When being single feels like the end of the world.

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(Image via The Guardian)

In case you couldn’t tell from my most recent rash of Facebook posts, lately I’ve been feeling – deeply in my feelings – that my being single is the end of my world.

Alas! My emotions have been on bleak and, as a result, my Facebook fingers have been on fire.

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Yes, Oprah, I know.

Not only have I been wearing my weary heart on my sleeve, but I’ve also showcased it on my Facebook News Feed–so much so, that a couple of days ago, in order to contain my fiery feelings (and retain some of my dignity), I felt I was due a self-imposed sabbatical from my social media mouthpiece.

Yep, O.T., I needed to cut it…out.

My emotions were bubbling so close to the surface that if I had not taken action soon, y’all would’ve soon known all my little business. And like Liz Gilbert says, “this is a story that I am living, not a story that I am telling.” (Not yet, anyway.)

So, to prevent me from becoming my own Gossip Girl, I uninstalled my phone’s Facebook app and stayed clear of the site on my phone and my laptop for Two. Whole. DAYS.

Now, I’m not saying I’m a Facebook fiend, though, I can see how one could arrive at such a conclusion given my “Two. Whole. DAYS.” bit. Nevertheless, I can also see the – many – holes in my daily routine that Facebook used to fill. For the last 48 hours, however, those “holes” have been filled with questions, tears, rants and prayers…and a lot of Gospel music. I may not have attended a church service in almost a year, but best believe, I know from whence cometh my help.

In the past two days, I’ve also been reminded to seek help from a good book whose wise lessons I had almost forgotten…that I had written. No, it hasn’t been credited with saving souls from eternal damnation, but it can damn-sure help you (and I) save your (and my) sanity in these last, single days.

Lesson 5: Being single is not the end of the world—really, it isn’t.

When I was in college, I read a magazine article in which a prominent businesswoman was interviewed. Though the interviewer asked the woman many questions, there is only one piece of dialogue from that entire interview that has stayed with me.

Interviewer: “Looking back on your life, what are some things that you wish you would have done differently?”

Interviewee: “I wish I would have stayed single longer.”

Upon reading the woman’s response, my eyes widened immediately. I scanned her words several times to make sure that I read them correctly. I couldn’t believe that she had said what she said. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that any woman would have ever said what she said. Why would a woman want to stay single any longer than she had to? I wondered. At that time in my life, it seemed like every single girl I knew, including myself, couldn’t wait to find the man of her dreams, get married, and live happily ever after.

You: So, what was her reasoning for wishing she had stayed single longer?

Me: She wished she had stayed single longer in order to take more time to get to know herself before the labels of “wife” and “mom” were added to her plate.

I was stunned by the woman’s admission. In all my head-smart/heart-dumb years leading up to the point of reading that article, I don’t think I ever saw being single as something to be cherished. On the contrary, I saw being single as punishment. I believed that not having a boyfriend meant that I was ugly and not good enough to be loved, whereas having a boyfriend meant that I was beautiful and loved. So, with this belief, I looked to guys to validate my beauty and self-worth.

I still remember when I, as a head-smart/heart-dumb pre-teen girl, demanded to know from my mother the exact age at which I would be allowed to have a boyfriend. I also remember how fiercely annoyed I was by her answer. “Thirty?” I repeated in disgust. Of course, the answer that I wanted to hear was somewhere between 13 and 13 ½. I was experiencing such intense emotions at that time in my life – as is natural – that I wanted to make the most of those emotions right then and there, not wait for what seemed like a 100 years for 30 to come around. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I began to understand why my mother thought that it was such an appropriate age to pursue the prospect of having a boyfriend.

You: What’s so special about 30?

Me: I realized that the closer I came to 30, the closer I came to understanding who I am.

Though I believe that people’s perspectives and tastes can adapt to the different circumstances we face in life, I also believe that we each have a core part of who we are that remains constant, despite the various changes that life throws our way. This core part of who we are houses how we fundamentally feel and think about things. As I approached 30, I began to understand that there are certain thoughts and feelings that I have that are a part of who I am.

Generally speaking, during the early part of our lives, we are very concerned about being liked and accepted by other people. We tend to downplay or hide aspects of ourselves that are not considered favorable by the people whose acceptance we seek and, instead, play up or invent qualities within ourselves that those people do find favorable. This scenario is frequently seen in dating situations and even in relationships when a guy or girl pretends to like things that they really don’t like, or behaves in a manner that is not their usual behavior just to impress or gain approval from the person he or she is dating or in a relationship with. Though we may be able to maintain this charade for a little while, as time goes on, this task grows more difficult due to the core part of ourselves consistently bubbling to the surface, revealing pieces of who we really are.

Juggling who we really are and the false person we present ourselves as to others is a tiresome game, to say the least. Nevertheless, this is a game that I have played many times in an attempt to win the affections of a guy by saying and doing things that did not reflect my true thoughts and feelings. But for me, the older I got, the more tired I became of pretending to be someone that I’m not just to impress or gain approval from someone else, particularly a guy. What’s more, I’ve found that my annoyance toward pretending to be someone that I’m not has actually spurred on my acceptance of who I really am. And I think it’s when we’re at a place of self-acceptance that we are genuinely ready to accept someone else into our lives.

You: Is time the only way to get to a place of self-acceptance?

Me: Time is important, but there’s also homework that one can do to get there—self-homework.

Several years ago, I asked a friend for some advice about a guy that I was interested in. I told her that I really liked this guy, but I wasn’t sure if I should pursue my interest in him. My friend answered my question, though not with a “yes” or “no.” Instead, she told me how important it was for me to figure myself out before I tried to figure out this guy’s potential role in my life.

Her response came as a shock to me. I thought I did have myself figured out. After all, I was myself. But she explained that figuring yourself out – or, understanding who you are – isn’t just about knowing trivia-like facts about yourself, like your hobbies, career objectives, and favorite color; it’s about having a deeper understanding of what makes you tick. My friend told me that it was important that I know what makes me cry, what makes me happy, what makes me angry, and so on. She suggested that I take a detailed inventory of the things that make me uniquely me, and examine what makes me do what I do; in other words, investigate the core part of me—how I fundamentally felt and thought about things. She said after I did this, then I would be in a better position to determine how or if the guy could fit into my life.

You: What happened?

Me: I didn’t listen to her.

I decided to pursue the guy without having done my self-homework first. Though I acknowledged that my friend’s advice was good, I wanted a speedy solution. I thought that if I spent time examining myself the way she suggested, it would take too long and the guy would lose interest in me and take off. Adding to my need for speed was my desire to receive the guy’s validation of my beauty and self-worth. I was so keen on getting his OK that I ended up placing a higher value on what he thought of me than what I thought – or understood – about myself.

During the course of my pursuing him, I noticed myself acting in ways and saying things just to gain his approval. For much of that time, I felt uncomfortable and at odds with who I was; although, I had a terrible time diagnosing those feelings of imbalance because – as I stated before – I hadn’t taken the time to fully figure out who I was. At one point, I even told him that I loved him, which I now know was just an attempt to hear “I love you too,” as proof of his validation. As you may have guessed, the final outcome of this pursuit was dismal, to say the least. However, since this failed pursuit and similar failed pursuits that followed, I’ve learned to review my thoughts and feelings on a regular basis in order to monitor whether or not what I’m saying and doing is true to the core part of who I am.

The takeaway from this lesson: Pursue yourself, and love will follow.

As a single head-smart/heart-dumb girl, I spent a lot of time and energy pursuing guys in the hope of finding love and validation. It took me a long time to learn that the only way for me to really feel loved and validated was for me to love and validate myself. That’s why my pursuits of guys failed; I was looking outside of myself for things that I first had to recognize within me. Thus, in order for me to feel the love and validation that I so truly desired, I had to change my focus from pursuing guys to pursuing myself.

Being single gives you a clear path to pursuing yourself; you have the freedom to explore your innermost thoughts and feelings, and really get to know who you are. In reference to the woman from the interview mentioned earlier in the lesson, when the labels of “wife” and “mom” – and even “girlfriend” – are added to your plate, your freedom to pursue yourself is relatively limited. Although it’s possible – and important – for you to pursue who you are while wearing these labels, you will function better in these roles if you go into them already knowing, loving and validating yourself—a practice that you can develop while you’re single. Therefore, being single is not punishment; rather, being single is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of who you are. And understanding who you are is the foundation for building a loving relationship with yourself as well as someone else.

For more wise words like the ones above, click the link to buy and read my book, Five Things Every Head-Smart/Heart-Dumb Girl® Should Know, in its entirety.

Peace be with you (and me).

Copyright © 2012-2016 Stephanie Rochelle Redd. All rights reserved.

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