We all have those moments when we feel incredibly beautiful. For every woman, that feeling is different and can come from all sorts of reasons: Maybe it’s after you splurge on that expensive haircut or get a facial at that spa you’ve been eying. Perhaps it’s even a little more personal: the first time you mastered a yoga headstand, when you just had a great night’s sleep or that time you really killed it in your 1 p.m. meeting. Whatever the reason, when you feel your best and your most attractive, you send out this signal to all who are lucky enough to pass by you that you’ve not only got your priorities and responsibilities together, but you’re also lookin’ mighty fine while you do it.
I’ve definitely had those experiences. But what I love the most about those days when I feel at the top of my game is less about who I see when I look into the mirror and more about the confidence that I’ve learned to develop… all by myself. You see, for the past nearly five years, I’ve been single. Though I was lucky enough to be raised by a feminist mother who taught me to never define my own self-worth through the lens of the male gaze, it’s human nature to want to be wanted and valued, both for what makes your soul soar and what makes your beauty shine. In those darker days when I haven’t felt attractive (when I haven’t had a date in a month, for example), I’ve learned how to boost my own ego. More importantly—and powerfully—I’ve discovered how to feel beautiful, sexy and gorgeous without the approval (or reassurance) of anyone else in my life. How has being single for a long time made me feel more beautiful? Let me tell you:
1. I’ve stopped being mean to myself.
Being single has taught me how to be my best cheerleader and to treat myself as I would my closest friends. Because I don’t rely on a partner who will praise my sexy hair or my soft skin, I try my best to curve my language to be positive instead of negative. When I hear myself starting to think: “Wow, your thighs are getting big,’ I’ll quickly change it to ‘Wow, look how strong you are! You’re going to kill it in your next fitness class.”
2. I’ve removed the word ‘enough’ from my vocabulary.
Being single for many years—and not for lack of trying—has a way of making you question your worth. It also is easy to wonder if you’ve got ‘enough’ of everything: looks, brains, interests, muscles, boobs, passport stamps… you name it. But the thing about analyzing how little or how much you stack up against other people is that it’s always a lose-lose brain game. You can always think of someone who has more than you do. And if you try hard enough, you can always think of someone who has less, too. If you stop focusing on that dangerous E word, then you can start to see all of the things that make you unique. I might never be ‘skinny’ enough if I compare myself to the models I admire on Instagram, but that doesn’t mean I’m not attractive in my own way.
3. I take time for self-care.
Even though I balance quite a busy schedule and try to make time for my friends (and dating, of course), being sans-boyfriend for so long has given me ample opportunity to invest in self-care. It’s a quality that can be hard to master when you’re in a relationship where compromise and consideration are often the foundation of making love work. Because I don’t have to take into account anyone else, I can spend an evening at home, uninterrupted in my favorite face mask, tweezing my eyebrows and painting my toenails. Will I be able to do this when I do find the right guy for me? Sure—but likely, not as often.
4. I try not to take anything personally.
This one is definitely a toughie, and something that everyone—single or taken—deals with. Finding love (and your dream job and so many other things) is inherently personal and at times can feel very judgemental. That’s why we all have moments of self-doubt and sadness, because we wonder “why someone else” and “why not us?” I think those things and have those same questions, but when a date doesn’t work out, I try not to blame it on that blemish on my skin. Or that my teeth aren’t 100 percent straight. Or that I’m not a size zero. Instead, I remember that the path to finding someone to spend your life with isn’t always an easy one, and that matching with the right person isn’t as simple as matching your skin to a BB cream. When I’m rejected or disheartened, I remind myself that if not him, someone better—and someone who will love all the things that make me beautiful.
And best of all, when that does happen, I won’t need him to remind me that I’m pretty. I’ll already know it and those sweet words of kindness will just be an added bonus.