Strong Single Woman? Is there like...Cliff notes for this or something?
August 16, 2013 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm single again. I know...KNOW that I MUST learn how to be OK with myself single. I crave being that strong, single women that people are drawn to and admire. But I'm to the point that I can't just say "I'm amazing!" and *snaps fingers* everything is peachy keen again. I need some specific things to do in order to move forward, distract myself from my loneliness, and learn to like being single. Can you add to the list of things to do? Come on in!

Once upon a time I feel like I was that person. Guys were drawn to me, but they were drawn to me because I was smarter than them or more outgoing or something (I don't mean to be terrible about that, but it seems like the guys who were drawn to me needed 'fixing' somehow...I guess I made up for something they were missing? It just felt odd...). Then I married a dude with addiction issues in his family (but he wasn't an addict himself). THAT didn't go well at all, and he did a MAJOR number on my self esteem before we divorced. Basically, I tried everything I could to please him and make him love me again, which didn't work. Now I'm more concerned with how others view me than anything.

So now...I'm alone again after another failed relationship of only a couple of months. I'm in school for my PhD and living with my father (to save money while in school, but still...). I am an anxious attachment type, and being single right now is SENDING ME OVER THE EDGE. I've always had really good gut feelings/intuition that is way more right than wrong. And it's telling me that now is the time for me to just be OK with being single. I need to learn to love myself again and not worry about the fact that I'm alone right now. I don't want to be Jerry "You. Complete. Me." MaGuire but I really feel incomplete and broken right now.

So how do I do that? I need step by step actions that I can do...I'm not even kidding right now. I've been looking all over the web for the answer to this and I can't find it (that should tell me something huh?). Tonight I was texting with a recent ex as friends (we had our closure moment and things are OK) and he said he was heading out for a date. That about killed me. Seems like everyone has someone but me...I have no one to go home to, no one to talk to...I'm alone.

Mefites...tell me what to do. Give me a list. How can I make this OK? I'm tired of trying to date. it's exhausting doing the dating sites, so I'm fine with taking a break from that. what? How do I find that strong, confident, single woman that I need to be? Once again I'm convinced that this is what I need to do, but I have no earthly idea on how to do it.

I am almost 40, so not a young thing at all. No kids though.

(also, if anyone wants to chat about this or help hold me accountable or work on this together or something, please MeMail me).
posted by MultiFaceted to Human Relations (25 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
I would not distract myself from the loneliness. I would work towards tolerating the feeling of being lonely. Hang on to it for as long as you can and see how long it takes to fade. The more you become acquainted with it, the less power it will have over you. Most of our pain comes from the process of avoiding the pain, because it chases us around for hours. Turning into the temporary sensation of pain can help you become aware of the actual level of power it has, which is quite small.

Then, someone will show up on your doorstep.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:33 PM on August 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

Oh, please, you are still very young!

Catch up on movies, start a long, challenging book, go on long walks in the woods, take up weight lifting, ride a bicycle, drive someplace new. Solitary activities that focus the mind are best.

I just sent you a MeMail.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:36 PM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I discovered something in my 30s and 40s has really been the key for me in developing a much more grounded sense of self and happiness in general (and this was true both when I was single and now as part of a couple): identify the personal qualities/values that matter most to you, and seek out ways to cultivate them in yourself and surround yourself with others who also value them.

By qualities, I mean things like compassion, kindness, humor, resilience, curiosity, patience, calmness, goodwill, etc. (these are just some of the qualities off the top of my head that I particularly value; your list might be quite different). Take some time to really think about them. Jot down as many as you can, then see if you can pick out your top 10.

Now, think of some specific ways you can cultivate a life filled with these qualities -- both in terms of yourself and in your social life. Maybe it means taking a writing class, or learning to meditate, or fostering an animal, or going hiking twice a week, or any other way you can get in touch with these qualities both internally and externally. The important thing is to do these things for the sake of consciously seeking and nurturing the qualities you've already identified that you value -- not merely for distracting yourself from your loneliness or trying to make a life that seems impressive.

For me, it was about learning to relate to myself much more authentically in terms of my needs, values, and feelings -- which in turn allowed me to live more authentically and to relate to others more authentically as well.
posted by scody at 8:36 PM on August 16, 2013 [94 favorites]

I have been through something similar, a long time back... and it took me a long time to be better but one thing I can say from experience is time helps.

Take a few deep breaths when those thoughts hit. You already are awesome and strong having gone through so much, its a temporary shift in your perception because of the circumstances, which will change.

About the anxious-attachment feelings, I can relate to that, and I had to internalize the thought that sometimes I will be all I will have, and I will have to get through things to get past them... if that makes sense. Kind of like labor, (or writing that dissertation...), its uncomfortable and painful and you're hitting the wall, but there's only way out of it, which is through it. Helped me hang in there during some tough times.
posted by greta_01 at 8:39 PM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you can't feel strong and confident if you feel like you're lacking something important in your life, and that people often mistake the "something important" as being a relationship.

You're lucky enough that your gut is telling you that isn't the case, but you still need to figure out what you are missing. Is it just company in general (I'm alone)? Is it that your previous partner fulfilled a need you don't feel capable of fulfilling on your own (e.g. stopping anxious trains of thought)?

Once you figure that out, you can start working out what to do to improve that area of your life (e.g. Get involved in new activities to make friends, teach yourself methods for stopping anxious thought trains, etc.) and then start changing things for the better. The improvements will in turn make you feel more confident about yourself, and more ok about being on your own.
posted by Sakura3210 at 8:39 PM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

oh, and on the topic of mindfulness/meditation: I also recommend the audiobook Getting Unstuck by Pema Chodron, which is great for learning to stay with uncomfortable feelings (rather than just trying to flee from them) while also learning how to quiet the negative self-talk/narration that often accompanies them. These have also been really useful skills for getting me through difficult patches personally, professionally, etc.
posted by scody at 8:43 PM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Here is a link to a personal values assessment. My assessment results codified that I value inventiveness and problem solving. It made me feel a little more confident in myself (even though it doesn't promise that I am _good_ at problem solving, it helped me get an idea of where to focus my interests).

One place to start.
posted by amtho at 8:53 PM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The strong single woman is not strong in a vacuum. She's strong partially *because* of a good network of friends, love interests, and colleagues, all of whom admire her.

If you've let your network lapse, then you rebuild it one brick at a time. You meet one new friend who respects you. Their respect fuels you to hold your head up a little higher. You reawaken dormant friendships with people who made you feel great about yourself. That gives you more energy. You start attracting love interests. Your confidence snowballs until bam! You're the strong single woman again.

We are social creatures. If you take the strongest woman, and put her into a foreign country where she has no friends, I guarantee her confidence will become lower after a few months. Often people let their networks lapse while they're in a relationship, or they outgrow their current network during the relationship and haven't yet made a new one yet.

Brick by brick!
posted by cheesecake at 8:53 PM on August 16, 2013 [25 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Stop dating. You are not ready and that's okay. Online dating should only be done by people who have ample amounts of time and energy to weed through the vast sea of matches out there. I did online dating for about two weeks until I decided I just didn't feel like having to think of a witty answer to some guy's message that probably wouldn't lead anywhere anyway.

2. Get over the notion that being in a relationship raises your self worth. I am not sure how to DO this, per se, other than just telling yourself this every morning until you believe it. You are not less of a person because you are single. You are not less of a person because you are single. You are not less of a person because you are single.

3. Do not "expect" to find someone when you least expect it. In my experience, whenever I have internalized this mantra it has been more like, " SEE I DON'T CARE!! LOOK HOW MUCH I DON'T CARE!!" And then I end up disappointed when I am still single. We are not owed anything and there is no guarantee you will find a long term, fulfilling relationship. Make peace with that. There is so much more to life than being someone's other half.

4. Stop keeping tabs on your exes. Yeah yeah, you say you are friends, but if that were true wouldn't you be happy and excited that he was going on a date? The fact that it "killed" you indicates there's still some element of competition and feeling like you need to move on first. I get it, just look at my posting history. You don't have to be some saint who is friends with her exes. My ex is dating someone new and I couldn't be less happy for him. That's how I know we are not friends.

5. Think about, and then do, all the things that being single affords you. Travel, cook your favorite foods, write a killer dissertation, watch Bridezillas all Sunday, take walks with your dad, visit friends, volunteer.

6. Embrace your feelings, yet see the flaws in your thinking. Of course you feel broken and empty; those are natural by products of ending a relationship. That's okay and normal and it won't last forever. But it isn't true that EVERYONE has someone and you don't. Other people are single too. People who are not currently single will become single in the future. Other people also are in miserable relationships. And technically you do have someone to come home to because you live with your dad, even though he is probably not the someone you would prefer to be on the other side of the door right now.

I do truly hope this helps!
posted by thank you silence at 9:22 PM on August 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

Seems like everyone has someone but me...I have no one to go home to, no one to talk to...I'm alone.

There are people out there who have no one. There are children in orphanages who have no one. There are dogs and cats who could use some love and a good home, and who have no one.

How about getting a pet if you are feeling alone? If the pet doesn't help "distract" you then somewhere at the back of your mind you might just want a romantic relationship to fulfill you. I am not trying to be a jerk in making this assumption; I think this is a very deeply ingrained idea that women grow up with, which takes tremendous energy and work to shake off if you truly believe in that. Then there is another kind of loneliness, you know, the one who have even when you are with someone. Now, that is really an emptiness that a romantic relationship was supposed to fulfill in principle but it doesn't in practice. Which loneliness you are truly feeling is something you may want to think about and figure out, yourself or with a professional.

How about volunteering where you can help disadvantaged or disabled children? This will provide some excellent perspective: being alone as a single woman in your 30s/40s isn't the worst kind of pain on the planet that one has to go through. This is not meant to diminish your feelings in anyway, this is meant to help you see the forest when you are focused on the trees.

At the end of it all if you decide you just want a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled then that's that. No point distracting your mind otherwise. You want what you want and there is no reason to not truly admit it to yourself. You might be actually doing yourself a disservice if you try to steer your mind otherwise. However, there are two things you may want to keep in mind. One, just because we want something does not mean it will translate into reality and there is no working around this. So what's going to be the backup game plan here, if you need one? Second, the kind of relationships you see out there, read about here are what reality looks like. Something's gotta give. You need to think hard about what you are willing to compromise on, live with etc etc.

I think scody's answer is pretty awesome. However, I think people who believe in such things often have gone through some significant life trials. This kind of thinking just doesn't happen out of the blue, or because you spent two hours or months thinking about it. It just doesn't. What does happen are things like what you are going through, finding yourself at a fork in the road. One way to "distract" yourself might be to learn more about who you really are and what you really want at this point in life, and start from there.

In the same vein, I also believe that becoming strong is a byproduct of a process, much like happiness. Its not a goal you can aim for, not the destination but what results from going on the journey.

Btw, a PhD is also a pretty awesome goal, and I am glad you have something to focus your attention in the way a PhD will hopefully force you to. Good luck!
posted by xm at 9:38 PM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Do you want to feel strong for yourself or appear to be strong so others admire you? Personally, learning how to operate on your own approval is valuable, and if in the process, others like you or want to know you or be with you--that's gravy. Figuring out how to be your own strongest supporter, boon companion and most trusted advisor can be hard, sure, but ultimately worth it. I think you start by figuring out what really matters most to you--what you're proudest of. For me, it's integrity--I do what I say I'm going to do.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:47 PM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure there is a "strategy" here to achieve this goal of yours... for me, I didn't quite feel like a strong woman, then one day it clicked.

If I had to describe the difference, it was this. I used to be in a mode when I wondered how I could please others, how I could get them to admire me, and whether I was good enough. Eventually, I got to a point where I realized that, on the contrary, others need me. They need exactly what I can give. Not everyone all the time, but there is a huge set of people out there who would benefit from me in a deep way. People need me on their projects and at work... animals need me... and importantly for my internal change: men need me. Not all of them all the time, of course. But a whole lot. Burly ones, hot ones, investment banker ones, attractive ones who I used do see as "up there" and then the switch flipped and I understood them as being "over there" instead of "up there" and how they needed my strength.

I'm not pointing this out to describe how I'm defined by how I relate to men. In fact, what stands out now is that it's almost no different from how anyone else (at work... or animals... or family members... etc) might need and appreciate me. But that area of life was a mystery before, then one day, it was much less a mystery. Things clicked. (Sure, they might go wrong, but they kinda feel okay.)

If I have to point out what made this change for me, working with animals had a lot to do with it. It taught me something about love that is hard to put into words. That being said, what flips the switch for you might be something different, or random.

The other thing I got out of this whole revelation was that in the cases when endeavors/relationships/etc failed, and I wasn't appreciated, that was as much God's outcome as it was my own. (I'm kind of religious, you can blame it equally on random chance or whatever.) Sometimes things go in the wrong direction and it's rough to deal with. One day it clicked that this is not a reflection on me, even if it might be sad for me.

For me, strength was not about meeting some certain standard, but understanding my intrinsic value as a person... how much I have to contribute, including in love. And it doesn't have to do with how I look or what my body is like. I don't feel strong all the time... there are insecure and pessimistic moments like everyone else, of course. My confidence is sometimes shaky. But overall, I'd say I'm damn confident and (bless my heart, haha) not really worried about stuff like partnership as much as I used to be.

(PS, don't tell everyone that the trade secret was "animals." Shhh!)
posted by htid at 10:07 PM on August 16, 2013 [22 favorites]

It might help to find a role model: a female whose life looks like what you want yours to look like now (one who doesn't mind being single).

You could read books featuring strong single women who don't mind being single. That might give you a sense of what it's like inside the mind of someone who doesn't care about that.
posted by salvia at 10:29 PM on August 16, 2013

First, you don't say much about friendships. Do you spend time with friends? How much of wishing you had someone is wanting romance, and how much is wanting companionship? People you can text with, share joys and fears, go and do activities with, etc. Good friendships fill that role. And the work it takes to be the sort of person that others want to befriend and who genuinely brings something to a friendship is an exercise in self-improvement in of itself.

Second, there is a reason people get pets. The presence of my cats in my life has profoundly changed how I approach coming home and how I feel about myself when I'm there. It is really easy to come home to an empty or near-empty apartment and fall down a spiral of self-pity and worthlessness. "Nobody cares when I get home! Nobody here loves me! I'm all alone in this bed. I'm going to switch on the television (or computer) and desperately consume mindless entertainment in an effort to distract myself from the emptiness of this room!"

But you don't get that with pets. You get home, and it's time for pettings, and food, and water, and walkies or scooping the litterbox. You can't get drunk and pass out on a park bench because whenever you come home there will be poop on the carpet at best, a dead animal at worst. It imposes a relatively low-level responsibility and basic interaction with another living creature that breaks the self-pity spiral simply by forcing you to consider the needs of someone besides yourself.

More importantly, I think it short-circuits the "self-worth is defined by a relationship" feedback loop. This will take a little longer to explain.

It is really easy to believe if someone is a "good" enough person (good in the shallowest sense: looks, charm, social skills, etc), they will get love. And if someone is really good, they'll be loved unconditionally. Thus love is proof of worth. Conversely if you aren't loved in a romantic relationship, you aren't trying hard enough. Or worse, your efforts are in vain because you inherently suck.

Of course human relationships are not like that. You don't just put in "effort" and love comes out. We're complex creatures, each bringing a different set of experiences, emotions, desires, and interpretations to each relationship. There is never going to be a direct relationship between "effort" and "love", because what you define as effort may not be what the other person defines as effort. What actions you value may not be what the other person values. Relationship-building comes from two people learning about each other and figuring out if they're compatible. Not one person being "good" enough for the other.

For example, I once got a bouquet of flowers on my first date with someone. Some women may have been truly touched by this gesture. I was freaked out and overwhelmed, and am not even a big flower person anyway. I did not go on a second date. Now, if the guy was an Effort = Love person, he might think "I brought flowers and a nice dinner, I did everything right and she doesn't like me. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?" If the guy recognizes relationships are more complex than that, he might think "Huh, neither of us are bad people, just different" and move on.

OK, but where do pets come in? Well, pets are the one relationship you will ever have where effort and love are directly correlated. If you feed your pet, if you skritch their ears, play with them, pick out favorite toys, arrange special sleeping spots, cuddle with them, challenge them by teaching them tricks, treat them with kindness, if you do all of that you will get love. No matter the pet, no matter the species*, the same actions will always, always lead to getting love back. And the more effort you put in, the more love you get back, and if you put in enough work (and it's not much work at all) the love will be totally and completely unconditional. The pet will be unashamed about expressing this love to you every single day of its life.

So to me, having a pet satisfies that dumb part of my brain wishing love was as simple as being "good" enough. I am more than good enough for my cats. My cats think I am the swellest thing that ever walked the planet. And by giving me that love and scratching that itch, I get enough perspective to realize that's not what I will get from people. That's not what I want from people. You don't build emotionally complex, challenging relationships when love is as simple as playing a video game, where you press the right buttons to meet some undefinable standard in the other person's brain.

*Obviously I am talking about pets with a degree of self-awareness, your tarantula is not going to bring the same level of connection as your Labrador retriever
posted by Anonymous at 11:50 PM on August 16, 2013

I've been single for nearly 10 years now. While there are days where I feel terribly alone, most of the time, it's pretty awesome. It does help to accept the feelings of loneliness; you find that they pass, and that in passing, they give you something. For instance, in holding/accepting those feelings, I have come to realize that I love peace and quiet, and the attentions of my cats. (Animals really do help, if you love them and would want one.)

You also learn to see the world in a way that "society" (generalizing) doesn't really advertise (word chosen in full awareness). You start to see how interconnected we all are, even the local shopkeepers — you've met their kids, you know their names, they know yours, every once in a while they wink and don't ring up the bottle of wine in your basket. If you're lucky (I am in this area), the people you work with, who've known you for years, same deal, you know their kids, and over time you start to realize that you actually know their families, who they are as people, and that there's a level of mutual trust. It's not an intimate relationship, but it is a relationship.

Then there are friends, you get to know them better too. I was blessed last Christmas with a generous gift from a friend, and spent a wonderful time in a country I'd never been before, with people who were great. Today I'm about to go out with other friends I met just after my big breakup 9 years ago. Their niece is now 13 and we're going out on the town to shop and speak English (she's French but loves English).

You also get to know yourself a lot better. Many of we women are raised to please others. We're not raised to believe in ourselves as people who could change the world someday, or have books written about us. Beatrice de Rothschild was a woman who divorced her husband, drove fast cars, collected art, wonderful small Greco-Roman reliefs, designed a villa and gardens, had them built, oversaw them for decades, died with no heirs, and today, her villa on the Riviera.... has no biography of her on sale. (The same friends I'll be meeting visited it yesterday and were stunned.) Her story is one of thousands, millions, billions. We're supposed to exist for others, not ourselves. Well, existing for yourself lets you see the world in a very new and novel light. In some ways it can be invigorating; you start to realize just how many stories we're told (such as, "oh don't worry, as soon as you're confident and don't care about meeting someone, you'll meet someone") are not true, and the ways in which they are not true, and do not need to be true.

There is fulfillment in singlehood. You are not alone. It feels that way sometimes, and it may even be true sometimes (I'm the woman postulated above who moved to a foreign country, before the times of Facebook, and who had no close friends). But there are also people in relationships who are even more alone. If you live and love, even if that love may at first "only" be for hobbies, your job, whatever, that love will grow. Start out by trusting that it will grow. Relax when loneliness hits. Remember everyone and everything you love, even if they are "small" loves. What you tend to, like a garden, will grow.
posted by fraula at 4:07 AM on August 17, 2013 [23 favorites]

If you find the answer to this, let me know. I was raised in a major 1970s feminist environment and told from age nine that women didn't need men. Unfortunately, I am wired to need one. If I had a nickel for every time someone said "oh, just find some hobbies, that will fulfill you," I'd be a millionaire. The thing is, they don't fulfill me, but they do distract me--and unfortunately, that's the best you can do. Like fraula says, loneliness hits, and it will hit, in waves, and the only thing you can do is try to distract yourself as much as possible until the next wave hits. It's like managing an illness. Good luck.
posted by Melismata at 5:21 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am 48. I have been alone for 8+ years. I am currently in the early stages of a new relationship, still trying to figure out where it stands. Two things helped me:

1) I kept the kids. We are close. So I have people in life who accept me and care about me, etc.

2) I was alone by choice. Yeah, it would have been nice to have a guy in my life but I had other priorities and I want a good relationship, not a bad one just to avoid being alone.

So I will suggest you focus on finding friends and a feeling of acceptance. I will also suggest that you convince yourself that being alone is a choice. Most likely, if having a guy was the most important thing to you, you would have that. But you want a phd and you want that to not kill you financially and you likely have several other competing priorities AND it sounds like you also want a good relationship. All of that is reasonable but it does make it harder to fit all the pieces together.

When I was divorcing, my husband tried to pressure me to "get a JOB, ANY job!" I told him "Fine. I will become a hooker. It's a JOB, ANY job." That shut him up. If you wanted "A MAN, ANY man" I bet you could have that. The problem is you want better than that. So I think you need to affirm that you have a choice and are choosing to treat yourself better than "I must have a man, ANY man." Reminding yourself of that fact should help shut up whatever inner voice is trying to convince you that "no one wants me" or whatever.

Then focus on getting your phd and, as best you can, taking care of your needs. Find a sexual outlet that works for you, find an emotional outlet, exercise, eat right and so on.
posted by Michele in California at 5:29 AM on August 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tanya Davis's poem/video How To Be Alone is a really great answer to this.
posted by heatherann at 6:17 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

One key aspect of being strong both in and out of relationships is to realize that your past is not a string of failed relationships. It is a string of relationships that have a natural time course. By your own definition even the very best of us at romantic relationships 'fail' at every single one until we don't. How reasonable is that? Not very! It is not all on you to make every thing work, nor is it even possible or reasonable to expect everything to work.

If pets are too much then grow plants. Caring for living things is important for the soul.
posted by srboisvert at 6:22 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been single for a number of years now, and honestly what gets me through those points of loneliness is remembering how much worse it was when I felt that way while in a relationship. Someone above mentioned that having hobbies doesn't help, it just distracts them, and I feel that relationships fall under that same strategy. Being in a relationship didn't solve it, but it can be one hell of a distraction (until it wasn't anymore). Your desperate need to feel completed sounds more like flailing around for the coping mechanism you've been using all these years to distance yourself from dealing with this.

I've gotten stronger by learning better coping mechanisms through cbt therapy and mindfulness, as well as connecting with a network of strong single, and a few coupled, women.

Also my memories of what a bad relationship does really keeps me from just jumping into something less then ideal. I'd rather feel the sensation of hunger then taste rotten food. Plus it just compounds the original problem when you get sick from it, as you've found with the lingering affects of your marriage.
posted by Dynex at 7:29 AM on August 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

One thing you can do is just allow time to pass. You don't actually need to "do" anything -- just get by from one day to the next, as best you can. This can work, because time and biochemistry are on your side. You are at an age when your hormones are about to start giving you some peace. Getting into my 40s was such a relief to me -- I finally felt some release from that frantic, desperate compulsion to be half of a couple. I'm in my 60s now, and being on my own keeps getting better and better.

If you want specific assignments, these are some things that seemed to help me get through the transition from obsessive couple-seeking to peaceful singleness:

Go to movies, or other events that interest you, alone. Dress up, stand tall. Play the role of the confident person you want to be. Imagine everyone else admiring the intriguing woman who is so awesome all by herself that she doesn't need anyone else to give her permission to exist. But when you do this, don't judge your success by whether some guy notices you and you have a conversation. If you go and don't even say Peep to a single other person, that's also success. The goal is not to be so wonderful that people are drawn to you -- the goal is just to be wonderful for the sake of being your own wonderful self.

Variation: go to the movie, but DON'T dress up. Go as you are, in your sweats or whatever. Appreciate the freedom of knowing that you can look however you want or happen to look, because your looks don't need to be a reflection of anyone else's status or worth.

Take yourself out for dinner at a nice restaurant.

Go to a beautiful scenic place and enjoy it by yourself. This takes practice. At first, you may be thinking about how nice it would be to share the experience with someone special. Gradually, you realize that the place is every bit as beautiful if one person is looking at it instead of two. Then you realize that maybe it can be even more beautiful without the distraction of all that relationship baggage getting in the way.

Mindfulness meditation can make all of this easier, so this might be a good time for a course or formal practice of some sort.
posted by Corvid at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh man, it's a fool's game to try to become someone that people "admire." What good things do you think you'll accrue when you accomplish that goal? How would it feel? What would it mean? I suggest you look at that deeply, and see if you can accomplish what you are looking for -- which I'm guessing is a feeling of self-worth -- another way. There are people I admire, but I think it's unlikely that any of them have been cultivating themselves for that purpose, or that they're overly concerned with how others see them. Don't look to other people to prove to you that you're okay. You're okay by default. Focus on doing things you enjoy, and look for opportunities to be with others -- volunteer projects, church/temple/mosque membership if you roll that way, committee work, book clubs, crafting circles... if you live in a reasonably populated place these opportunities for company are surely available. Whether people admire you or not is none of your business!
posted by Wordwoman at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Identify the things that you do that you feel really good about doing - the things that give you a little ego boost, a smug sense of I-really-good-at-that, a sense of satisfaction, and do more of those things. Don't worry about what other people think, just do what makes you feel good. Don't share these things with others, at least not at first or on Facebook, it's too easy to share What I'm Doing for approval, and the whole point here is to learn to give yourself that approval.

Develop a relationship with yourself. I can't repeat this enough - you can give yourself most of what you need... ! Be your own best friend. Talk to yourself, write to yourself, be supportive and accepting and encouraging of yourself, in a conscious purposful way. Keep a diary, or write notes on your cell phone, but start a dialogue with yourself and keep it going.

Time will heal a lot of the insecurities and doubts, but for the bigger stuff like anxious attachment, you will need to confront that and figure it out a bit in order to get past it. It may be still be there, but it'll control your feelings and actions less if you figure it out.

All of these go together. Focusing on activities and endeavours that are really self-affirming, and giving yourself recognition and approval for doing those things ("wow, today you totally rocked while doing this, you're really really good at this and i'm so glad this is something we can do, because it feels great!") will inevitably lead you away from being so anxious about relationships, cause you will feel good you, and being with you.

You won't depend on the affirmation of others, or a relationship that gives you a sense of worth, which you will find will attract men who feel the same way about themselves, and in the long run will make you and even better (than ever) catch.
posted by Locochona at 5:34 PM on August 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just came in to add that there are also elderly people in nursing homes who have no one. If you really think about it, the loneliness of these groups (elderly, kids, animals) extends beyond the loneliness of not having a great relationship, and it permeates every aspect of their life like nothing else. Even if you have a great relationship, you could lose it all in a minute. Then what's the point of living if that happens? Its a shame to place so much importance on having a romantic relationship without taking the time to cultivate a relationship with yourself first.

None of us are promised anything, and all we have really is just a gift of some days on loan- days that you can use however you like. The more you give, the more you get. And this is from someone who has experienced lows where I don't see a point in being alive, and everything looks bleak. And that is when I know I seriously need some perspective! And I go watch this over and over again-

Don't volunteer because a bunch of people on the net suggested that, or because its the standard answer when one is single. Try it and actually help someone in however trivial way and do that regularly, and then see in a month whether not having a great relationship still feels like the end of the world.

If you haven't still figured out what you truly need, trying a bunch of things is a good way to find out.

Also, and this may sound harsh but I promise I mean in a matter of fact way: you are living with your father. You get to spend time with him. That time is precious. You know what else some of us don't get? Time. Time to spend with our parents before they leave us for good. Its all a matter of how you look at things, and there are at least two ways to look at anything.
posted by xm at 5:58 PM on August 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Scody nailed it. A lot of you gave great advice, but scody's answer grabbed me and shook me and made me come back to read it over and over.

It clicked when I was on OKCupid answering more of their questions they use to make matches. There were a couple of profiles I liked, and while I was answering questions I was wondering "What did they answer? What answer should I chose so that it increases our "match" score and not our "enemy" score? If I answer this tough question with my true belief will it be a turn off....oh wait. Shit."

I'm doing it wrong.

I am still trying to bend myself into what I think others want me to be while burying who I really am...exactly the habit I got into with my marriage. Which is not how to be a Strong Single Woman. At all. Time to do some refocusing on myself, my values, and my decisions so I can make better ones.

Thank you to all of you who memailed me. I plan on keeping in touch, as this is an ongoing process.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:06 PM on August 20, 2013

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