Here's some real, compassionate advice for those who are single and ready to mingle.
Have you ever thought "What's wrong with me?" while scrolling through endless photos of your happily wedded Facebook friends?
Or maybe you just had one of those but-WHEN-will-it-happen gab-sessions with your best friends.
Sara Eckel has heard every piece of advice for single people you can imagine. Luckily, she's managed to weed out only the useful stuff.
There are tons of self-help books out there that pretty much give the same advice about finding The One. Eckel's book, It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single, really breaks the mold and uses realistic, research-based insights into singlehood and how to deal with it.
Here are five wisdom nuggets that provide some much-needed insight into singlehood:
1. It's totally natural to not feel 100% if you don't have a special romantic someone.
"If you're single and feel a void — if you find that career, friends, books, and travel are actually not enough — it's not because you're dizzy-brained or immature; it's because you're feeling a very legitimate need." — Sara Eckel
For some reason, we like to say "You're too desperate" when people are willing to admit that they don't feel completely fulfilled without a romantic partner. But as human beings, it's natural to want and crave that sort of connection.
2. Dating takes a lot of energy and time. It's OK if you want to take a break from dating to recoup.
"By all means, continue to make your life as rich and interesting as possible. Learn to speak Mandarin, become a Big Sister, take that solo trip to Peru. But do them for their own sake, not as a means of polishing your life resume or reassuring yourself or the world of your worthiness. You're already worthy. There's nothing to prove." — Sara Eckel
Sometimes the search can seem endless and you feel like you need to take a break. But then friends (or insistent parents) say: "You need to keep trying!" Dating can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Know how you sometimes need to take a day off after doing a really hard workout? Similar principle. It's OK if you need some time to recover.
3. Can't stay positive the entire time you're searching for a partner? That makes you ... normal.
"Dating is an act of outrageous vulnerability. You're leaving the comfort of your home and your friends to subject yourself to the scrutiny of strangers. ... It doesn't get more optimistic than that." — Sara Eckel
You might have heard this after complaining to your friend about dating or being single: "You're too negative." But think about it: If you're still searching for that connection, you're putting yourself out there on a regular basis. Just that effort reveals that you're anything but "too negative."
4. Wanting a partner doesn't mean you don't love yourself — or your life — enough.
"For many of us, living alone in a society that is so rigorously constructed around couples and nuclear families is hard on the soul. What's important to know is that those pangs you feel as you walk through the park, past the multifamily picnics and couples marching by two-by-two, are not a sign that you're deficient." — Sara Eckel
Raise your hand if you've heard this before: "No one will love you until you love yourself." While it's great to love oneself, studies have found that there is actually no correlation between self-esteem and one's relationship status. In her book, Self-Compassion, psychology researcher Kristin Neff found that people with high self-esteem aren't more well-liked than people with low self-esteem. They just think they're more well-liked.
So, if you want to work on loving yourself more? Go for it. But do it so you can feel better — not to make yourself into a perfect being for your potential partner.
5. Actively seeking a relationship doesn't mean you're not ready to be in one.
"Marriage and family are eternally celebrated as one of the most important and cherished parts of life — for those who have it. But the single woman who says, 'Yes, I'd like that too,' is immediately dismissed as silly and sad. The fact that you want love is taken as evidence that you're not ready for it." — Sara Eckel
"You want it too badly." "It's because you're focusing too much on it." How is it that wanting love is evidence that you're not ready for it? Don't we need to set goals before we can achieve them? In what other situation do we hear that wanting to do something automatically means we're not ready to do it? Eckel advises to not buy into the idea that we need to suppress our real needs and emotions. It's actually good that you know what you want.
At the end of the day, says Eckel, being single has a lot to do with luck.
If you haven't found love yet, it doesn't mean you're an irreparable person. It's likely that there's nothing wrong with you. Being single isn't some karmic sign from the universe that you are an inherently lesser human being. No one is perfect. As Eckel wisely notes: If being a perfect, whole person was a prerequisite for settling down, the human race would have died out long ago.
The only difference between you and the partnered people of the world might simply be that, well, they're in a romantic relationship and you're not. And you're not any less incredible because of it.