I see so many posts about being alone and bitter on Valentine’s Day. I get it – it sucks to be reminded that we’re not where we want to be and don’t have a special someone to sweep us off our feet. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. I stayed too long in several of my younger relationships despite being unhappy because I didn’t know how to be alone. I didn’t know how to soothe myself when I was sad. I didn’t know how to experience a fulfilling life without a partner. I didn’t know how to be happy alone. I really didn’t even know who I was without defining myself by someone else. Eventually I learned to sweep myself off my own feet. Once I figured that out, I knew I entered into (or stayed in) relationships because I wanted to – NOT because I needed to. For someone very introverted like myself, this was a tough battle. It took me a while to love myself. I wouldn’t recommend anything to anyone that I haven’t tried myself; this is what worked for me.
1. Date yourself. It took me a long time to learn the importance of giving towards myself. I’m a helper. I like making others happy. I’ve often prioritized the needs of others before my own. I felt very low after what I consider my first big breakup. I jumped into another relationship because I wanted to feel special again. I wanted to feel loved. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I could give that to myself. Even now I catch myself putting off things that would make me happy until I can do them with my fiancé. I won’t want to cook myself a nice breakfast if he’s not home or I won’t want to do a little spa night (he loves those) if he’s busy. I still sometimes get this strange feeling that I’m somehow undeserving to do these things just for myself. I deserve the nice breakfast and little me time no matter who is around, and sometimes I have to force myself to do those things. Similarly, I deserve to treat myself. The older I get, the more I find myself shopping for other people. When I buy a gift for someone, I try to get myself a little something too, whether that’s some chocolate or a new, very therapist looking cardigan from target. We can’t wait on others to treat us. When we treat ourselves, we’re practicing self-love. That’s something that nobody can take from us – something we can maintain at all times and in all stages of life.
2. Get comfortable with going places alone. I used to be terrified of being alone. Alone equated to lonely. I lived with a boyfriend for some time and we did quite literally everything together. We were best friends, but it was extremely unhealthy. I stayed longer than I really wanted to because I didn’t know how to do life without him as a crutch. You know the groceries you have as sort of backup? The cans and whatever other nonperishables that remain on your shelves for years? Yeah – I had eaten through all of that before I mustered the courage to go to the grocery store by myself for the first time. I laughed at myself as I unpacked all my groceries when I got back to my apartment. How freeing, empowering, and EASY it was to go at it alone. I knew I’d be okay in that moment. I make it a point to grab lunch by myself, make a Target trip, or head out to the grocery store alone to maintain that feeling of “I can do it” independence. I never want to lose that piece of me that took far too long to find.
3. Figure out who you are in the absence of others. This takes sitting with your thoughts, getting extremely comfortable with silence, and trying new things just because you want to without waiting on anyone to accompany you. When we fill our time with mindless scrolling, tv watching, or anything of the sort, we aren’t truly engaging with who we are. We have to be intentional with our time and our energy to confront who we are as a person. I remember binging Grey’s Anatomy feeling lonely, pathetic, and lost. I wasn’t watching my (probably) 10th episode in a row because I was actually that interested in the show, but because I was THAT uncomfortable with myself that I couldn’t bare just existing in reality. When I stopped escaping my own mind, I had to confront some painful emotions, patterns, and self-observations. What was on the other side of that, though, was self-love. I began taking my dogs on long walks without my phone, doing yoga outdoors (also without my phone), and spending time just paying attention – mindfully checking in on myself mentally and physically. I started going to things that I wanted to try out just by myself without the hassle of finding a time that also worked for a friend to join me. I got pedicures, made candles, painted pottery alone. We can do those things by ourselves and still have fun – who knew?! I like myself enough to drive alone with no music, and to sit in a waiting room without scrolling through Instagram, and to try new things that simply sound good to me without anyone’s company. It took a while, though.
4. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. And do things (reasonably) without asking for help. We’re capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. This goes for the small stuff just as much as the big stuff. A few years ago I hopped on a plane to South Africa and a few more little planes to Mozambique all by myself to meet up with a group of people I didn’t know. Last week, though, I had a good deal of stress about having to go to the title office to deal with car inspection sticker issues alone. I really fought the urge to ask someone to accompany me. I could think of a hundred excuses as to why I needed help, but in reality, I didn’t need anyone but myself. That took some self-reflection on my part. I think I would’ve backed out of that Africa trip if I hadn’t already handed over a pretty hefty deposit that I couldn’t get back, but MAN am I happy I went. I remind myself of that accomplishment when I get anxiety over the small stuff. I sometimes think it’s easier for us to wrap our heads around something big like that versus a small trip to take care of an errand or a drive into Houston. It’s easy to lean on others. We have to remind ourselves of our strength, our resilience, our capabilities. Having that self-efficacy can get us through anything, and will help continue to remind us of what we’re capable of.
5. Grieve the life you wanted. This, my friends, is a tough one. We fantasize about what we want our lives to be, and rarely does life meet our unrealistic expectations. I find that *sometimes* the worst grief comes from the “what ifs” – what if I did this differently, what if I tried this sooner, what if, what if, what if. So you didn’t stay with the person you thought would be your prince or princess charming – that’s alright. At the end of the day, you have yourself. That’s guaranteed. In fact, the only thing that’s guaranteed in life is that you’ll be with you until the end. Why not love that person endlessly? More on grieving the life you wanted here ~ https://mindfulnesswithmikayla.blog/2020/07/20/youre-allowed-to-grieve-the-life-you-wanted/