I dusted off one of my old journals the other day. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t such a good idea.
I half-laughed/half-cringed while reading through the pages, listening to my 20-year-old self talk about life and dream about the future. I had a pretty good head on my shoulders (or at least I thought so), but even so, looking back I realize I had so many things wrong in my mentality as a single person.
There are so many things I know now that I wish I knew then—so many things that would have spared me heartache, grief and straight-up saved me time! I spent so much time dreaming, worrying and thinking about things that would never actually happen. I invested my energy in the wrong places and my emotions in the wrong people.
I get that some life-lessons have to be experienced in order to be learned, but I don’t always think that’s the case. Sometimes, I think someone who’s “been there, done that and learned from it” can give us some perspective and steer us in the right direction. As I reflect on my time as a single, here are some things I wish someone would have told me:
The most important person you could ever get to know is yourself
Sound obvious to you? Than you’re better off than I was. Back then, I probably would have told you that I “knew who I was,” but I really didn’t. The truth is, I didn’t take the time to get to know myself until far too late in my life as a single. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
So many times, our years of singleness are spent focusing on who we’re going to be with, rather than who we are. Countless hours and limitless energy are poured into getting to know the person standing before us, many times, at the neglect of ourselves. We can spend so much time trying to find the right person, that we actually lose ourselves in the process.
I wish someone would have clued me in on the fact that getting my stuff together was a huge piece to the puzzle of a nourished relationship. Instead of fixating on relationships, I wish I would have invested more time in developing interests, understanding my personality, working through my past and wrapping my brain around my identity in Christ. Because at the end of the day, you can’t really know what you want in a relationship until you know who you are.
You will always attract the kind of person you believe you deserve
The truth is that we all come with some sort of a price tag. We rely on so many superficial things to measure our value and our worth by: appearance, intelligence, success. But no matter how you choose to calculate it, your price tag is determined by one thing and one thing alone: Yourself.
I wish someone could have told me that you get to determine the price that you will place upon yourself. But more so, I wish I would have known the reality that the price I choose is also the price at which I’ll be purchased. I spent so much of my life undervaluing my worth, thinking I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or cute enough. I made decisions based on what I believed I deserved, and my inability to see my true worth took me down some roads I wish I never would have traveled.
It’s important to get real with the price we place on ourselves and realize how valuable we are, because we have been made by a God who said so. A God who saw we were worth so much and paid a high cost just to prove it. One thing I wish someone would have told me is that if you want to attract someone who values you, you’ve first got to value yourself.
Your story has far more to do with who you are, than who you’re with
It’s hard not to be single-minded when you’re on the search for love (no pun intended). It’s easy to focus in on your desires in the here and now. But the truth is, finding a relationship is just part of God’s bigger story for your life. I think the most foundational truth that I’ve learned now that I’m a married woman is that my life has far more to do with finding my purpose than it ever did with finding someone to marry.
I love my husband, and I’m blessed by the marriage we have, but I realize that this relationship is just part of the bigger picture God has for my life. My purpose, my security, and my value weren’t resolved in the arms of my spouse. There is so much more that God has made me to do and to be, and so much more that I want to become.
Finding love is just part of the equation of my story, and it’s only part of yours, as well. Seek to find your purpose and pursue your God-given passions while standing alone. Because one thing I wish I would have known is that you’ll never regret investing in God’s bigger picture.
No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, my prayer is that you learn from my mistakes, because sometimes a simple perspective change can make all the difference in your life—and in your relationships.
An earlier version of this article appeared at truelovedates.com
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.