How to Be Independent

Hi lovely readers,

I have a confession to make: I am a serial dater. I used to hate being alone – it made me feel unloved, worthless, and depressed. I forced myself to go a few months without getting into another serious, long-term relationship, and sometimes it felt like torture.

Finally I feel like I’ve stepped into a serious phase of growth regarding what it is to be independent, and it’s an amazing feeling.

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I know I’m not alone in what was my distaste for being single, and frankly, even not being around friends constantly if I wasn’t dating anyone. But living that way isn’t sustainable, and is the fast track to entering into bad relationships and staying in them because you’re afraid of what you’d have to face otherwise. The feeling of enjoying your own company is wonderful, I promise you, so here’s how I got there.

  1. Know yourself. Sometimes we become so engulfed in our relationships that we even lose sight of who we are. To overcome this, I recommend journalling (if you don’t like to write, just make bullet-point lists pertaining to this). Consider what brings you joy, what hurts you, what leaves you feeling empty or bored, your goals, your passions, simply what foods you like and dislike, which scent of candle you want in your apartment, which book you loved reading, what your hobbies are (or were before you starting dating someone). How would you spend your ideal afternoon? What are your values? Answer these questions and you’re on the path to becoming friends with yourself.
  2. Designate “me time”. Once you know what you like from answering the above questions, pick a slot of time in everyday to do one of those things you think you might care about or like. If you already have a career you enjoy then you’re already well on your way, but this shouldn’t be the end of this exploration. What would having fun by yourself look like? For me it’s either going on a walk and grabbing a coffee and maybe writing a blog entry, taking a long bath with one of my favourite playlists going, or cooking something I’m excited to eat and watching a scary movie with my cat.
  3. Challenge yourself. What are some things you would ordinarily do with someone else? I was so codependent and anxious as a result that I actually wouldn’t leave my apartment without a friend or partner, so my first challenge was going to the Starbucks down the block. The next one was to take public transportation alone. The following one was to go clothes shopping by myself, and the one following that was to go to parks to listen to music and get some exercise alone. I will have graduated from my own independence program when I can go to dinner by myself!
  4. Don’t overdo it, and keep the process gradual. It’s not a bad thing to see one friend everyday, or to go on a date once a week for fun, and too much alone time is overwhelming. Humans are meant to connect, so don’t blame yourself for needing some time to bond with others.
  5. Learn to value yourself. The best thing you can get from being independent is a love of yourself, just as you are. I keep a 5 minute journal that asks me to give myself affirmations every morning. Being a perfectionist, I have finally come into the practice of saying aloud to myself when I make a mistake that it’s okay and I’m only human, and that I’ll do better next time (and if I don’t, that’s okay too! Practice makes perfect). I also go to a therapist who I regularly express the shame I sometimes feel to, and he’s great at rephrasing a story so I can see my part but not take all the blame and allow it to fester and turn into self-hatred.
  6. Know when it’s time to graduate. Eventually, I would like to be in a relationship again. I know I want to get married someday and have kids, so dating is kind of a big part of that. It’s important that you stay connected with your feelings and notice when you’ve reached a place where being in a relationship won’t mean self-sacrifice and a loss of independence. Once you’re truly comfortable with who you are and doing things alone, you won’t wind up picking the wrong person anymore, staying in bad relationships, or giving up aspects of yourself for someone else.

That’s all for this week’s post! I’ll be back again next week, or potentially before that if I’m not as busy as I think I’ll be with school.

Thanks so much for reading.

Love,

Liz

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