Guys have called me a lot of unpleasant things over the years, but the biggest complaint I used to hear was that I was way too needy. They weren’t wrong. I always became way too dependent on the guys I dated and I had no idea why. Once I figured out my lack of self-love was behind my neediness, I was able to stop it in its tracks.
I started taking things one step at a time instead of premature leaps and bounds. Whenever I started dating someone, I tended to jump in headfirst without knowing much about him. Even on the second or third date, I was usually already thinking about where our wedding would be, what style of dress I’d be wearing, and what we’d name our dog. Because of this, I was inevitably kind of destroyed when things didn’t work out. I knew I needed to change my mindset and my approach, and now when I go on dates, I enjoy the moment instead of jumping ten steps ahead.
I quit the dating game. After years of devastating breakups and makeups, I decided to quit dating altogether for a while. It was the best decision I could have ever made. The longer I was single, the more I realized it wasn’t actually so bad. Sure, I got lonely at times, but it always passed and it wasn’t long until I was just fine again.
I learned how to love being alone. I met my first love when I was 17 and dated him for several years. When we were together, we were inseparable and when we were apart, I couldn’t get him out of my head. It got to the point that being alone for even a few hours was pure torture instead of a great chance to recharge and indulge in some self-care. It took me a long time to get to a place where I actually relish time to myself, but getting here has worked wonders for my self-esteem and my relationships.
I stopped defining myself by my relationship status. As dumb as it sounds, having a significant other often makes you feel more confident and even more popular in general. For too long I believed that having a boyfriend made me more valuable and because of this, I was desperate to keep a guy when I got one. It took me years to realize that my relationship status should never define me as a person, and not having one is no reason to see myself as defective or lesser than.
I started trying new things again and discovered new hobbies and passions. When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to get comfortable and to forget to try new things. In order to be the best version of yourself whether you’re in a relationship or not, you have to keep growing and learning. Because I was so desperate to hang onto my boyfriends, I rarely ventured away from them and into the world to discover new passions and hobbies. Doing so has restored my independence and fulfilled me in ways relationships just can’t.
I invested in myself. It took me a while to realize that investing in yourself is so, so vital for your health! I knew my need to be attached to my partner at the hip was unhealthy, so I went to therapy to process why I was doing this and discover ways to reprogram my behavior patterns. I grew up a lot and I learned how to do things without support from other people. Now, it feels amazing to say that I don’t need a man in my life to be happy and whole.
I started making myself my first priority even when I’m in a relationship. When I’m dating someone, I make them a priority in my life but not my main one—the top spot is reserved for myself. I take space from my partner when I need it and make sure that I’m not neglecting my responsibilities and the things I love about my life no matter how much I love the guy.
I spent more time with friends and family. I used to never see my friends and family when I was in a serious relationship because my boyfriend was my number one. This is totally unhealthy, not to mention really inconsiderate of the people who’ve loved me and been there for me when I was single and needed them most. Any guy I’m dating has to appreciate the other people in my life and the fact that I love spending time with them. If he doesn’t, he’s not the one for me.
I learned how to love myself as-is. I spent so many years wanting everyone else to love me that I forgot that the most important person in the equation was me. I had to dig deep into my heart and truly figure out why I felt like I needed someone else in order to be happy. Loving myself didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t a linear process, but by reconnecting with friends and loved ones and with my passions, I did it. Now, I know that I don’t need anyone else. I don’t need the relationship to give me courage or confidence. I have me, and that’s all I need.