, making time for exercise, eating more balanced meals, doing things “just because” or for fun).
- Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Be nice to yourself. Stop labeling yourself.
- Practice gratitude. Acknowledge what is going well and what you DO have. Do it daily
About the Author
Leah Aguirre is a licensed clinical social worker & psychotherapist in San Diego, CA. Leah prioritizes mental health issues because she’s experienced issues with anxiety herself and believes every woman will face their own struggles with mental health at some point in their life. She specializes in helping individuals who experience challenges with relationships, dating and self-esteem through both individual and group sessions. Visit Leah online at https://leahaguirrelcsw.com/
Are you single or dating? Can you relate to Leah’s experience? Tell her in the comments.