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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCNJ chapter.

Throughout most women’s teenage and adult lives, dating is a prominent and often all-consuming factor. From a young age we’re introduced to the idea that life on your own CAN be fulfilling and fun, but sharing it with someone else guarantees that. As I am on the brink of turning 21 I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this idealogy and my own experiences with it, or lack thereof. In my 20 years of life, I have never been in a relationship. Like most young women, I have unfortunately been pushed into the world of “what are we?”’s, hookup culture, and meeting someone’s parents without a label in sight. I’ve been inches away from the finish line but have never crossed it, not even the classic high school, middle school, or even pre-k love story, and this is something I have spent the majority of my life resenting myself for.

I have spent the majority of my life feeling like I will never be able to find love, that there’s something wrong with me, and that being on my own for so long means I have to feel lonely. I have spent years at a time throwing myself into situationships and empty affairs hoping that I can maybe shape someone into my dream partner. But as I approach this new year in my life, I’ve realized that all that time being lonely was nothing but a waste. I am young, excited about my life, and completely able to fulfill my own needs and make myself happy. But like many young and consistently single people, it’s taken me an aggressively long time to recognize this. So, while reflecting upon these new realizations, here are 20 things I’ve learned after being completely, totally, and utterly single for 20 years:

  1. A Partner is not a Problem Solver

I feel like the most recurring thought I’ve had while sulking in my single lifestyle is “If I had a partner I wouldn’t feel like this”. I had spent years thinking that the anxiety and depression I’ve struggled with was because I wasn’t receiving goodnight and good morning texts or sleeping alone. However, I have learned that the problems you are facing internally are, as aggressive as it sounds, completely your own. If you are feeling lonely or insecure or unlucky it’s time to take the steps you need to help YOU take care of YOU. Even if you meet your dream partner, these feelings will just manifest themselves into a factor of that relationship. I don’t mean to start on a harsh note so take this as a sign to work on the things you want to be better, only you can make that happen.

  1. Get. Off. Snapchat.

To start, I’m not saying to delete your account. We live in a digital world and with that being said social media is many people’s prime form of communication and there is nothing wrong with that. However, a rabbit hole I often found myself tumbling into was constantly making sure I was looking “good” enough to be sending photos of myself to boys who had no actual interest in talking to me. This stunted my self-esteem in ways I never expected as I began to subconsciously associate my worth with strictly my physical experience. I promise it’s not worth it and if they wanted to chat with you they would at least text you, not send you mediocre selfies 6 hours apart. When we’re desperate for something like a relationship we tend to romanticize anything that we convince ourselves could lead to it. Don’t let yourself place value in something that requires no effort. You deserve more

  1. TikTok Tarot Isn’t Your Savior

On the topic of social media, it’s important to pay attention to how the things we consume affect us. I’m sure we’ve all seen videos of people posting that “he’s the one! He’s just scared to tell you!” and then demanding you film a video of yourself to a snippet of some sped-up song to claim it will happen. It sounds silly to most people, but like I said before sometimes when you’re longing for something you’ll do anything to get it and this can lead to disappointment when it won’t happen or even just a lot of wasted time. No one on the internet can tell you what’s going to happen next or who will come into your life, try not to place your hope in some internet strangers’ solutions.

  1. If It Doesn’t Feel Right, Don’t Force It To

I cannot tell you how many talking stages I have stayed in swearing that this would be it while subconsciously knowing that there is no way it would work. Everyone you meet isn’t going to fit you. That’s just the reality of it all, just because two people find each other attractive doesn’t mean your personalities are meant to mesh. Over and over I wanted a relationship so badly that I was willing to put up with people I didn’t necessarily like just because I thought they would be willing to date me. It’s better to walk away when you know it’s wrong than stick with it because once you get that feeling it’s not going to work no matter what you do.

  1. Appreciate Your Sanity

When thinking about relationships we tend to think about all the good parts, don’t get me wrong, I would love to be with someone and go on dates and meet people’s friends and maybe not have to sleep with my squish mallows every night. But for all the pros there are of being a relationship there are also a lot of stressful factors that we tend not to consider. Meeting people families and friends isn’t always easy. Working your schedule around someone else’s isn’t always easy. Trying to balance your job, education, social life, hobbies, and relationship are DEFINITELY not easy. Enjoy your peace of mind and ability to focus solely on yourself when you have it because I promise when you do meet someone miss it just as much. 

  1. RomComs Aren’t Real

When I turned 18, I decided that every relationship was probably similar to how it is in the movies. I saw what people would post on social media of themselves and their partners and envied how similarly cinematic it seemed, how silly and whimsical love could be. Love at times is fun and exciting and straight out of a movie– but most of the time it’s not. Don’t hold yourself or your potential partners to this impossible standard. Your partner and dating life will not be perfect, but that’s hard to recognize when you’ve never experienced a relationship. Sometimes we spend so much time looking for something so unattainable that we miss what’s in front of us, try to ground yourself the best you can.

  1. Ignore Outside Commentary

One of the first things I’m usually asked at family gatherings is “So when are you going to get a boyfriend?”. I’m asked by friends in relationships casually if I ever plan on being in a relationship often, and when I tell someone I’ve spent 20 years single the typical reaction is some slight shock that sometimes feels like more of a judgment than a “how”. I know when this is said it isn’t with ill intentions, however, when you’re like me comments like that can hurt and make you feel like you’re behind and need to catch up. I promise you are not behind. Nothing that is meant for you will miss you, if you haven’t found someone it just means you haven’t met the right person. Don’t let other people’s opinions on your relationship status determine your confidence.

  1. Resenting Love is Not the Answer

For a long time, I found myself slightly resenting my friends who were getting into relationships. My friends who had been single forever like me started slowly fading into the dating world and although I was happy for them, it also made me feel insecure. I began to loathe hearing about their relationships out of envy, and sometimes would even get upset enough to ask myself “Why them and not me?”.  If there is anything I could urge you to do in this article it is to leave this thought process behind. Resenting them or their relationship or love in general only leads to misery, celebrate the beauty of it even if it’s not something you directly have. Once you begin to do this I promise you’ll fall in love with love again, being able to witness it is as much a gift as having it. Jealousy is often a result of insecurity, don’t let it affect how you view the people you value most.

  1. Your Interests Are What Make You You

When seeking out a romantic partner it’s easy to lose sight of yourself in the process. Coming into college I was so anxious that the things I loved would make any dating prospect cringe, so I let my hobbies and interests slip away one by one. Slowly my previous love for things like theater, politics, and obscure media got pushed to the side because I feared that no one would want to date someone who didn’t have the interests I associated with being “cool”. While trying to find someone I swore would make me feel whole I lost myself in the process. Listen to your favorite songs, post what you want to post, and watch what you want to watch even if someone else may consider them odd. The right person for you will embrace these aspects of you, not hide them.

  1. Daydreaming is Dangerous

I love to daydream. I spend 30% of my day staring off into space and imagining scenarios that probably will never occur in real life and/or are totally out of my control. Daydreaming is fun, healthy, and creative but can also become very dangerous to your mental health. Oftentimes (especially when we have a romantic interest in mind) we begin to glorify people and situations so much that we completely lose their reality. This can become dangerous in several ways, from allowing us to become mistreated to a lack of appreciation of the things around us. Daydreaming is a beautiful thing but be conscious of what you spend your time imagining.

  1. Sex Does Not Equal Intimacy

I’m not saying that sex and intimacy cannot go hand in hand. Sex can be beautiful and intimate and really showcase how much two people care about each other. But often when trying to replicate the affection we feel like we’re missing from lack of a relationship, we use sex as the substitution. I would think that having sex with someone before anything else would begin the story of us but instead was often left feeling empty and used. I’m not saying sex is only for people in relationships, a sexually liberated woman herself is an amazing thing. But don’t use sex to fill a void of intimacy that you fear you may be missing, it will only hurt you further.

  1. Attraction is Very Subjective

Not being in a relationship does not mean you are unattractive. Normally when I would hyperfixate on my relationship status my first thought would be “Well… maybe I’m just ugly and no one has told me”. I promise this is not the case. I honestly believe that there is no such thing as pretty or ugly someone you may find beautiful I may find average, and vice versa. Who we are attracted to is completely based on our own opinion and that holds to others opinions of us. Your appearance has nothing to do with your relationship status or worth.

  1. Online Dating is the Sweet Side of Hell

I hate Tinder. Most of us give into dating apps when we feel like the people around us just aren’t cutting it. Some people strike out and meet their future husbands on Bumble, sure, but the majority of us fall into endless swiping and borderline-violating messages. I often found myself putting way too much value in who would message me or who I would match with only to realize that, similar to the Snapchat point I made before, these people knew nothing about me and most of them didn’t care to. I recommend using them like a game if anything and maybe you could become one of the lucky ones, but just because you’re not getting messaged a million times on Hinge doesn’t mean you’re any less worthy of finding someone who fits you.

  1. Letting Go is the Best Thing You Can Do for Yourself

As I said earlier I have been so close to being in a relationship a few times. Honestly, if it were the olden days, many of the things we now consider “talking stages” would be considered relationships in general. We get attached, blindsided, and then left at the last second. When we are so sure that something will work this time and it all comes crashing down it can feel horrible and sometimes lead to us holding onto those feelings longer than others. It may feel like you can’t just let this person or situation go because it’s the closest you’ve ever been to your end goal, therefore it just had to be right, and there’s a second, third, or eighth chance in sight. You need to let these people go. You will drive yourself crazy fixating on what could have been and oftentimes miss other opportunities because you become so sure that you were right about the previous person. I said this before and I will say it again: nothing that is meant for you will miss you. If it doesn’t work out that means it just wasn’t right, don’t let yourself fall into the delusion that it was. 

  1. The Future is Unpredictable

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It may sound cheesy but you truly do have your whole life ahead of you, there is so much time for you to meet someone or be in a relationship and so many in the future that you could never predict. It’s so hard to spend your whole life up to this point single when you watch everyone else around you watch everyone else find love that sometimes we forget how young we are and how much time we truly have. Maybe your path is a bit different than everyone else’s, so what? You have no idea who could walk into your life at any moment and instead of trying to force or predict it, spend your time valuing what you have instead of focusing on what you lack. Your time will come when it’s supposed to, but what you have now is fleeting.

  1. It’s Okay to be Emotional

I know I have spent the majority of this article telling you not to let your emotions get the best of you, but it is also very important to recognize and not invalidate them. A boy you never dated broke your heart? Cry about it to Taylor Swift. Do you feel like you’re falling behind your friends? Recognize that thought and journal about it. Although it’s unhealthy to let these things become all-consuming factors in your life, it’s equally as bad to not let yourself feel things to the full extent to which they bother you. Just because you haven’t gone through the worst breakup of all time doesn’t mean love isn’t allowed to hurt your feelings. Being emotionally in touch with ourselves makes us stronger, and feel things fully and confidently. 

  1. You Are More than Someone’s “Dream-Girl”

As women, there is a lot of pressure on us to be someone’s perfect partner. We’re taught from a young age that marriage is a must, kids are inevitable, and having a career is awesome but at the end of the day, we should put our future families first. This is an insane amount of pressure and most of us don’t realize how much this affects us until we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. To get to this point we are expected to present ourselves in many of the ways that partners (notably men) will find most attractive and interesting. Our bodies, the way we speak, our interests, our styles, and our future goals are expected to fit several impossible ideals that will guarantee that someone will be happy with us one day. I have now learned that this is a miserable and impossible way to live. Your worth is so much greater than someone else’s expectations for what they think their future wife should look or act like. Your worth is so much greater than the ideologies that separate masculinity and femininity. Embracing who you are is more important than altering yourself in hopes of being more attainable. Someone who wants to be with you will want to be with YOU, no ifs ands or buts. And if no one does, you’re much better off on your own. 

  1. The Other-Half Theory Is Dangerous

I used to fawn over the term that somebody would become “your other half”. The older I get and the more single I become, I’ve come to realize how toxic this mindset is. By implying that someone else is your other half, you are essentially stating that you are not whole without them. This is not only a destructive mindset for people in relationships (sorry guys), but also for people like me who have never been in one. By saying I have not found my other half yet I am saying that because I have not met the right person there is a part of me that is missing and waiting to be fulfilled. I promise you can find this part of you within yourself. You are whole with or without someone. You are yourself, your friends, your family, your education, your hobbies, your interests, your good days, and your bad. You are your own separate, special, incredible entity that can stand wholly on its own. To provide a tacky metaphor think of yourself as an ice cream cone and someone else as the sprinkles. The sprinkles are an awesome addition, however, the ice cream alone is still great on its own. I know it’s not great but I think it gets the point across.

  1. Female Friendships Will Carry You

To me, there is no greater love than that of female friendships. When I reflect on my life and the people who have impacted it the most and who have helped me grow and flourish into the person I am today, I can give 90% of that credit to my strong friendships with women. One of my biggest worries when considering my lack of relationships was that I was missing some prime developmental opportunity to learn something about myself only a man could show me. I have never been so wrong. My friends have taught me how to be gentler to myself and others; and how to support the people around me. They have taught me what makes me laugh or cry and allow me to find safety in their presence no matter which emotion comes about. If you are as lucky as I have been to have strong and consistent women in your life, I promise nothing is missing. To quote Queen Bey herself, “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman who understands you. I grow so much from these conversations”.

  1. You’re Your Only Guarantee

Last but not least, arguably the most sensitive topic in this article. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably thought to yourself at least once or twice “What if it stays this way forever?”, and to be honest, it very well could be. I’m not saying to give up on love or ditch your hopes and dreams of getting married or having a family. However, I am saying that there is no way you will ever be able to guarantee that someone is going to walk into your life when you least expect it. Although the probability is extremely low you very well could be alone forever. Make peace with this idea and find joy in the fact that you are the only person you can 100% rely on. Even the strongest friendships or relationships can fade away in the blink of an eye but you’re stuck with you for the rest of your life. Love yourself wholeheartedly, give yourself the things you wish someone would give to you, and embrace the parts of yourself that you may be eager to shy away from. If there is any lesson I have treasured most in my 20 years of being single, it is that I am my only expectation. You are love in its purest form, treasure that. Remember that if you’re all you have, love is certainly not something you’re missing.

Dharma Mowatt is currently a senior at TCNJ majoring in Elementary Education and English. She has always had a passion for writing and sharing her experiences and opinions with whoever is willing to listen which is why she decided to join HerCampus her final year of college. Her favorite topics include pop culture, self-development, mental health, cooking, and fashion.