After a string of bad first dates and horrible luck with online dating, I decided to delete my OkCupid. I used the site on-and-off for two years, hoping to be able to find someone who would be compatible. I had my fair share of good dates with guys who were cute, charming, and hard working. However, things didn’t seem to work out. I may be giving up early, as many people who have tried online dating know that it takes plenty of dates to find the one suitable person for you. I noticed that dating was only bringing me down and making me question my self worth, rather than making me feel good about myself.
During my childhood, I grew up with the concept of ultimately finding a man who would be my other half and love me. It was a concept that was ingrained in popular culture, from teen magazines with articles on Nick Carter’s dream girl’s traits, or the male best friend in who falls in love with the pretty protagonist in tv shows. The message to my young self was clear: you need to be liked by someone to be someone. I took this idea to heart and was boy crazy. I always valued my friendships with boys when I was a kid, but the notion of the need for romantic interaction made me think I needed to have that. I was excessively affectionate towards my male friends (which is absolutely mortifying to think about nowadays) and desired their attention. My parents married at a young age, so I always thought that in order to be successful in life, I had to find my special someone in my early 20s.
As I grew up into my teenage years, I realized that finding someone who liked me was more difficult than what the media and society makes you believe. While most of my friends had found boyfriends whom they liked and seemed happy with, I had not experienced that. I felt like there was something wrong with me; I felt useless and unworthy of love. This lead me to have dysfunctional relationships with men, including two emotionally abusive relationships by the time I was 16. Although my relationships did not last very long, I stayed with my partners because I believed I was not going to find anyone who would actually care about me. At the time, nobody had told me that having my partner chastise me constantly and put me down was not part of a healthy relationship. I also often felt like I had to use my sexuality in order to gain attention from men, yet this only made me experience uncomfortable circumstances in which teenaged boys and older men took advantage of me. I hated how they treated me, but I foolishly believed that being treated that way was better than not being acknowledged at all.
Many of my female peers and friends shared that they had been through similar experiences. They also felt like male attention and a relationship was supposed to make them happy, yet realized that the relationships didn’t solve their issues or insecurities, but rather brought out new ones to light. While it seems silly to think that male attention is important, relationships are such a large aspect of our social culture that it’s easy to see why someone would not feel content with themselves if they haven’t experienced a healthy relationship.
Now that I am a woman in my 20s, I can say that I know what I’m worth. While I was growing up, nobody pointed out that it was okay to focus on myself and my own accomplishments rather than have my success be defined by my relationships. I noticed that I am fairly confident about myself when I’m not dating someone. I recognize that I am a strong, intelligent woman who has achieved a lot in her life, despite only being 21. I do not need to feel bad about myself because some guy didn’t text me back or doesn’t like me back. All of my accomplishments are things I have achieved on my own, rather than being defined by my relationships with a man. I don’t need to be in a relationship to be considered a successful woman, nor do I need anyone else to determine my worth.