Three years ago I was in a really bad relationship and I had lost all my confidence. My life had started to revolve around this other person, and somewhere along the way, I lost myself and my independence. The only thing I wanted was to be what he wanted me to be, even if that meant not being me. When I look back I wish I could have shaken myself and told myself to leave, comforted myself and convinced myself that I was good enough and didn’t need the acceptance of this other person who called me socially awkward and was never really truly available. I wish I had been enough for myself.
So when the relationship finally ended, I was suddenly left without a core identity, as he had been the source of my feeling of self for so many years now, that I’d forgotten who I really was. I was just starting therapy at this point and was told by my therapist that I needed to get to know myself again and learn to be alone. I was super co-dependent and my anxiety went off the scale the moment he moved out. I had no idea how to be alone or be in my own company. So, like many others before me, I turned to Google and typed in things like “how to be alone” “how to find yourself” and “what to do after a breakup”, and guess what, Google delivered. I found an article called “Date Yourself” and it was just what I was looking for (I can’t find the original article, but if you google it there are tons of articles out there). It said something along the lines that for you to become truly independent, whether or not you’re in a relationship, you have to date yourself before you date anyone else. That made SO much sense to me. It said to treat yourself like you would a beloved partner, take yourself out and do the things you would normally do on a date or with your partner, only do it alone.
This whole concept seemed so extremely terrifying to me that I almost didn’t go through with it, but somehow I managed to pull myself out of my misery one day, and went out alone for the first time. It was something simple, very simple, and I didn’t get through it without a panic attack and a bit of post-breakup crying, but I did do it! I’d gone to a department store food section and bought myself a fancy dessert to bring home. I’ll never forget that feeling, picking one out (pear trifle with chocolate mousse), and going to the register only holding the dessert. I hadn’t bought anything for anyone else like I usually would. Just for me and for no other reason than to be kind to myself, to treat myself and to date myself. It was such a strange feeling and I cried on the train home on the phone to my mom, holding my little dessert. At home, I put on a movie, snuggled up with a blanket and ate my pear trifle. And it felt good. It felt so liberating that I could hardly believe it, and I was overwhelmed with pride and hope.
This was the first time of many I did this, and I still do it to this day. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a man I truly love and who loves me for me, but I will never again lose my ability to be alone and to be good to myself. So every now and again, weekly, almost daily to be honest, I do something alone that the old me wouldn’t have. I go to markets, go have a fancy brunch, travel somewhere far with my camera, make a delicious lunch, paint ceramics, and so many other things. I do them now and I don’t think twice about it. I don’t need to have friends with me all the time either. I’m perfectly happy sitting alone and just enjoying my own company. I recently went to a Mexican buffet place alone and the waiters were so baffled by my aloneness that they kept coming over to see if I needed cheering up. I told Daryl in a text so for the fun of it he video called me and I put the phone opposite me on the table. The waiters saw and started laughing and told us how cute we were on our virtual date. That was a lovely day and a lovely memory.
But now for the practical part. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship or not, if you’re moving away from home, getting your own apartment or relocating to a new city. Knowing how to be happily alone is so important for your wellbeing and your self-worth. Not all people will be comfortable eating alone at a table service restaurant full of happy couples, but once you finally manage to enjoy your own company, man does that feel good! I can’t recommend it enough! Regardless of your relationship status, give yourself some attention and take yourself out on your dream date.
How to date yourself
- Dress up like you’re going out with your dream guy. Make yourself feel so damn pretty and cute that you can’t help but smile when you look in the mirror. And do it for you and you alone! You don’t need to dress to fit anyone’s opinion but your own.
- For your first time, pick a smaller event so you don’t end up with a full-blown anxiety attack with tons of people watching, as that can lead to you not wanting to do it again. Just go buy yourself a nice fancy dessert and bring it home and eat it while you’re wearing your favorite cozy socks. Pick the dessert YOU want, no matter how indulgent that may feel. Get the salted caramel eclair from that French place you always pass by but never walk into. You deserve it!
- Go places where you usually wouldn’t go alone, be it a dinner at a restaurant, going to see a movie, or traveling far away. The point is to really push yourself to get out of your comfort zone and ENJOY it. Make it your own and revel in your own wants and needs. I once went to New York alone for 8 days. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I cried the whole way there on both planes and was hiding in my hoodie when a nice guy next to me on the first plane asked if I was going to New York too. We started chatting and he and his friend ended up guiding me through Heathrow airport so we didn’t miss our connecting plane as well as sharing a cab once we landed in JFK. It was such a good feeling, meeting people, opening up, doing this thing on my own that enabled me to discover kindness in others. I still have them on Facebook and this was five years ago. The trip itself was so insane, running from museum to museum, grabbing cabs alone, going to cafes on my own and getting all the cakes I wanted. It was REALLY scary, but it taught me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of.
- Tailor your environment to fit you. Decorate the way you want, spend lots of time on your self-care routine, choose the movies and shows that you love and binge watch them and eat that super rich garlic pasta that you never wanted to eat before because you worried about your breath.
- Make yourself a priority by scheduling time to do the things you love. Don’t forget yourself in piles of work, friend dates, boys and tinder swipes. Don’t feel guilty about not going to a party or not showing up to your parent’s Friday dinner. Stay in tune with yourself and really feel what you want to do and allow yourself to make decisions based on that and not on what other people would want you to do.
- Get really nerdy about your interests! This is one of my favorites! In my old relationship, I’d always let the other person come first. If he wanted to play a game on the TV I’d give up the show I was watching. If he wanted me to WATCH HIM PLAY THE STUPID GAME I’d put down my artwork and stop painting, just so he could tell me about all the game mechanics he liked. I no longer push my interests aside for anyone, but instead, I delve deep into them and really enjoy every minute of whatever I’m doing because I’m doing it for ME. I’m spending so much time on photography tutorials, watching Black Mirror, blogging, and my friends, and at no point do I allow myself to feel guilty of that. Guilty of not spending all my moments on someone else, but instead on me and what I love to do. It feels great and it’s how it should be. You shouldn’t have to give yourself up to be with someone.
- Learn something new, take up a new hobby, learn a language, learn how to sew. It doesn’t matter, but I’m sure we all have things we’ve all wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to for whatever reason. Doing these things feels SO good because you’re finally being true to you and your desire to excel at something and learn. I’m practicing how to take pictures, that’s my thing right now. I’m also going to learn how to paint and draw and I’m even looking at classes and I’m going to go alone!
There are many ways to date yourself, just google and you’ll find tons of ideas, but the most important thing is that you’re making your life about you and not someone else, be that a partner, a parent, a friend. It doesn’t matter, as long as you shift your focus from everyone else’s happiness onto achieving your own. If you know how to be happily alone your heart will blossom in knowing that you are being true to yourself and choosing yourself. It really is the best and most empowering feeling!
PS. All these photos are from Torvehallerne in Copenhagen, where I took myself on a little date to buy delicious French pastries with walnuts and caramel.