Are you single and feeling stuck? If you are, it's a feeling I know well.
My solo life is excellent now, but it hasn't always been.
Every woman has a back story, how they got to where they are now, from where they used to be. I'm no different. But as the years add up, the story of who I used to be, the old Hannah, gets further from my mind.
Sometimes I think: Was it even me?
But yes, it was me.
Personal stories are complicated and messy and don't always have a set beginning or end, so it can be hard to remember just exactly what happened when.
What I do know is that I did not start looking at my life through an honest lens, or asking the harder questions about the choices I'd made, until I was single.
In my post: After A Decade Of Living As A Single Woman This Is What I've Learned, I say that I enjoy being single. Additionally: I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't been single for a significant amount of time.
It's *because* I'm single that my life is so great now.
Having time and resources to invest purely in me, was something never available to me before. I'd always been in relationships, from the age of fifteen until my early thirties.
The newly single me was glad to be out of my marriage
But I found out I didn't know who I was, I didn't have any solo living skills, and I had no idea about how to go about solving either of these problems.
I spent a lot of time on the sofa binge-watching Netflix, mindlessly scrolling Facebook, and feeling sorry for myself. Why is everyone else out there having a great time but not me?
I spent a lot of time dating emotionally juvenile, narcissistic men from POF, Tinder and Guardian Soulmates. I *knew* I needed a partner in the future to be happy.
I was obsessed with my appearance because I also knew that I needed to look 'desirable' at all times, so I could bag a future beau. By proxy, I was addicted to fashion and online shopping - I had a VIP ASOS account.
Dry white wine was my best friend, specifically whichever Sauvignon Blanc was on offer. I ate peanut butter on toast for dinner regularly, and I spent a lot of time wondering why my life was so unsatisfying.
Anxiety and depression were my constant companion.
I'd have odd moments of sanity and go on nature walks with whoever was available. Sometimes I'd attempt yoga on the wooden floor of my apartment, or occasionally have a day out in Manchester at the galleries. But I'd always revert back to the above.
It was more comfortable, it was safer, and it was all I knew.
I was stuck, AF
I had no idea how to start changing my life. I saw other single women living incredible lives and following their dreams, but what they were doing seemed unreachable for me.
My anxiety and depression kept me small. I'd tell myself: I'll never be able to do that, I'll get anxious.
I was scared to put myself out there. My confidence was at an all-time low, and I had no self-care practices or hobbies. I didn't even know what I liked doing anymore.
So I was very stuck, and I had no idea how to turn my life around.
We can only spend so much time doing the same mindless things, and regurgitating the same tedious questions over in our mind before we get sick of ourselves.
And when we do have a proper look around with eyes wide open, it can be extremely revealing. We realise that whatever situation we're living in is one *we* have created. It's a direct product of *our* decisions, both good and bad.
We're not encouraged to take responsibility, we're told from the word go, that a handsome prince will come and save us; we're not given a chance to realise that we don't need saving.
As I said, I had no idea what to do to bring about change, so I just decided that I'd start doing something - anything? Even things I'd have said no to before, even things I thought I didn't like, even things I was petrified of.
Yes, it was hard at first. But we start small. Once we reap the rewards of these richer experiences and grow our confidence by doing so, it's like a springboard, the higher and higher we go, and it's more elating each time.
Once we no longer rely on someone or something else to make us happy, there is no longer any barrier to us being happy.
We can't wait forever for something/someone to arrive that we *think* might make us happy - what if it never happens? Do we really want to look back on our lives and think: Well, I never found happiness, what a shame.
Of course, we don't, and we don't have to. We have the power to create significant change in our lives, including improving our confidence and how we feel about ourselves.
We can create a life that is rich and meaningful, alone - I know, because I have.
Most romantic relationships do not breed happiness. I realised I was seeking something that did not have the power to make me happy.
Not every newly single woman will be as lost as I was.
Still, I have met many women over the years, who do want more from their lives but don't know where to start, or, lack the confidence to go about taking the first steps, just as I did.
My back story is one of deep emotional trauma, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and addiction. My life used to be a train wreck.
I could entertain you with countless stories about the woman I used to be:
- how many men I've slept with in my search for love and acceptance
- how badly I've allowed myself to be treated
- the white wine addiction that held me back for years
Still, I choose not to spend time looking back anymore. And I forgive that woman for the choices that she made - she didn't know any better.
Every single problem in my life, small or large, stemmed from a profound lack of self-esteem, of feeling not good enough. It took many years of self-inquiry and self-care practices to realise this powerful truth.
Most women have low self-esteem, at least in some areas of our life. The early societal conditioning about how we should look, behave and think are so deeply embedded, we don't even realise they're there. We can never hope to be able to live up to these unrealistic expectations (we might not also want to!), so we often feel like we're not enough.
What I now know is that we can increase our self-esteem and transform our lives in the process.
People say to me: "Hannah, why are you so happy, single? I wish I could get to where you are".
I say this: If I can do it, anyone can.
The life I've created is the kind I would've drooled over years ago.
But I'd have thought: Wow she's so lucky, I wish I could have that, as I opened another bottle of white and switched on Netflix.
Don't wait as long as I did to get started… you can have whatever you want. I am living proof of that.
If you'd like some help with the beautiful journey that you're already on, or about to embark on, I've created a free resource:
It's a way to get started making changes in your life if you're feeling stuck or unsure of where to go next.
P.S The photo I used for this article is of me in the Caribbean, on my own, working in my new job (back then) as a Travel Journalist for YOGA Magazine - something the 'old Hannah' would never have dared to dream was possible. But it was.
Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Midlife & Wellbeing Coach.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Hannah uses a kind and candid approach to help women rewrite their stories.