Finding the Dignity in Being Single
by Thao Nguyen
With St. Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, your relationship status may be at the forefront of your thoughts; mine has definitely been running around my mind. For years, my love life stressed me out more than almost anything else. I thought my distress came from a bad combination of being lonely and the fear that I was undesirable. But when I finally admitted to myself that I was seeking a boyfriend for validation, it became clear that the source of my stress was a lack of self-confidence.
For years, I was embarrassed that I never had a boyfriend. Sure, I’d go on dates here and there, but they never worked out. Either I was too awkward and standoffish, or the guys were only looking for sex.
At first, I blamed other people. I would repeat the same phrases anytime someone would ask why I was still single.
“These guys are too creepy.”
“Everyone here is too immature.”
“I just don’t like the lifestyle of the people my age.”
Then I blamed myself.
“Maybe I’m too obnoxious, shy, and mean.”
“I’m not as pretty as everyone else.”
“I've got the personality of a dead fish that's been laying out in the sun for three days.”
Every possible insecure thought went through my head. And I HATED it. I’ve never been someone to wallow in self-pity or be self-conscious. But years of rejection from men made me lose my sense of self-worth. I knew it was ridiculous. My absent dating life didn’t make me inadequate or any lesser than people with significant others. I also knew that besides my non-existent love-life, everything else was going really well for me. I had the hope that my faith gave me, the support of my family and friends, and a job that didn’t make me want to pound my head onto my desk.
Despite all of those blessings, I thought that I was the biggest loser ever for not having been in a serious relationship. I felt like there was something wrong with me because everyone around me was having great dating experiences. My confidence would spike when a cute guy would start talking to me, and plummet when he inevitably ghosted. It was a vicious cycle and I was getting tired of it. I was pretending to be confident and pretending that I didn’t care.
But thankfully, I came to a realization. I didn’t want a boyfriend so much as I wanted validation. I had convinced myself that having a great guy interested in me would mean that I was worthy of being admired and loved, both were things I never truly believed of myself. I thought if I could get a guy to look at me the way Eugene Fitzherbert looked at Rapunzel, I would feel special.
The thought that I had to rely on a man for all of this was horrible. I hated that I could give so much power to what other people - men in particular - thought of me. I really, really, really hated that. That was absolutely not how I was raised and it was absolutely not the kind of person I wanted to be. I had spent the last couple of years complaining about how the boys I met only wanted girls for their bodies, but I hadn’t realized that I was hoping to use them for emotional validation. Either way, someone is being used, and that didn’t fall in line with what I had been taught about the dignity of a person. I was only seeking relationships to benefit my ego. And it was gross.
At the same time, it felt good knowing what my problem was. I decided to be enough for myself, and not for someone else. I decided that I needed to be happy with all of the fantastic things I did have, and not what I didn’t. I decided that loving and valuing myself would benefit me more than a relationship based on insecurity ever would. I decided that if I ever were to get into a relationship, it would not be to use the other person to make me feel better about myself.
Those decisions have made me happier than I’ve been in years. I don’t worry as much as I used to about my perpetual single-ness. I know I still have a ways to go before I become as confident as I would like, but I’ve gotten a lot further than I ever expected. I’m not going to let the societal expectation of being in a relationship get to me. I’m living by my own standards, finding happiness in myself, and just appreciating what I have. And that, I think, is more validating than any relationship. Ultimately, you have to find strength and confidence in yourself. Embrace the dignity in being single. It’ll feel better than embracing someone for the wrong reasons.