By Liana Pavane
Society puts a ton of emphasis on being in a relationship. Our notorious celebrity magazines are filled with the latest gossip of the J.LO and Affleck rekindled flame, a story that’s mirrored in Rom Coms featuring the same famous names. The media unleashed the subtle, yet ever present mantra: once you find love, everything will fall into place.
Essentially, being single is seen as something to be ashamed of. Even the dating apps have it out against us. Hinge: Designed to be Deleted. Match: Make Love Happen. OkCupid: Dating Deserves Better.
While finding true love and living happily ever after sounds good in theory—thanks Disney for portraying the false reality that one day my Prince will come—it’s also not the only form of love out there. Yes, we all want the affection and adoration from someone else, we want to grow old together, we want to wake up next to someone for the rest of our days, but it shouldn’t have such an emphasis on our lives.
A few years ago, I was balancing a job while running my own business and burning out fast. My time was being divided between work, my social life, dating, and events without any time intermingled for my own wellbeing. I decided to dedicate one night a week to myself and I cleverly called it: Solo Dates.
I took myself everywhere! I went to comedy shows, concerts, yoga classes, and dinners. And the best part was, I felt rejuvenated, like a born again virgin only I was the only one giving myself pleasure ;)
Fast forward a year and I finally landed in my first committed relationship. During this period, I unfortunately lost this precious time to myself I had worked so hard to create, or believed that I could no longer have it. I continued to split my energy amongst my career, my new boyfriend, and my friends. However, I was no longer showing up for myself and began to notice a significant shift in how I interacted with others as well as my own mental wellbeing.
About two months into the pandemic, my ex broke up with me over the phone. Although painful, confusing, and downright disrespectful, I’ve taken time to reflect on this experience. I came to realise that I didn’t set up the boundaries necessary for my independence and in losing that part of myself, I wasn’t able to show up as my true self for my partner.
Post breakup, I jumped back into the dating world far too soon and began to realise that I was attracting all the wrong energy. It wasn’t until I went cold turkey on dating, aka deleted the dating apps, sat in the silence and healed did I notice that I had been neglecting the most important person of all: my relationship to myself.
Although I couldn’t physically take myself out for the time being, I began to set aside time everyday to focus inward. I called this my SELFship (an elevated version of the Solo Date). I journaled, I danced, I worked out, I coloured, I did puzzles, I cooked, I masturbated, I listened to podcasts, I sang in the shower (and out), and I started therapy. After months of this work, I began to notice how much more confident I felt. How I was able to show up for my friends and family more. How much more focused and present I became throughout the day. How my inner voice suddenly shifted from “I’m not good enough,” to “I am worthy.”
Something else I focused on during these months was calling in what I wanted from a partnership, an equally important solo activity. I wrote down what I was looking for and what my non-negotiables were. It was so much easier for me to see what I truly desired when there were no rose coloured glasses to distract me.
I want to emphasise that dating oneself looks different for everybody. There is no right or wrong way to send yourself love. It doesn’t have to mean meditation and it doesn’t have to mean a face mask. Dating oneself means doing the things you love to do, not forcing yourself to do things you hate. It means taking care of your mind, body, and soul on a daily basis, not just for the occasional Instagrammable “treat yourself” moment. It means setting boundaries that emphasise your well being and not the well being of others.
When you date yourself, you begin to put yourself first in every aspect of your life, as you always should. You begin to accept yourself for all that you are, that weekly ugly cry and all. You sit in your feelings and don’t dismiss them as “dramatic” or “negative.” Although anyone can download Tinder and receive words of affirmation from strangers, there is no better person to hype you up than yourself. When you date yourself, you come in contact with the truest, most pure form of love there is and realise that you were your own Prince Charming all along.