I have several clients who seek therapy due to relationship struggles, despite not currently being involved in an actual relationship. Many of these clients have been in and out of unhealthy or unsatisfying relationships and struggle to understand why they are “unable to find someone decent.” I often talk a lot about learning how to spend time with oneself that is satisfying and fulfilling. Although cliché, I stand firm in stating “you have to love yourself first before anyone else can truly love you.” I know, it sounds awful, and quite frankly I used to be extremely annoyed and frustrated being told this by my happily married friends, when making complaints about my inability to find someone who loved me for me, unconditionally and without reservation. I’d roll my eyes in disapproval when it was suggested that I “stop looking for love” and told “it will happen when least expected.” Gag – insert eyeroll. Personally, it took an unhealthy relationship to learn this lesson the hard way. The importance of focusing on myself and learning to feel secure while being alone was a difficult but deeply satisfying journey.
Among many of my clients, the question remains, “how do I focus on myself, aside from reading self help books?” Personal growth is something to be sought out. Although I do typically suggest books that can be of help, aside from this, there are many things to engage in that will help you to obtain autonomy and strength within yourself and by yourself. Make a grateful list and focus on what it is you have in this world that you are sincerely appreciative of. Don’t just focus on “stuff” but rather turn your attention to the unique positive qualities you hold as a human being. An optimistic and positive person is someone others want to be around and the type of person who attracts others easily. Learn new things. Take a class you have been interested in – exercise class, art class, knitting class, sign language class, etcetera. Get yourself out there and do the things you have feared to do by yourself! It takes great confidence to go through something on your own and face your fears. This is considered a particularly attractive quality to most. Set goals for yourself. Instead of having the goal of meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right and having 2.5 children by the age of 30, set your standards on things you can accomplish on your own. Engage in groups and activities that you have interest in. Help yourself to become a more well rounded and educated individual. Perhaps it is seeking out information and involvement in a political group or seeking out faith through religion.
Sitting at home, unhappy, irritated, and feeling sorry for yourself that you have not found the person to spend your life with will not help you to meet a healthy individual. Trust me, I know. The cliché comments from others I once despised, became my reality. Our attitude is everything. How we handle our misfortunes as well as how we perceive stress is indicative to our body’s response to it. Studies of individuals over an 8-year span found that those who identified stress or difficulties in life as a challenge, motivator, an opportunity, manageable, and energizing were able to embrace and utilize such challenges in a positive way. Those who thought of such difficulties or stressors as a threat, pressure, debilitating, or overwhelming were much more problem focused and lacked action-oriented behaviors. This group also displayed decreased immune functioning and greater health risks.
Get out there and go. Experience new things and find what fills your cup. Who knows, what fills your cup may fill someone else’s as well.