It’s sad that most people look at relationships like they’re the be-all and end-all of personal happiness. “I can’t be happy if I’m not taken!” seems to be the mantra of millions.
I empathize because I used to be one of those people. Looking back a few years, I was insecure, unhappy, and I felt like the only way I could change all that was if I was dating someone.
Well… My first relationship wasn’t exactly the healthiest and I wasn’t really happy. I don’t regret it because it taught me what to avoid in future relationships, but I shake my head when I think about the person I was then.
I was so needy and dependent on the relationship that even while things were breaking apart, I desperately held on and tried to pick up the pieces that should’ve been left alone. My heart would be racing if she didn’t respond to my texts in less than a few minutes, I’d check up on her all the time and I was suspicious of all her male friends.
That’s the sort of behavior that was normal for me. I couldn’t even imagine how it felt to go back to being… single.
So of course, I kept holding on.
Eventually, we broke up and I fell into what I call my darkest hours. I’d be trying to sleep and feel this intense pain throughout my body. My heartstrings felt cut. I’d wonder to myself, “How do people handle being alone?”
That was 5 years ago.
If this is you right now, trust me when I say I get it. I remember how it felt to be reliant on one person for your own happiness. It’s a miserable way to live.
How can you be happy in the long run, 5/10/50 years from now, if you’re dependent on someone else to fix all your personal problems? That’s a sign of a larger issue.
You need to be satisfied with who you are before you can get into a healthy relationship. Neither person could accept the responsibility of being a crutch for the all of the other’s issues.
If you truly believe there’s no possibility of happiness because you’re single, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, pain, and the inevitability of entering a toxic relationship. The relationship you eventually enter won’t last and you’re going to spiral down. Hard.
Here are 5 mindset shifts I had to finally internalize before I realized how to be self-content outside of a relationship.
You have the chance to build a better lifestyle
Relationships won’t transform you into a captivating person filled with unique hobbies and interests.
That’s on you.
I used to believe that having a girlfriend would somehow make me more interesting. The truth is, the bulk of the work lies on your shoulders, whether you’re single or otherwise. In my case, I began to deep dive on subjects I enjoyed.
Fashion interested me so I went out and bought clothes. New clothes made me feel good because I knew I looked good — and I had a new conversation topic to fall back on. Boom, more interesting.
Then I played more sports. Tennis, Bowling, Ultimate Frisbee, and Disc Golf became hobbies that kept me busy and gave me things to talk about.
Having interests makes you interesting.
Being single can be just as self-improving as a relationship
They say your significant other brings out the best in you. That’s only if you’re in a healthy relationship, which most people currently dating aren’t.
You can still work on building self-confidence, self-esteem, and everything in between. Personal growth doesn’t suddenly halt when your Facebook relationship status is set to single.
If you condition yourself to believe you can’t grow on your own then your mindset needs a serious shift.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution you can drink to realise this, It’s something you’ll have to come to yourself.
Toxic relationships drain you more
Rush into one and you’re bound to be desperate. You’ll fall for the first girl that displays any interest in you and you’ll stay with her because you’ll tell yourself it’s better than being single.
Ferris Bueller’s comment on his best friend, Cameron, says it best: “…he’s going to marry the first girl he lays, and she’s gonna treat him like shit, because she will have given him what he has built up in his mind as the end-all, be-all of human existence. She won’t respect him, ’cause you can’t respect somebody who kisses your ass. It just doesn’t work.”
Is this you? Do you want to be in a soul-sucking relationship just to avoid being single? Relationships aren’t the end-all, be all of human existence. Don’t be Cameron.
There’s no such thing as wasted time
One of my closest friends is in this situation right now. I asked him how his relationship was doing and he was unenthused.
I asked if he felt happy but his response was that he didn’t know what that meant. Then I asked him why he’s still dating her. He said he didn’t want all their relationship’s work and effort to go to waste.
Okay, you put effort into something that didn’t quite meet your expectations, but so what? You learn what to avoid in the future. You get stronger. You emerge as a freaking beast.
Did I regret my first relationship? I sure did at the time, but I realized I had grown so much from my experience. I know more about what I want, what I don’t, and I learned something valuable; holding onto something broken only delays the disappointment when it shatters.
Learning to be content with yourself allows you find a higher quality partner
After learning to be happy with myself, my expectations for my future girlfriend have been raised much further than just physical appearance. The way I look at it, I’m living an adventure of my own. I want my partner to add onto that and I’m not willing to settle for less.
When I go on dates I’m seeing if I’m interested in them, not the other way around.
This lets me be a lot more relaxed and confident in myself when I’m meeting women because I have all my shit together. There’s no secretly hoping she’s “the one” every time.
All of this because of these 5 mindset shifts.
Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway. He was a full-time college student, a freelancer, and an intern for 3 different companies, but more recently dropped out of school after landing his dream job. Although he’s juggling a lot, he considers Self Stairway his full-time job.