Chidera Eggerue is more than comfortable with being alone. One could say she’s mastered solitude as a superpower.
“If I’m gonna be alone for two years of my life, then I would embrace those two years as a period that has been intentionally set aside for me to learn about myself,” she shares with R29Unbothered. “It would be a shame to be 80 years old and look back on this time where I was just upset about being single and not making the most of the life I have now.”
The key, Eggerue says, is understanding how being single is just as fulfilling as being in a relationship. After all, “you’re still yourself in both instances.” And if you’re not spending time figuring out who you are sans partnership, how can you know yourself within one?
The author and activist is continuing her mission of helping women reclaim their power by nurturing their relationship with themselves with the “older sister” to her first book What A Time To Be Alone, entitled How To Get Over A Boy. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we couldn’t think of a more timely conversation to have — because it’s not always about chocolate truffles and teddy bears from your lover.
“I want people to understand that How To Get Over A Boy is not your typical dating book which is all about posturing yourself for men,” Eggerue says. “Try and put your happiness first as many times as possible. Try to make yourself as close to the center of your world as possible, because it’s what you deserve and no man should be able to come before your happiness.”
Read on as Eggerue highlights key takeaways from her latest book and shares a few tips to loving yourself for the holiday.
Congratulations on How To Get Over A Boy! How are you feeling now that it’s out?
I’m feeling so good. The responses are already coming in from people who have bought the book and read it in one day because they were that excited to get it. I just feel so warm! I’m glad that this message is finally out in the world.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you wanted to use What A Time To Be Alone to “make solitude great again.” How To Get Over A Boy feels like a continuation of that. Was that intentional?
Yes. I wanted How To Get Over A Boy to be like the older sister of What A Time To Be Alone. What A Time To Be Alone is more of an introduction to solitude in a way, whereas How To Get Over A Boy is more of a in-depth discussion about why your solitude matters in the context of being a woman who dates men.
Something I’ve been thinking about on my own journey after a recent split is how much power we give to the people we date. Why do you think we do that, particularly women who date men?
I think it comes from the way that we are raised and socialized as women. We’re always taught to defer to men, or defer to anybody who is in a position of authority. So it means that we aren’t really taught as women that we, too, have a voice. We’re allowed to boldly say no, and we are allowed to assert our boundaries, and we are allowed to decide exactly who is allowed to be in our lives. We’re not really taught that. So it means we tend to have this fear of looking like a bad person for saying what would work for us or we have this inclination to want to be this “good woman.” Society largely upholds women who conform to what it means to be good, and nobody wants to be called bad. Nobody wants to face the repercussions of society deciding that you are bad. So you internalize all that guilt and you under protect yourself.
This makes me think of a quote that I wrote down from your book: “A relationship that only exists when you don’t speak up is a comfortable prison.” I feel like a lot of us struggle with setting boundaries, honoring our values, and — as you were just touching upon — speaking up when our relationships begin to feel out of alignment with them.
Yeah! I feel like we fear speaking up because we’re rocking the boat. But the boat has already been rocked so it’s okay to say, “The boat has been rocked and I feel uncomfortable.” We let other people feel comfortable enough to make us feel uncomfortable, but we feel scared about making them feel uncomfortable back, and that’s definitely been holding us back. Clearly it hasn’t worked for us, but we still continue to repeat those behaviors.
For me, I feel like it’s important for this book to exist now more than ever because we are in an age where we’re questioning everything and we are defining our own ideas for ourselves. But what I still think is part of what’s holding us back is where modern feminism is at the moment. It still is, to an extent, rooted in safeguarding men and making sure we don’t offend men too much, making sure we always have to consider that men have a hard time, too. Men rarely ever consider what the world looks like for us when they still assert their power over us, and they do that without any kind of remorse or empathy because they’re not socialized to consider us like we’re socialized to consider them.
Ultimately it comes down to us shutting down that fear of disappointing people, and realizing that if you really do want to be happy or successful — or to accomplish anything that you want to accomplish in this life — you are gonna have to disappoint people anyway.
At Refinery29 Unbothered, we’re really big on sisterhood and nurturing friendships, so I wanted to talk a bit about that. You also mention in How To Get Over A Boy that our “friendships are like entry-level relationships.” It seems we pour so much energy into trying to have perfect romantic relationships but often times don’t bring that same energy to our platonic relationships. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s true! Because a lot of the things that we tolerate in friendships, that actually creates a capacity for you to tolerate even worse in relationships. It kind of goes vice versa. If you wouldn’t tolerate it in a relationship, don’t tolerate it in a friendship. Or if you wouldn’t tolerate it in a friendship, then don’t tolerate it in a relationship. Friendships are relationships. The only difference is that it doesn’t have the intimacy and intensity that a relationship might have, so it still comes down to, in every area of your life, you should find a way to assert yourself and make that consistent.
It’s one thing having boundaries, it's another thing being consistent with those boundaries. And when people notice that your boundaries are inconsistent or a bit flimsy, they will pick up on it and they will take advantage of that. You don’t even have to be in a relationship with someone for them to still take advantage of you, or for them to mistreat your kindness. If you learn how to carry yourself in friendships, that can actually have a massive positive impact on how you carry yourself in relationships.
I absolutely loved the proverbs that you shared in What A Time To Be Alone. Do you have any favorites that pertain to dating, or anything you can share about what you were taught about men and dating growing up?
For me, the one thing that I was taught by my mother is just make sure that if you are going to marry a man or share your future with a man, just make sure you pick one that can actually bring tangible value to your life. Don’t just pick the first guy who gives you attention. I’m so glad my mom taught me that. I’m so glad I’ve seen the result of what she’s saying, because when you do go for the first person who gives you attention or the first person that makes you feel seen or validated that person knows that they only need to do the bare minimum to have you attached. I think it’s better for you to give more space between when you meet someone and the decision to be with them on a serious level. That person needs to know that you already think highly of yourself, so it’s gonna take a lot more than just the basic compliment or the basic recognition of your existence for you to fall head over heels. Allowing people to show you how much they want to be in your life and giving them that room is so important.
When did you first realize that solitude can be a superpower?
I realized it when my life wasn’t that different from my friends who were in relationships. It was like I’d realized I wasn’t missing anything. Often, solitude is painted as you missing out on the party and “Oh my gosh, unlucky you, poor you for being single.” Everyone around you is in love, and the whole concept of the “third wheel.” But sometimes I don’t even mind being the third wheel. Whatever position you’re in in life, just be present and really experience being there. One day you’re not gonna be there anymore and one day you’re gonna look back on that random time in your life where you were in a particular position and it brought you thoughts and ideas that took you closer to the person you are now. Being single is just as fulfilling as being in a relationship.
Ultimately, that solitude is necessary. I think it’s something people fear without considering how beneficial it is to us in the way that you just described.
Yeah because, and I said this in What A Time To Be Alone, we often use other people as a way to distract us from the responsibility of looking at ourselves. I’m currently single. It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity to date, but I’m just in a position in my life and a time in my life when I genuinely love to just focus on the person that I am. Because even if I were in a relationship, I still have to be focusing on who I am in relation to this person. Who am I when I’m around this person? How do I view myself in the context of how this person views me? It becomes about you and the other and sometimes it’s better to at least refine yourself a bit before you start to include the other.
What are your top three tips for women who are going to be single this Valentine’s Day?
My first tip would be to definitely do something for yourself that you wouldn’t normally or often do, whether that’s going to a mall and buying yourself a really cute lingerie set, or it could be using that time to binge watch something you’ve really wanted to watch for ages. Make that day all about you as much as you can.
If anything, treat it like your birthday, as in treat it like a day where you just get to appreciate yourself. Treat yourself like your lover! Do the things you would wanna do with them or for them but with yourself. You can do everything with yourself, which leads to my next point.
Literally have sex with yourself. There’s this whole thing about “Oh, it’s Valentine’s Day, everyone’s out having sex, and I’m just gonna be at home eating bread, poor me.” But you can still have sex with yourself and that absolutely counts as sex. A lot of people aren’t as open to that particular conversaiton about sex with yourself being just as valid as having sex with someone else because a lot of people still don’t know their bodies unless someone else is touching them, and that’s a whole different conversation. You can still enjoy Valentine’s Day with and by yourself.
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