You should be able to work on yourself, whether or not you’re with someone
I recently got out of a long-term relationship. After three years, things started to go downhill and it just wasn’t working out for us. He was my first love. Going through the breakup—the process of no longer speaking daily, of understanding he was no longer part of my life, of telling friends and family we are no longer together—was hard and is still hard at times.
When talking with friends and family about how I felt, I often got the same general advice: “It’s okay, now it’s time to work on yourself.” It’s a piece of advice I understand but have a hard time grasping.
As an only child, I learned to be independent at a young age. I’ve learned to rely on myself for everything. I’ve also learned that I can be alone, because I’ve always been alone. As a kid, I only had myself to occupy my time, aside from the time I spent with adults. And even that allowed me to become more independent and grow up quickly.
So the concept of “working on myself” after this breakup sort of baffles me. I’ve been working on myself for years, since I was in my early teens. And even when my boyfriend and I were together, we didn’t necessarily do everything together, so I was working on myself while I was with him. I had my life, he had his, and we grew individually throughout our relationship.
Despite the break up, I know I’m going to be okay. I know what I have to do: I’m going to do what I’ve always done, even when I was with him, just without him. I’m going to continue my education, continue my search for the career of my dreams, continue working at my part-time job, and continue spending time with friends and family. The only thing missing will be him.
There’s this misconception that circulates, which is that your relationship status is a way of defining who you are, whether you’re single, in a relationship or somewhere in the realm of “it’s complicated.” And I’ve always hated that concept. Why do I, an independent woman, have to be defined by who I’m seeing or not seeing? Why is my worth dependent on my relationship status as determined by Facebook? Why does working on yourself only happen once you are removed from your relationship? Why can’t you work on yourself while also being in a relationship?
I am an independent woman, no matter who I’m with or who I’m not with. If you can find someone who allows you to grow while also being in a relationship, then that’s even better. And that’s how I felt when I was with him. And that’s still how I’m going to feel now that I’m not. My relationship status does not define me as an independent woman. It does not define me as a woman who, more or less, has her life figured out. I am still me.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth