You’re single. Welcome. I’m going to avoid the “you must love yourself before anyone else can” cliché. I have been dumped enough times to know that doesn’t help, but this still won’t be an easy pill to swallow. I used to pride myself in my uncanny ability to forget about a breakup and move on immediately. I had a five-step plan that worked seamlessly every time. Disclaimer: this plan kind of sucks. Here’s a rough outline of my initial strategy:
- Delete their number. This simplified my inevitable urges to reach out to them.
- Destroy the evidence. Ridding myself of everything that reminded me of them helped compartmentalize my feelings and forget I had them altogether.
- Mute their social media profiles. This allowed me to avoid that sunken-gut feeling when you come across a picture of them looking happy without you.
- Look happy without them. I would post a lot of content where I appeared to be living my best life just in case they checked in on me.
- Find somebody new. Bumble? Yup. Instagram direct messages? Even better. Go out every weekend ready to flirt with the first guy I see with a nice beard? You bet.
Honestly, a few pieces of my plan weren’t that bad. There are definitely situations where completely purging someone from your life is the best move. I had a relationship whose ending was so ugly that I had to block him on everything in order to go about my day, and that was fine. If it hurts to look at pictures or gifts but you’re not ready to let go, make a cute, little breakup box. I used to have one and I went two years without ever opening it again before I was finally okay to toss it. As far as faking it on Instagram goes, I’ll make this brief: everyone is faking it. I am guilty of incessantly scrolling through the Explore feed, looking for reasons to feel inadequate, making mental notes of better ways to market myself. By no means am I an “influencer,” but I’ve gotten messages from people that confirm they think my life is much more interesting than it actually is. I’ve deleted photos because I stared at them for so long that I convinced myself I looked ugly in them. I’ve spent an absurd amount of time editing and filtering a photo until I finally decide not to post it at all. I have posted things for the purpose of getting attention. How embarrassing is that? That leads me to my next point: moving on is not about them, it’s about you.
After hundreds of left swipes on Bumble and meaningless interactions at bars, I realized that if I wasn’t looking for a hook up, nobody was going to benefit from step #5 on my “seamless plan.” It took a lot of heartbreak for me to finally understand that getting over someone was only easy if I was actually okay with the person I am when I’m alone. I allowed my relationships to consume me. My personal brand was “girlfriend,” making it so that without another person, my identity ceased to exist. When my capacity for jumping into another relationship burned out, I revised my plan into one simple step: Get a life.
I’m serious. This step has not only aided the process of moving on, but changed the way I function on my own. Getting a life is vague and completely dependent on your personal interests, but I’ll expand and explain how you, too, could try and get a life.
- Go to the gym more often. Duh. Yes, that revenge bod is an added bonus, but the health benefits beyond the way you look are insane. It’s pretty well known that exercise reduces anxiety and stress, subsequently helping you sleep when you need to sleep and focus when you need to focus. It also improves your memory and critical thinking skills. These are all great things now that you’re all alone and becoming a better version of you.
- Read a book, any book. Self help books are always good for re-establishing your mindset. I recently read Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and it lived all the way up to the hype. Psychological thrillers are my go-to books for keeping my mind busy. They serve as an exciting escape from everything going on in the real world and besides, the more time you spent buried in a good book, the less time you spend comparing yourself to complete strangers on the internet. My first recommendation for a psychological thriller is always I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. I’ve read it six times and it still knocks me out.
- Learn a new skill. After my first breakup, I decided to learn a new language to stay busy with my newfound loneliness. I am now an American Sign Language interpreter. Thank you, Boy Who Broke My Heart When I Was Eighteen. Some hobbies that I’ve found therapeutic: yoga (duh), volunteering (I work with the Special Olympics and that has introduced me to some of my favorite people on the planet), archery (I don’t know why, it just is), and doing makeup (it’s sort of like art, but the result is me looking prettier).
- Write down your feelings. Obviously this comes naturally to some people and for others it is a challenge. Start with buying a journal and make a point of jotting down one thing about your day before you go to bed. I make an experience out of it. I light a candle, put my favorite band on the speaker, and sit in front of my Happy Light. While I’m on the subject, buy a Happy Light. They emulate natural light and actually improve concentration and energy. Mine is my savior every winter when the sun goes into hibernation for months on end.
- Validate yourself. This is the most difficult but most vital step to moving on healthily. The hard-to-swallow-pill that I still struggle to choke down is that nobody owes you validation. Nobody is emotionally available enough to make sure your self worth is fulfilled. The only person who can decide you’re worthy of being loved is you.
There’s that cliché I said I’d avoid. It’s true, though. Fall in love with yourself piece by piece, the way that anyone else would. Keep finding things about yourself that surprise you. Try new things and find new highs until you’re not the exact same version of yourself as the person who got left behind. Become so secure, that a relationship is more than a means of affirmation, but an enhancement of the life you’ve built for yourself. My five-step plan has evolved because I have evolved. That’s the whole point; go evolve.