I Chose To Stay Single For Four Years & It Was The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

After my relationship of three years ended just before I went away to college, I suddenly came to the scary realization that I’d never learned how to be single. Since I was old enough to date and be in a relationship, I was, and once I wasn’t anymore, I felt entirely lost. In order to get my life together and learn how to love myself without a guy by my side, I stayed single for the entirety of my four years of college… and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m dating again now, but I’m better for having these important lessons under my belt:

  1. A relationship would be great, but I can take care of myself just fine without one. We’re all human and it’s natural to crave companionship, but for a while, instead of just wanting it, I NEEDED it to function. That’s not healthy. If we’re being real, there won’t always be my best friend, sister or boyfriend to call when I need a pep talk, a hug, or a confidence boost. I had to learn to give myself all those things so that the people who love and support me and vice versa are just icing on the top of an already awesome cake.
  2. I’m in control of my own happiness. My happiness (or lack thereof) doesn’t come from external sources, especially not from a guy. Sure, people and circumstances in my life can make me happier, but that base level of contentedness is all down to me. It took me a long time to come to terms with that and especially to believe it, but now that I do, I feel so much more empowered and in control of my life.
  3. I’m stronger than ever because of what I’ve been through. I never knew what real strength was until I was crying on a bathroom floor, knowing I was the only one who could pick myself up and make it stop. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends and family that I could call and who were there to console and encourage me, but I was the one who had to do the real work myself if I ever wanted to get back up again — and that’s exactly what I did.
  4. The only way to get over insecurities is to deal with them head-on. If the only reason you love yourself is because someone else loves you, you’re doing it wrong. Choosing to be by myself meant that I had to deal with all of my insecurities with no distractions. When I had a boyfriend constantly assuring me that I was funny, amazing, beautiful, intelligent, etc., it was like putting a band-aid over a bullet hole. I was still bleeding, and I couldn’t heal my wounds until I faced the head-on.
  5. I know myself, which means I need to trust myself. How can you find a fulfilling friendship, relationship or career if you have no idea who you are? In a relationship, it was too easy to become distracted and out of touch with my innermost self. That’s one of the biggest reasons I decided to spend some time on my own. I finally had the time and peace to figure out what I wanted in life, and now that I know that, I always trust my own instincts.
  6. There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. You know those people who look at you with pity in their eyes when you say that you’re single? They don’t know the difference between lonely and alone. I didn’t either, at one point. Being lonely means I’m out of touch with myself; being alone means I may not have company, but I’m totally fine on my own in the meantime. I learned how to see being single as a blessing instead of a curse.
  7. I live every day to the fullest & I do it for myself. Being in a relationship is a different kind of living because it means you have to consider someone else in all the decisions you make. What if I’m offered my dream job in another city but my boyfriend can’t (or doesn’t want to) move? Staying solo for four years made me realize what I’m willing to give up and what I’m not. I had the freedom to travel across Europe and Asia for a year and even decided to move to Australia for a while. It would’ve maybe been possible to do those things in a relationship, but it’s so much harder when your heart is in different places.
  8. I’m finally ready and capable of having a fulfilling relationship. After so many years spent soul searching, I now know how to take care of myself, how to love myself, and (best of all) how to give that love to someone else without compromising my needs. Relationships are a give and take, a balancing act, and there’s no way I could have ever succeeded at that without taking this time to get in touch with myself.
  9. I love myself. Finally. It’s been a long road getting here, but I’m so happy I finally arrived. I’ll never be perfect and for the first time in my life, I don’t want to be. I not only accept my flaws, I embrace them because they make me who I am. I love myself, and now that I do, I’m free to love someone else too.
Piper Ryan is a NYC-based writer and matchmaker who works to bring millennials who are sick of dating apps and the bar scene together in an organic and efficient way. To date, she's paired up more than 120 couples, many of whom have gone on to get married. Her work has been highlighted in The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Cut, and many more.

In addition to runnnig her own business, Piper is passionate about charity work, advocating for vulnerable women and children in her local area and across the country. She is currently working on her first book, a non-fiction collection of stories focusing on female empowerment.