Why I've spent 7 years of my 20's as a single woman
My 20's are coming to a close and I've been single for most of them. I regret nothing.
I’ve spent my 20's as a single girl; now a woman, and during this entire period I’ve learned so much and discovered even more.
It has been a journey that has shaped me in so many ways and one that continues to inspire and contribute to my story each day.
I'm a millennial but why does that matter, you ask? I think it’s important to mention this because I find that many individuals within my age group are partnered and if not, they are single but…attached. What I mean by this is that although they are not in a committed relationship, they still have intimate connections perhaps through friends with benefits, casual dating, flings or through those potentials that we merely talk to as though we intend to eventually involve ourselves with romantically, but we never actually do.
I do not casually date, have flings, I have no friends with benefits and no love interest meant to feature in my life as a piece I keep to feel less...alone?
There are a multitude of reasons that can contribute to ones being single – we are not all the same nor are we on the same journey. In my case, the answer is quite simple. I am single because I choose to be. It’s what I want and need at this present moment in time, and I continue to choose to remain unpartnered for myself but let me go in depth.
My last relationship ended in 2014 – In truth, it should have ended within the first few months, but I forced myself to be in a position that l did not want to be in. The foundation lacked trust, respect and even love but because I did not know myself & lacked self worth – I allowed myself to prolong something that brought me discomfort, humiliation and sadness.
I knew I had to walk away from this thing, but I was afraid to because I didn’t want to. After all, it wasn’t all negative – it had it’s good moments and by holding on, there was this hope that that good would return but it never did.
With time, I mustered up the courage I needed and I chose myself. I made the choice to close that chapter and I didn’t look back and it was hard at first, but it was worth it. I think that things that challenge us; things that cause a stir within our being are things that are necessary because they contribute to our personal growth and long-term happiness.
I can remember sitting on the edge of my bed in tears and I felt this overwhelming heaviness because I was hurt, it was all over - but as I sat there, I said to myself “I don’t ever want to give anyone the power to make me feel this way ever again.”
Now, you might be thinking that I choose to be single because of a bad experience that has now left me afraid of heartbreak, so I avoid relationships all together.
No, you’re wrong. Let me continue.
Whilst we cannot control the actions of other people, we can control how we respond to them. With everything that I have discovered through this period, I have elevated to a point where no one can or will have the power to put me in a place where their actions towards me determine my emotional response, my well-being or my value as a person
1. I’m single because I want to love myself
For the longest time, I have questioned and continue to question what it means to love yourself and the notion never presented itself directly. In fact, it hasn’t even presented itself entirely, but I continue to venture through this life, learning what true self love is. I don’t look for definitions from other people or ideas that are fueled by societal expectations. For this, I look within. I study myself and my surroundings, I learn myself, listen to myself and give myself the love that I so easily give those that are near and dear to me. I treat myself with respect, with integrity and with kindness – at least, I try to, and I believe these are just a portion of aspects that contribute to self love as a whole. So, I choose to be single in order to learn to love myself -all of me, as I am because, why and how could I expect someone to give me something that I cannot give myself? & how or why could I expect to give someone the very thing that I have never given me?
2. I am discovering my self-worth
I define self worth as the meaning my spirit brings to those in my life and what I bring into my own. This means understanding the person I am, what I see in myself and what those that love me, see in me. It encompasses my gifts, my personality, the details that make me unique and my own achievements, dreams and goals. My self worth is something that I needed to find alone because it meant having to challenge myself, heal and face a lot of things that come with the person I am. It meant accepting parts of me that I have struggled to, from my mental health to my own fears and insecurities but I do this because it’s necessary for me and I am deserving of the inner peace that comes with having self worth.
3. I do not settle
I think often many confuse “not settling” with having standards that are unrealistic. Now, this is not what I mean when I mention this notion. To me, not settling means not accepting any less than you believe you deserve and need. Note that I didn’t say “want” and that’s because a lot of us have an idea of what it is we want but many of us don’t know what we need in other people. Now, being someone who doesn’t settle doesn’t mean that nothing or no one is good enough. All it means is that you have learned yourself and you know what is for you and why should we accept less than what we believe we deserve? If we accept the bare minimum into our lives what does that say about how we view ourselves?
4. I want to be happy
I want to know what happiness is and what that means without having to seek that or expect it from another person. I think this is important in learning how to be comfortable with being alone and learning to appreciate yourself without attachments to things or people. I am choosing myself because I matter, and this journey will only allow me to be at my best when I do decide to engage romantically with another individual. I am working on myself, personal growth, mental health and my life in general and all these things contribute to my long-term happiness. I am not where I want to be in any of those areas, thus…I continue to prioritize myself until I am at a point where I can say "I am where I want to be. I am okay and I am comfortable bringing someone into my space."
Why would I begin a relationship with someone when I cannot give 110% of myself to them. When I have not healed from things that require healing and when I have not evolved or learned who I am? I don’t think that’s fair on that individual nor is it fair on myself. In learning what happiness means in my life and to my being as a whole - I learn self love, self-worth, what I need in others and who I need for me.
I have never found this journey challenging whereby I have been pressured to date or entertain hookup culture. I have never been ashamed, nor have I ever had a moment of regret during this entire period.
The reason simply being I am doing what I want and need for myself. It would be one thing if I was actively dating, trying to find a partner to build a future with and being unable to but I am not in that position. I am not frustrated or uncomfortable with my situation because it is where I am choosing to be. I am not on this journey by force, and I am certainly not in despair.
In truth, I have never thought about this entire period as a journey, it simply is what it is, and I am content. However, with the creation of my YouTube channel (no content yet), I’ve wanted to engage in discourse that has substance and I think things that form parts of us and contribute to our growth and happiness are worth sharing. So, now I view it as a journey.
Has it ever been difficult?
What was difficult for me was having relatives question if I have found someone because in their questioning there was judgment. The real question wasn’t “do you have a partner?”, it was “why don’t you have a partner?.”
Opinions, criticism and judgement can make it hard because it can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and shame. Not shame because you feel ashamed for being single but shame because you may be treated as though it’s an embarrassment to be single and for that long. But would I rather do what I feel is right for me or would I rather be pressured into doing what everyone else thinks is right? Where’s the happiness in any of that? I think because I view this entire aspect of my life with positivity and admiration, it makes it a lot easier. It’s not something that I am actively trying to do each and every single day, it is just something that is.
What have I learned?
I only recently sat down and looked at this time period and asked myself these questions for the sole sake of writing about it. It was never something I thought was interesting or special but with some self introspection I realized that there are a lot of things in life that are worth celebrating. We often neglect ourselves or weigh the value of something of importance to us based on the opinions and ideas of others. I realized that this period in my life should be celebrated because I have learned so much about myself and this long break from dating and relationships has given me wisdom, an awareness and appreciation of the person I am. I have evolved and continue to. By learning to love myself I have learned that I am strong, capable, and worthy of love – not just love from another but my very own love.
Being single and unattached is a superpower. It’s empowering and inspiring to be able to discover yourself, confront your fears and to find pieces of who you are and just evolve because you learn of a world that you didn’t know existed within you.
I have learned how to be attractive and not in terms of appearance but in terms of energy. My perspective on myself has changed into one that is more positive and honest thus creating a mentality that is not insecure or shrouded with self doubt or self loathing which in turn transcends how I carry myself. I am gaining confidence in the woman I am which means there is no need to compare myself to anyone or "compete" for anything with another person. Not only in the world of relationships but beyond that. This has also taught me the importance of practicing non attachment and I do not cling to things or people. I have learned to accept that people can come into our lives for a mere moment and rather than hold on and force things, I can simply let go and remain present by appreciating and accepting that moment that I was given. The importance in this is that you find you don't yearn for another, you don't become dependent on someone's existence which in turns means you do not suffer.
I have learned that when you know yourself and what you need in life and in others, you can create a more positive space for yourself because you are not only drawn to those things, but you attract them as well.
If you are confident, have self worth and know and understand who you are, you will find that those around you will approach you and treat you in that manner but if you lack these things, those around you will emphasize those aspects in how they treat you. This is because without self worth, we allow ourselves to be treated in any way because we do not deem ourselves as worthy of more or better. We allow ourselves to be in situations that are not for us. If you think you are unworthy and undeserving of love and good things then you will accept being treated as someone that is unlovable and unsuitable. You will allow that toxicity and those unhealthy aspects in your relationships, romantic or platonic. You will accept it because that is how you view your worth and yourself. So, I have learned that self perception is paramount and necessary in how we approach life and others.
One piece of advice that I’ve always given my siblings is that people will always treat you how you let them. If someone disrespects you in any way, it is because you are allowing it – that doesn’t mean you deserve it or that you warrant it but you simply have not set your boundaries nor have you stood up for yourself. Learning self worth and self love can really influence how you let other people treat you. At the same time it can teach you when the best time for you is to walk away or remove yourself from a situation. As I mentioned earlier on, my last relationship should have ended within the first few months yet it didn’t despite the uncertainty and discomfort it had already brought me. I was forcing myself to hold onto this thing that was simply not for me. I did that because I didn’t know myself or my own worth therefore, I was comfortable allowing myself to be in this situation that really, no one should ever have to be in. Now I have learned that it’s always okay to walk away from something that no longer serves you. It’s okay for things to end without them breaking you and destroying you - we don't have to wait for things to get to their worst before we decide to remove ourselves. It’s okay to put yourself first and prioritize your happiness because we all deserve that.
Being single should never be anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, but of course, there will always be those that mock and shame people for choosing to simply be themselves. However, many do find themselves experiencing such attitudes because of the expectations and pressure that is put upon us from a young age. Whether it's because of cultural expectations, societal or simply your own…it’s not necessary.
The media’s portrayal of single individuals is quite ugly and far from accurate as you find that movies portray the single character as loathing life, being teased by friends and family, forcing themselves to date and hook up with whoever with the mere goal of finding “the one” or to feel adequate, worthy and wholesome. Or going to extreme lengths like “hiring a date” - just to avoid being the single party at a family gathering. But being single should be celebrated and seen as a period dedicated to yourself. It’s a time that one should grow and find happiness and love without having to look to another for those things.
I think that if we worked on ourselves in such a way where we looked within and focused on our personal struggles and goals then we as humans could get along better. Is that a stretch?
Personal growth is such a beautiful thing that not everyone gives themselves the necessary time to really delve into or experience. We all follow what everyone else is doing and are moved by these ideas that are portrayed as just when really, they are not even our own ideas. We are so swayed by the notion of “bae” and the ideas of relationship gurus who maybe speak about how to better yourself for someone else or how to find the one before it's too late.
Recently, during a car drive I overheard an interesting point over the radio, where a married couple were being interviewed and promoting their new book. Honestly, I can't tell you the name of the book or who these people were but one thing they shared that stuck out to me was that, “your relationship is only as healthy as you are.”
I thought, “is this a sign?.” – since I was writing about my own journey as a single woman. Take those words and remember them :
“your relationship is only as healthy as you are.”
Celebrate yourself – celebrate being alone and learning how to be. Don’t follow expectations and notions that are not for you and never let another individual determine your worth. Focus on who you are, who you are becoming and who you want to be – evolve and know that when you are in a place where you are truly okay with who you are, you will attract what is for you. At the same time, you will remove yourself from what isn’t for you. We deserve that much; I deserve that much. For now, my journey will continue, I chose to share this as a celebration of how far I have come and how much I have grown and developed over the years. I acknowledge my own beauty now and not from a physical standpoint but from an internal one. I know that I am worthy of so much good in this life and I know that my being will be a positive and beautiful piece in someone else's life. I hope you can look at yourself one day and see the same thing.
- Joy Johane