There’s a common cultural mythology around being a single woman that, at some point or another, practically every woman finds herself buying into. (No shame in that. We’re all in this together.)
The central myth is that singlehood is a condition to be cured, something that should be as temporary as possible, and the longer it goes untreated, the more likely it is to become terminal—see also “You’re going to die alone.”
You’ve probably felt this all too keenly when you’ve been at a family event and some well-meaning aunt or grandmother, or your younger cousin who’s already married and pregnant with #2, politely guilt-grills you over your marriageability. It’s the basis of practically every romantic comedy, and it’s instilled us with a subconscious belief that any relationship, even the most dysfunctional rom-com drama-fest, is preferable to being alone.
And it’s wrong.
The thing is, I think most women know this logically, but find it difficult to accept emotionally. There’s tremendous power in the stories we’ve been raised on and the examples of romantic relationships we’ve personally witnessed. I mean, try watching The Princess Bride and not entertaining the thought of your very own Westley.
But let’s set the record straight: single is NOT a dirty word! If you’ll forgive me for getting a little zen on you, it’s just a state of mind, man. Just like being “a couple” is a state of mind.
Think about it. You’re still the same person whether you’re single or paired up, right? Either way, you have interests, hobbies, friends, priorities, good days and bad days, conflicts and triumphs.
For all the “Have you met anyone?” questions we may field at Christmas, couples endure just as many “So when are you getting married/having a baby?”
The main difference is that when you are single, you are free to focus pretty much exclusively on your needs. When in a couple, two persons’ needs are at stake and, at least in healthy partnerships, that usually involves compromise. So while being single may have disadvantages, like the occasional mope-and-feel-sorry-for-yourself lonely days or figuring out how to shrink a six-person recipe down to one serving, don’t take your single freedom for granted.
I firmly believe that whether you’ve been single for days, weeks, months, or years, the sexiest thing you can do is love yourself.
Start with loving your body.
Whether that means getting it to the gym and giving your grocery list a makeover, or just looking in the mirror and appreciating what you see, practice believing in your own beauty and sex appeal. Dress in whatever way makes you feel most like yourself. Pose in front of the mirror in your favorite outfits. Take selfies—no filters. It’s OK to think “Damn, I look good!”
Then love your mind.
What are your passions? Your goals? Your interests? What do you totally nerd-out about? What have you always wanted to learn how to do? What’s the next step in your career? You are the sum of all these parts (and more, of course), and you’ll only benefit by using your single time to indulge, invest and expand on the things that mean a lot to you. So take a class, get involved in a nonprofit or audition for a play or whatever makes your heart sing.
Then love your soul.
This could be the hardest part, and I’m just going to say it: a good therapist really helps. (Much like the stigma of singlehood, the stigma of therapy has GOT to go.) Loving your soul means loving all your flaws, your baggage, your fears, your bad habits and patterns, your neuroses and scars. Short of therapy, you can be kind to your soul by doing something every day or week to fulfill it—maybe journaling, or meditation/prayer, or a long chat with a good friend.
In other words, ladies, you have my permission to put yourself first. Cultivate your own sense of romance by treating yourself the way you’d like to be treated.
And here’s one of those great paradoxes of life: If you take advantage of your singlehood to work on yourself, you may find you barely have time for dating. BUT, while you’re busy getting down with your single self, others are bound take notice.
Being secure in yourself is an attractive trait. When you love yourself, you show others what is lovable about you. You (again, forgive the hippie talk) give off an aura of charm and approachability. That confidence and security makes a great impression on anyone you meet, from job interviews to first dates.
Remember, a relationship complements you, but it does not complete you. The more you focus on your complete self on your own, the more you can bring to the table, when you’re ready.