So, your 30th birthday has come and gone and you are trying to define for yourself what it means to be a single woman who doesn't have children. Sound familiar? If so, you are probably already aware of how society can, at times, make you believe that something is missing from your life if you do not have a partner and children by a certain age. However, there are several ways to abandon that belief in favor of beliefs that are conducive to leading a fulfilling life. Here are some tips:

1. Challenge Self-defeating Thoughts. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) was developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist, Dr. Aaron T. Beck, and is based on the premise that thoughts influence an individual’s feelings and behaviors. CBT aims to eliminate negative feelings and behaviors by replacing self-defeating, irrational thoughts with those that are more rational and optimistic. Consider the following example using the ABC model of cognitive behavior therapy:

Activating Event: Several friends get married-->Belief: “I’m still single, so there must be something wrong with me”-->Consequence (Feeling): Sadness-->Consequence (Behavior): Social Withdrawal

Now imagine what could happen if a woman replaced that negative, irrational thought with a more rational, balanced, thought such as “I have some positive qualities to contribute to a relationship, but I just haven’t met the right person yet.” It is likely that with time, this individual would begin to experience more positive feelings that would lead to her engagement in more adaptive behaviors. In fact, research has shown that CBT is an effective form of treatment for many problems such as anxiety and depression.

If you catch yourself feeling sad or anxious, stop and ask yourself, “What was I just thinking?” Once you become aware of your negative thoughts, you can work on changing them. Negative thoughts usually develop over time – sometimes over years. So, it will take time before you start to notice the benefits of challenging your negative thoughts. Consult a mental health professional to do more in-depth work if you are experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety or depression.

2. Create a Supportive Network. Do you have people in your social circle who tease or criticize you because you are single? Do they flaunt their relationship or family life in your face? Or, are they a bit too intrusive about your romantic life? Try letting these individuals know how you feel if their behavior bothers you. If their behavior continues after you've shared your feelings, you may want to reconsider your reasons for associating with these individuals. This might result in you spending less time with certain people or ending relationships with others. It’s good to have at least one close friend who you can confide in. However, like some women in their 30s, you may find it somewhat difficult to make new friends once many of your old-time friends begin raising a family or spending more time with their romantic partners. One way to build new friendships might involve pursuing a hobby or learning a new skill. How about learning a language or a sport?

3. Explore Your Beliefs and Feelings About Sex. For many women, being single means deciding between casual sex and celibacy. Consider whether you can handle the issues that might ensue from having casual sex. If do you engage in casual sex, it may be a good idea for you and your partner to be upfront with each other about your expectations. If you are not comfortable with casual sex, how do you feel about celibacy? Consider the pros and cons and choose what makes you feel most comfortable.

4. Explore Your Beliefs and Feelings About Motherhood. Do you want to have children? Why or why not? You may find it helpful to speak with your OB/GYN about any factors that may prevent you from having children as well as alternatives to having biological children. If you would love to be a positive role model for children, but are not considering motherhood, you may consider spending time with other children in your family or circle of friends. You might also consider volunteering at a children’s organization.

5. Fall in Love with Yourself. Do you have any unresolved issues that are still haunting you? If you are having trouble working through them on your own, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Spend some time finding out your likes and dislikes. What do you believe in? What gives your life purpose? During your self-discovery, you may come to realize that you don’t desire a romantic relationship. Or, you may decide that you do. If you want a relationship, consider taking this time to think about the qualities you would contribute to a relationship as well as the qualities you desire in a partner. Above all, treat yourself well. Keep yourself healthy and consider rewarding yourself every now and then – a vacation, a massage, or simply, a low-key night at home watching your favorite movie.

In today's society, being a single woman in your 30s who doesn't have children can be difficult at times. However, this can be an opportune time to focus on self-growth. Your personal development will enhance your relationship with others, but most importantly, it will enhance the relationship you have with yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Shonda Lackey is a clinical psychologist in New York City. She helps filmmakers and authors create entertaining and realistic characters. For more information about Dr. Lackey, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter @ArtofIntrospect.