It's easy to associate being back in a relationship with being okay again, being successful, and being on track with everybody else in your age group...
But using the idea of getting back into a relationship to fill the void of not feeling good enough, and to take the pain away isn't actually going to help you. It doesn't solve the discomfort we have with ourselves, or take the feeling of insecurity away.
When you become single, it feels like society puts the pressure on you to get back straight into a relationship as soon as possible. Assumptions are made that you're not going to remain single, that you don't want to stay single and that the longer you're single, the unhappier you'll be. The underlying narrative is that you'll be happy again once you're back in a relationship, and our vulnerability to believe that is played on by every dating company running targeted ads to encourage us back onto the apps again.
But listening to those messages and believing you can only be happy once you're taken and off the market pushes your happiness outside of your control. That means that your happiness is not something you have the power over, and now you're in this helpless state of "oh, woe me", when this is, in fact, something you can control.
Your power is having control of your own life. It's having control in your own actions and behaviours, and those actions determines your fulfilment in life, not with the end result of something that is out of my control.
If you're used to the cycle of dating and it never going anywhere, you can start to believe that you're unloveable and that it must be true if you can't find someone who wants to be with you. This thought can spiral out of control and suddenly it goes way beyond dating and to the extent of worrying that you'll never experience romantic love again.
You start having visions of being a real-life Bridget Jones, sat at home in your pyjamas on a Friday night, belting out "All By Myself" at the top of you lungs.
Well, I say BE Bridget Jones, just with better song choices.
There's a a beauty in the power of owning your single status, of enjoying the solo time on a Friday night after the social overload from work, and singing your favourite Taylor Swift / Maisie Peters / [insert your favourite female artist here] album off-by-heart as you dance around the kitchen in the pyjamas that you changed into the minute you got home.
That's not a sad, sorry scene - it's a scene of true comfort in your single life and not letting a relationship status stop you from having fun.
Whether you're coupled up or freshly single, our satisfaction with those states comes from the meaning we put behind them and the stories we tell ourselves about what it means if we're one or the other, and the narrative around what it means to be single needs to change.
Before you start anywhere, you need to know, and believe, that you are completely and utterly enough. That you aren't going to be alone forever.
This single life is an opportunity to get to know yourself. To get to work out what fills the void that's within our control. To enjoy every minute of our single life with friends, dating, trying new things, discovering hobbies, and all the nots too: what you don't like doing, which friends aren't the ones to spend time with, who not to date, which adventures don't work for you, and everything else in between!
It's about working out what really matters to you, what brings you true joy, and then going and doing the things that make you happy and fulfilled consistently.
You want to get to a point of choosing to be single in order to really grab hold of it - and yes, that might mean tackling the expectations of society. People will put their assumptions upon you at times, questioning you about your love life at every social occasion. But as you tell them you're not dating because you're happily single, you don't have to reason with them. The only person that needs to know the reason you're choosing to be single is yourself, and it's not always helpful or an effective use of your time to try to explain to anyone about that choice, especially if they disregard the possibility that you can be happy being and remaining single.
If you're reading this knowing that being single isn't currently by choice, that you would prefer to be in a relationship and actively are dating, your choice is still valid. My words of advice are to do it boldly, go in with the confidence of knowing what you want from dating and not accepting the sub-standard experience that many of us go through. As well as that, you should have fun in the process rather than focussing only on the outcome (an outcome that relies on another person and you really don't have control of it)
Right now however, you are single. You can't change it (not that quickly anyway) so the only way to own it is to embrace it. Make the most of the freedom you have in single life now because you'll wish you had it back when you're having to check in with someone before making decisions one day.
Stop obsession over dating - go work on yourself, enjoy the freedom give yourself chapters of singlehood to look back on with pride.