Q: I just turned 30 and I’m single, while all of my friends are married, engaged, or seriously dating someone. I’m confident, happy, and have a great social life, but I’m starting to worry there’s not anyone out there for me. How do I continue to date in hopes of finding a serious relationship—without seeming desperate?

A: Everywhere you look, from movies to magazines, we’re told that being in a relationship equals being happy. The good news? That’s 100 percent not true.

You’ve probably heard it before, but the only way to put your best self out there is to first get comfortable with yourself—and your alone time.

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Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, think about what is great about you and your life now. Being single has tons of perks—hello, taking spontaneous road trips and being the boss of your own life. Whenever you’re feeling sad or desperate, remember those good points. It will take some practice, but almost any negative thought about being single can be switched to a good one.

What’s more: Based on my research, I’ve discovered that finding love is not about wearing the right outfit, going to the right restaurant for a first date, or waiting three days after that date to text. It’s about looking inside you and asking yourself two important questions.

2 Questions to Ask Yourself

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1. What parts of life are most important to me?

Think about these six areas of your life: money, family, faith, work, health, and lifestyle. How do you view each core area? Where do your values, priorities, and goals lie? Are you happy with your priorities, or do you want any of them to change?

Then ask yourself which two areas stand out the most in terms of how you want to live your life in the future. Remember that there are no right or wrong answers or opinions.

Once you’ve thought about these six areas of life, you’ll have a better understanding of what you are all about, which will also help you to identify compatibilities in a potential partner. You might be physically attracted to someone who looks nothing like what you thought was your “type,” but studies show that partners who share beliefs about these values are more likely to stay together over the long haul.

A couple can share all-important life values even when they have different interests and hobbies, and even when they are of two different races, religions, or have very dissimilar social backgrounds.

2. What do I want and/or need in a partner?

Do you know what the “right person” would look like if you met that person today? Most people don’t take the time to think about what they want in a romantic relationship (or in a partner). But in order to open yourself up to a relationship and not feel desperate, you need to decide what exactly you need or want in a relationship.

Defining the type of person you want to be with is a little like making a shopping list before you head out to the grocery store. It streamlines the process, keeps you from making random or desperate choices, and prevents you from wasting time (the last thing you want at the store—or in dating).

Defining the type of person you want to be with is a little like making a shopping list before you head out to the grocery store.

Grab a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. In the left one, list five must-have qualities that you need in a partner. Think: Does the person’s age or physical appearance matter? What about personality traits—would you like someone who’s sensitive, inquisitive, easygoing, adventurous, or smart?

In the right column, list five deal breakers. Maybe it’s smoking cigarettes, being in financial debt, having terrible manners, or generally being closed-minded. These are the five things that, as hard as you try, you just can’t tolerate or allow in a partner.

When you meet new people, this list will become an invaluable tool. It will remind you to make sure that your needs and desires are being met. Instead of worrying about what your date thinks about you, as you might have done before, your list will help you to determine if that person is going to make you happy.

In the end, by knowing your self and what is important to you—in life and in a partner—you’ll feel far less desperate and anxious. When you go out with a positive attitude, you will find the right person for you—I promise they’re out there.

Dr. Terri Orbuch (a.k.a. The Love Doctor) is a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of five best-selling books, including Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. Learn more about her at DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.