You're Single? There's Nothing Wrong With You

 Loma Vista Garden, Big Sur

Loma Vista Garden, Big Sur

Why is it her? Why isn't it me? ... That woman in the grocery line with her little girl and her husband. It's not even envy, you're just wondering

Why has she been liberated from the purgatory of looking? Why is she allowed to remain blithely ignorant of the politics of the post-date text? Why does she never have to wonder who she'll spend New Year's Eve with? Why is she free of these concerns? And, more important, why aren't you? 

Single people often ask themselves the question, "What's wrong with me?" The corollary question is, "What's right with her?" 

Our culture encourages the idea that people searching for love have some fundamental deficiency that's preventing them from finding a partnership. People want answers - "How can I find someone?" "What am I doing wrong?" - so it's no surprise that there's a big business around selling books and seminars about how to upgrade yourself into a person who will "attract love." 

These relationship experts are offering you help in a particularly American way - by cultivating positivity, by rolling up your shirtsleeves and getting to work. They offer personal growth as the pathway to better luck, and there is something very encouraging and optimistic about that. 

Why not take yoga classes and develop your self-esteem? Why not make vision boards and volunteer with the homeless? Sounds great, but it doesn't necessarily lead to a relationship. There are plenty of people in happy relationships who have never once read a self-help book or stepped inside a yoga studio. Why do you have to work so hard when so many others don't?

Sure, you have a lot to show for your work, but often there only feels like one true measure of success: finding that relationship. This is the problem with the attitude that treats self-improvement as the means to finding love: it begins with the fundamental premise that there is some defect in you that must be corrected. 

So I ask you: Are your friends who are in relationships perfectly self-actualized human beings? Are they all their ideal body weight? Are they free of all their insecurities and neuroses? Then why do you think you should be? 

Instead of self-improvement, I'd suggest self-care. Exercise and eat healthier so that you'll feel better, rather than look hot for this or that guy. Develop your confidence so that you can be a better advocate for yourself rather than to convince some dude that you're not weak or needy. Get out in the world because it's fun to have new experiences and meet new people, even if none of those strangers end up being the love of your life. 

With self-improvement, you're always looking for a validator to prove that you've "achieved" something. With self-care, you can't lose. All you need to do is be good to yourself. 

- Sara Eckel, "It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single" 
More at her website 

- VIDEO: Bill Maher proposes a national day to recognize the contributions of single people