I tend to be really bad about trying to make a point.
In middle school, “my point” was that I wasn’t gay.
In high school, “my point” was that I didn’t need anyone else in my life.
In college, “my point” was that I didn’t have to show up to class to succeed.
In all three cases, I was wrong. Usually, when someone is trying desperately to prove something, they’re wrong. If something’s true deep within you, you don’t need to prove it to anyone – you already know, and that’s all that matters.
But still, every time I go through a break-up (which, admittedly, hasn’t been for quite some time), I find myself falling back into old habits. I have to prove things to myself. I have to prove that I’m desirable, that I don’t mind sleeping alone, and that I can sleep with whomever I choose, no feelings whatsoever.
And you know what? I’m still wrong, every time.
Now, before I get any backlash for that “desirable” comment, let me explain: I think I’m reasonably attractive, reasonably successful, and reasonably intelligent. I’m pretty ambitious, and I’m usually pretty tidy. But in that short period of time when I’m fresh out of a break-up – that all-so-important time that I should be working on myself – I’m not desirable, because I’m desperate, and no one wants someone who needs someone.
Thankfully, these last few times I’ve been able to pull myself out of it a little quicker, and I’m here to share my tips. What should you do instead of trying to look for a rebound fling?
1. Buy yourself some new clothes.
Chances are, you probably went on a date with your ex in most of the clothes you own now. It’s 100% okay to get rid of those clothes and start over. I’m sure there are some people who have sentimental attachments to their clothing (for example, most of the women I’ve ever dated), but trust me on this one: If a particular item of clothing brings you more sadness and pain than it brings you joy… Just throw it out. It’s not worth it. Then, head on over to your favorite queer-owned shop (or really any shop that sells clothes you like) and go to town.
Now, I personally hate clothes shopping, and if you do, too, hear me out. Those of us who put off buying clothes all the time are really short-changing ourselves. Clothes are an actual need (at least if you don’t want a fine). If money is the problem, arrange a clothing swap with some friends of similar sizes – or strangers, if it’d be too painful for you to see them in the clothes, either. You can also hit thrift shops and online classified boards to see if there’s anything good up for grabs. You never know – you could find your next favorite tee!
2. Take yourself on a date.
Listen – I know what you’re probably thinking: You can’t possibly replace your ex with yourself, right? But, in many ways, you can, actually. Take yourself out to dinner and a movie, and maybe even treat yourself with an orgasm at the end of the night. Not only will it help encourage the idea that you deserve to enjoy your own company, but it’ll also help get you out of that head-funk that so many of us are prone to after a rough break-up.
If you’re not a movie fan, or you don’t have money to go out to a fancy dinner, don’t worry. You can get the same awesome mood-boosting benefits from free activities, like taking a hot bath, a picnic in the park, or even stargazing late at night. The difference between “alone” and “lonely” is purely a frame of mind – so make the best out of your alone time!
3. Re-evaluate your life goals.
Truth be told, you shouldn’t wait to set life goals until you’re depressed. Your plans will be much more effective if you’re in the right frame of mind to work on them. However, once the metaphorical dust has settled, explore the many areas of your life and come up with a plan for what to improve. Chances are, your love life probably isn’t the only area you need some help, so don’t neglect your self-care and career goals, either. It might seem like you’re doomed to fail if you try tackling everything at once – and, in some ways, you are.
Instead, take a look back and evaluate your entire life. See how the different pieces are connected to one another, and try to find things you can do that will help in more than one area. For example, you might want to go on a road trip for fun, and visit the museum a few towns over for self-development. Combining the two into one activity – a drive to explore the local culture – is a great way to catch up on your happiness without missing out on any sleep.
4. Start a journal.
Those of you who regularly read my posts are probably getting sick of me saying it by now, but seriously, start a journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – even a few scraps of paper, or the other side of your computer’s keyboard is fine. I’m pretty sure there are also some decent journal apps for Android, iPhone, and even Windows phone (even though I feel like I’m the only person who likes Windows phones). Your entries don’t need to be ten pages long, or grammatically correct, or done up with fancy flourishes and frame-worthy handwriting. Just get your thoughts out of your mind and through your fingertips.
One method I use in my own life is the bullet journal method. While I’ve made a number of changes to the system to make it work for me (as you should with any self-improvement methods), the entire process has been a lifesaver. I still have a number of kinks to work out in my own life – and don’t trick yourself into thinking this will solve all your problems overnight – but learning to be mindful of my day-to-day activities has caused a dramatic improvement in many separate areas of my life, and it can do the same for you.
5. Help someone less fortunate.
It seems like the lower we’re feeling, the less likely we are to want to help someone else. Truthfully, though, doing kind things for others does a world of good for our self-esteem and our overall mood, and it’s been proven time and time again. When you help others, you’re more likely to be grateful for the things you have, because someone else may be struggling to find those things.
If you’re looking for volunteering opportunities in your area, check your local newspaper (or their online counterpart). You can also search Facebook for volunteering groups, or ask at your local religious centers. Churches and temples often hold food drives for the homeless, although these are privately run by each separate entity – be sure to ask around.
6. Read a good fiction novel.
Sometimes, all it takes to get out of your head is to get completely lost in a made-up world. While that could be as simple as a movie with a happy ending, let’s face it – no one’s going to keep watching the same movie over and over until they’re done with their heartbreak and ready to move on. Books, on the other hand, generally take much longer to get through than a movie, and it allows your mind to think up the scenery.
I know not everyone is into reading, and I can understand that – we all have different hobbies. But, let me try to appeal to you for a minute: Reading fiction actually has a positive effect on your mental health. At least 9 different positive effects, actually – including eliminating as much stress as drinking a cup of hot tea… In as little as six minutes. In the time it takes you to get into your jogging suit and sneakers, you can reduce as much stress by reading as you could by actually going for that walk… And then two more walks after that. Reading actually may even help you with your future romantic relationships, too, as it gives you insight into other people’s communications in a simulated environment. Score!
7. Read a good self-help book.
Up until a few months ago, I was totally against self-help books. They’re hokey, and they just hold a bunch of information you already know. Right? Well, the one thing I didn’t know is that the brain requires confirmation of the things we know, in order to improve ourselves. Reading and learning from someone who’s been in our position before, or one like it, is helpful because their information is completely invaluable.
One of my personal favorites is The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM), by Hal Elrod. It’s a bit slow through the first few chapters, but once he delves into his “secrets”, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think to do these things before some crazy random stranger told you to. Trust me – this book instantly turned me into a morning person. It has magical powers (if you can make it through the not-so-magic parts). All said, I think I’ve read it three or four times now, since April.
8. Give yourself a progress report.
I recommend doing this periodically anyway, whether anything major has gone wrong in your life or not – but especially after a break-up, you should take some time to sit down and think about everything you’ve done over the course of the relationship. Were you being a team player, or a pushover? Were you being a leader, or a boss? Were you being a partner, or a parent? These are all important questions to evaluate, and you’ll need to understand the answer before you can fix any problems that may exist.
Once you’ve evaluated the things you’ve done, right and wrong, you can make a solid action plan for what you’d like to do moving forward in your future relationships. Not all of these choices are going to be easy, but they’re all going to get you where you need to be: Calm, confident, and ready for a new start.