Overcoming the Stigma of Being Single
It's not easy being single in a society that tells you that you should be in a relationship. It's hard to find people who understand what it's like to be untethered from another human being, and even harder to find people who don't assume that single people
- are lonely or
- can't commit.
I've been single for five years. That's a long time to go without finding someone you want to be with. Sometimes I feel like people think there must be something wrong with me because I'm not in a relationship—like there's some flaw in my character that means I don't deserve a partner or love.
But looking back throughout those five years, being single brought so much good into my life. It allowed me to focus on self-discovery, achieve new goals, and develop new relationships that will last a lifetime–things that may have not happened if I had a partner.
Maybe you have a lot going on in your life and don’t have the time or energy to devote to a relationship. Maybe you just want to have fun, casual sex with no strings attached. Maybe you are focused on advancing in your career or excelling in school, or maybe you just want to focus on yourself right now—there’s nothing wrong with that! Whatever the reason, it is completely okay to be single.
But it can be hard to ignore the inner voice or social norms that are constantly telling you to be in a relationship. Your friends might ask if you are dating anyone, and if not, they might start asking why not. Your family might try pushing you into settling down because they think it’s time for you to get married or have kids (or both).
It can be exhausting being bombarded by these messages all the time. Many of us, including myself, experience these doubts, fears, and shame about not being in a relationship. But I will tell you that they don’t have to run our lives. You can live your life fully while also being single—and enjoying every moment of it. But how?
Recognize That Being Single Is Not a Bad Thing
The pressure to get a job, get married, and have a family in that order is everywhere—on TV shows, in movies and commercials, in your family members' advice. And if you deviate from that expectation, the world tells you that you should feel sad, lonely, and insecure.
Although it’s nearly impossible to change social norms and the media, you can choose to change the way you perceive singlehood and relationships regardless of what the world tells you. You can make your own choices about when and how you want to be in relationships without feeling like there's something wrong with you if it doesn't happen right away.
Being single doesn't mean that you're weird or broken or damaged. It doesn’t mean you are less worthy than those who are in relationships. If you can let go of this idea, you can then embrace the freedom that comes with being free from someone else's expectations.
If you want to have casual sex, then go have casual sex (safely of course). If you want to focus on starting your own business or climbing the corporate ladder before you settle down, do that. If you want to figure out who you are and what you want in life first, then go for it. Once you let go of others’ expectations (including the expectations you have for yourself), you can relish in the joy of what these experiences and being single have to offer.
We're all guilty of looking at other people's lives and comparing them to our own. When you see your friend's engagement announcement or your sister's wedding photos, it can be hard not to feel a little envy. Or, when you see the influx of lovey dovey couple photos circulating on Valentine’s Day or National BF/GF Day, it can be hard not to want to throw your phone against a wall. But there's something you’re probably forgetting:
Comparison is the thief of joy, they say, and they're right. When we compare ourselves to other people, we end up feeling bad about ourselves because we don't measure up—or we just feel bad because someone else seems happier than us.
And that's unnecessary! The truth is, no one is happy all the time; even those who are in relationships. A photo is just a snapshot of time—it doesn't show the whole picture. And even if they do look happy and loving in the picture, relationships come with their whirlwind of challenges too.
Comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to feel like you're not good enough, and it completely undermines the importance of being true to yourself. By not comparing yourself to others and staying true to who you are, you will attract the right person into your life.
Focus On Other Relationships
In our culture, we've been taught that our end goal is to find this one person who completes us and then settle down. It's as if we believe there's no other way to live a fulfilling life.
But what if there was more than one person in this world who could complete you? What if there was more than one person who could bring out the best in you?
It's time to step away from the idea that love is only meant to be between two people—and instead consider yourself as a whole package. Who else in your life makes you feel like you're worth something? Who else helps bring out the best version of yourself? Who else deserves your love and support?
In this season of your life, spend your time and energy focusing on your other relationships—the ones with friends, family, coworkers—and figure out how they can help you grow as an individual.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in this idea of who we think we should be that we forget about the people who love us most. It’s time to recognize that these people are the ones who can help us see things in a new light and make positive changes in our lives…and even connect us with the right person.
Fall in Love With Who You Are
Sometimes, it's easy to fall in love with an idea of what a relationship could bring you: the partner who will make all your dreams come true; the perfect romance; the fairytale ending; true happiness.
But the only way to achieve your dreams, heal your wounds, and have everything that you need to feel whole and happy, comes from within. To expect someone else to do this for you will only set the relationship up for failure.
Loving yourself is key to finding a happy and loving relationship. The relationships we build and maintain are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. If we can engage in self-discovery and love ourselves for who we truly are, then we can better connect with others who also accept us in our entirety.
Put Yourself Out There
If you are single and want to be in a relationship (“want” being the keyword here), it’s time to put yourself out there.
Take some time to really think about what you want in a partner. This can be as simple as writing down a list of qualities you'd like in a partner (e.g., "generous", “humourous" or for myself, “someone who can cook”), or it can take the form of a full-on essay about what makes someone special to you. Try writing about why you're looking for love now and what kind of relationship would make you happy.
Once you have your list written down, get out there and meet people! Whether that means going out on a Friday night or joining an online dating service or asking your friends to set you up on a blind date… whatever works best for you. The point is that you get out there and explore the amazing things different people have to offer. Who knows who will become a part of your life’s journey.
A Final Note
I used to think there was something wrong with me because I wasn't in a relationship. But then I realized: why should one part of my life define all of me?
It's okay if you're single, and it's okay if you're in a relationship. You don't need to be in a relationship to have a fulfilling life, and you don't need to be single to feel like you're missing out. You are enough just as you are, and no one has the right to tell you otherwise.
And if you're looking for love, don't do it for the wrong reasons. Don't do it because you want someone to make you feel good about yourself, or to make sure that your life is perfect. Don't do it because you're lonely and need someone to fill your time, or because the people around you are getting married or having babies and you feel like you're missing out on something special.
Don't do it for any of those reasons.
Do it because you've found someone who makes you happy. Do it because they inspire you to be more than what society expects of you, and they show up for you in ways that no one else ever has before. Do it because they encourage you to follow your dreams and be the best version of yourself possible.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers