I am nearly 36 years old, and I’ve only been asked out twice. The first was a deaf, divorced man 22 years my senior. The second, though only 15 years older, was also divorced and wanted a mother for his children. He asked me out via email, which he obtained through a mutual friend; I’d never even spoken to him in person.

Apparently, I was only attractive to much older men, desperate for any type of female companionship. At least, that was how I felt. Demoralizing, to say the least.

What’s wrong with me?

I used to wonder which of my flaws made me so undesirable. At first, I thought it was my weight. So I went on a crazy diet and lost about 75 pounds. People noted the weight loss, but I still didn’t catch anyone’s attention in a romantic sort of way.

That meant the problem ran deeper. There had to be something wrong with me on an emotional level. My personality had to be lacking in some way. I was too loud, too pushy, too tough. But I couldn’t bring myself to be more girly or to wear clothes I didn’t like or flirt and flutter my eyelids. If I needed to be someone I wasn’t just so a guy would find me attractive, I didn’t want to do it.

So, I gave up.

I told myself it didn’t matter, that it didn’t hurt, that I didn’t feel left out or passed over or ignored. But realizing that you’re not wanted is a difficult and painful thing to grasp.

In this culture, we all expect to find a soulmate. Maybe in recent decades that expectation has changed shapes a bit, but somewhere in our minds, we still yearn for it. It’s one of the deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts — to be wanted, to be loved, to be seen. And it doesn’t matter how tough a princess you are. Part of you still wants a knight in shining armor to sweep you off your feet.

So where does that leave us?

If you’re single, you understand the paralyzing fear of being the only one in the room without a date. You feel other people judging you in every glance. It’s enough to lock yourself away and never show your face again. That leaves many of us desperate. The need to be in a relationship can drive us to do absurd things, just so that we can change our social media status.

But if your desire for a spouse is the result of peer pressure or a perceived lack of self-worth, you’re heading for frustration and failure.

Hey, if you’re looking for someone to tell you that Prince Charming will make everything better, you’re reading the wrong article. Single men and women today don’t need more fairytales. What we need is straight talk about where we get our identity.

The truth is you may never find that one special person the romance novels and Hallmark movies talk about. You may be single for the rest of your life. Are you OK with that? If you aren’t, it’s time to take a good, long look at where you find your personal value.

I’ve had too many friends who needed a boyfriend or girlfriend to complete their lives. I’ve watched these beloved friends throw themselves at every person (available or otherwise), just so that they could have the pleasure of saying they were in a relationship. No matter how much damage that relationship did to them, they needed it. Like a drug. Like they weren’t whole unless they had a significant other.

But a relationship where one person finds his or her value in another person is doomed to fail. This is the truth no one wants to talk about. A successful relationship isn’t a 50/50 effort. If you want success in your relationship, each partner must put in 100 percent. Then, and only then, will you even have a chance of succeeding.

Instead, a man looks to a woman to complete his picture of himself. A woman looks to a man to make her feel worthy and loved. Neither are whole on their own. And then, when one of them (inevitably) fails to fulfill expectations, the relationship falls apart.

Learn to be you, whole and complete and content, before you try to build a life with someone else. If you want a healthy relationship, know who you are and embrace it. Don’t change yourself to make someone else happy. Don’t live someone else’s story. Be YOU — the unique, special, marvelously created person you are — and don’t look to another person for your worth.

If having a relationship means being someone you’re not, it’s not time yet. Keep waiting. Ironically, that same truth will help you navigate your friendships too.

I love being single. I travel. I get to go places and do things for other people that I wouldn’t be free to do if I were married. And I’m not lonely. Not anymore, because I have friends — single and married — who invest in my life and who know the authentic me.

The real you is beautiful, so don’t be afraid to let that person show. Surround yourself with people who love you — not for what you can do for them, but because they know who you truly are. True, deep, authentic friendships supersede your marital status. Be friends with those people. Seek out mentors among friends like that.

One day, if it’s supposed to happen, you’ll meet the person you’ve been waiting for. He or she will be the piece of your life you didn’t know was missing. And by that time, you’ll know 100 percent who you are. You won’t have to try to impress anyone. You’ll just be yourself, and that’s all you’ll need.

Are you single too, but not loving it? Do you struggle with why Mr. Right hasn’t knocked on your door? One of our confidential mentors would love to connect with you and hear about what you’re going through. Just fill out the form below to get started.

This article was written by: AC WIlliams

Photo Credit: Rokas Niparavičius