I remember reflecting on my life a few short weeks before my 21st birthday in September of 2017. I attempted to recognize the various ways that I had changed and matured over the last year expecting to feel this sense of “wow, look how far I’ve come!” But in all honesty, I felt stuck. I came to the realization that nothing had really changed. My initial reaction was to tell myself it was “fine” maybe even normal and had attempted to ignore the unsettling feeling in my gut. Slowly that feeling, the fear of being stuck, grew with every interaction I had with people like my family, friends, co-workers… I especially felt it with the boy I was dating at the time.
A little back story for you here: I had been dating this boy (let’s call him Sam) for a year and a half and I was convinced that he was “the one” (insert major eye roll here). I was lonely my freshman year of college and joined tinder (first mistake) where I matched with Sam. In full honesty this relationship looked almost perfect on paper when it came to faith, family values, upbringing, talents, likes and dislikes… He wrote me love letters telling me he saw me in his future and, because my love language is words of affirmation, I was smitten.
Like I said, this relationship looked perfect on paper. There was just one problem that both of us failed to recognize and address (mostly due to the lack of maturity on both sides): neither of us were truly happy with ourselves as individuals.
We both had eerily similar pasts with bouts of depression whenever school or our futures were rocky, resulting in us looking to others to fill that void and make us feel better about ourselves. We looked to our romantic partners to validate who we were.
Of course this issue didn’t come up within the first couple months because there was the honeymoon stage. This issue gradually surfaced and affected us over last year of the relationship. And now that I look back I should have ended the relationship as soon as I started seeing the signs. I could tell you all the problems that came up between us and how awfully it all ended but 1) that would take too long and 2) it’s not about him anymore… it’s about me. Not to sound selfish or narcissistic but it’s reality, at the end of the day I can’t blame anyone but myself. I failed to listen to my gut and instead chose to do what was easy, what was comfortable at that point. And it is because of this very reason that I hadn’t felt growth. I could go on and on about how when you date someone they should help make you a better person and keep you in check, because back then I knew all this yet didn’t listen, but that’s an entirely different topic. The point being is that for an entire year and a half I had practically stopped working on myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and instead depended all of my happiness on the words and actions on a single human being. No wonder we were both disappointed in each other and it didn’t work out.
I broke up with Sam just after my birthday. I remember my drive home after the breakup feeling so empty and lost. I had been in and out of relationships since I was 15. How do I be alone? I prayed and cried to God that He would help me make sense of all this, that He would fill me up and give me direction. It was one of the most honest prayers I had ever prayed. Starting this season of singleness allowed me to come to the harsh realization that I did not know how to be happy when single. But most importantly I did not fully rely and trust in God’s love and plan for me.
Like most people after a breakup I felt lost and it took me a while to feel more like “me” again. I was suddenly more willing to read articles on Buzzed and Pinterest about “self love”, I listened to countless podcasts about relationships and sermons with themes of how God works through heartbreak and trials to help us reach our purpose. By the time spring came around I had taken action by spending lots of time with family, working late night hours to build up my business, created a few DIY art projects for my room, started working out like crazy, met new friends and joined a new church. I could see myself changing and felt this confidence that I hadn’t felt in a LONG time.
As I was scrolling through Instagram one day I noticed many people my age posting happy couple pictures and thought to myself “man, I wonder if they’re really, truly happy. I used to post a happy couple picture or selfie right after a huge fight and no one would have guessed it…”. It got me wondering if there were others that could be going through what I was struggling with as well. I played around with the idea of interviewing and connecting with other women my age to make a project or blog post about being single to encourage others, which eventually led to the idea of Single And Empowered.
God led six beautiful, intelligent, and talented women with all different dating backgrounds to answer my call on Instagram to be interviewed and photographed by me last summer. I asked them about their dating lives, what they wish they could go back and tell themselves, what they love the most about being single, and what advice they would give to others. We laughed and cried over coffees, shared crazy stories of dating and growth from our personal journeys, and after each interview I walked away feeling even stronger and more encouraged than before.
I could share each of their individual experiences with dating and being single… but that would be enough to make an entire book. Instead, because I am a HUGE fan of quotes, I decided to share the beautiful images I took of them and the main points I took away from our conversations. I want to not glorify the struggle and bring up painful memories, I want to focus on the HERE and NOW. I want you to see these women's wisdom and inner beauty. But most importantly, I want you to see YOURSELF as an empowered woman that:
- Knows how to take care of herself
- Is fully aware of her weaknesses and how she uses her strengths to the best of her ability in everything she does
- Values her time and energy and who she decides to spend it with
- Is sure of herself and what she wants in her life
- Is firm in her faith and knows how God sees her
- Is willing to be authentic and honest, even though she knows it may hurt
- Knows to reach out to other women as a friend and sister to lift them up just as they lift her up
- Is constantly growing and learning about herself and the world around her.
I can tell you that I no longer feel stuck. Sure, I felt lost for a short while, but ships aren’t meant to stay safely in the docks, they’re meant to withstand the rocky waves and experience incredible journeys across the seas. God knew that I couldn’t be the woman I am today if I hadn’t gone through that relationship and my time of singleness to work on myself and address the issues I had been avoiding for years.
There are two big things I learned about myself in 2018.
1) If I don’t know how to love myself, how can I expect myself to truly love others? Not just romantically, but with friendships and family. When a person is insecure, sad, and discontent they take take it out on others around them. For me, I was easily irritated by the people in my life, disrespectful and ungrateful to my parents, judgmental of other women that could have been my friends, and short with my co-workers.
2) How can I expect a possible romantic partner to give me the best version of themselves if I’m not even working on myself? How can I expect someone to love all of me if I don't address the major insecurities that I’ve been dealing with most of my life? Meditating and reflecting on God's word has opened my eyes to just how broken and lost I've been over the years. It's healthy to be aware of your weaknesses and apply your strengths to serve others in everything you do.
I'm not sure where you are in your life as far as relationships go, but remember this: You are in this specific place and time in your life for a REASON even if you can’t see why. God is working on your heart and preparing you for the next blessing that you can’t even comprehend yet. In the meantime work on yourself, focus on the people you love, work hard to make that money, and never stop learning. You are stronger than you know. Take these words of advice and encouragement and be the empowered and incredible single woman that you are.
“I am WAY stronger than I think!”
“I am learning to be independent, and do things on my own. Like go to the movies alone.”
“What I love about being single is that suddenly I have extra money to pamper myself.”
“If I can’t take care of myself, how can I expect to take care of others?”
"People lose themselves in a relationship…
when you’re with the right person you never lose who you are.”
“Don’t ignore the red flags.”
“Sometimes you have to make hard decisions to end a relationship… Change is scary! Find your strength and face your fear of being alone.”
“Pick up friendships that matter. You’re not annoying them… If they are truly your friends they will welcome you with open arms and be there for you.”
“Date to marry.”
“I don’t need someone’s approval and reassurance. I can get that from God!”
“If it’s not beneficial to me and my faith, it’s not beneficial to my life.”
“FIRST, strengthen your relationship with Jesus.”
“Gradual realization that I’m cool with where I’m at. I can learn so much about myself!”
“Don’t settle with what looks good on paper.”
“It’s OK to realize you’re not ready and say ‘no’.”
“Don’t change your thinking because it’s different from someone else’s.”
“Trust your gut. And it’s OK to do that.”
“Your most important relationship is with God.”