Why Does Society Make Single People Feel Bad?

The bad, the ugly… and the good!

One of the biggest complaints I get from my coaching clients and from the single community in general is that society makes them feel bad about being single. Just when they start to think being single is okay and even start to appreciate some of the good things about being single, someone zings them with a negative comment about their relationship status or they get bombarded by images of happy couples and start to feel inferior. In other words, they get directly or indirectly single-shamed. How in the world can it be shameful to be single? That’s like saying it’s shameful to have brown hair. You might not like your brown hair and you might want to change it, but is it shameful to have it? Of course not. Then why, especially in this age of acceptance, does society feel the need to make single people feel bad about our single status? For starters, we as individuals decide for ourselves how things “should be” in our worlds. Our “should be’s” are greatly influenced by how we were raised and the society that we live in. We decide what’s “normal” and anything outside of this is considered “not normal,” which usually carries a negative connotation for us. Since the dawn of humankind, single has been seen as “not normal.” And not much has changed, but there is hope!

Let’s get in the way-back machine

In the beginning, being single was not acceptable from a sheer survival standpoint. You were never going to make it out there on your own in the land of saber-toothed tigers. At some point this viewpoint morphed into a survival-of-the-species stance. If no babies are born then the species dies out, and in order for babies to be born males and females have to get together. Flash forward a little farther and survival turned into male and female roles being strictly defined. Men made the money and mowed the lawn, while women raised the children and cooked the meals. One couldn’t really survive without the other, or at least they couldn’t survive well. The fact that people can survive on their own just fine now and even have kids on their own is irrelevant. People have been coupling-up for so long that it’s become something that you just do. The majority of people in our society view being part of a couple as being normal. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Therefore, your singleness just doesn’t work for society as a whole and they need to do whatever they can to show you how it should be instead so that you can get in line. These are not even conscious thoughts most of the time. Plenty of people in relationships probably don’t even want to be there, but they never really looked at it as a choice because it’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Everything around them supports this notion.

Hitting close to home

Aside from all of the ways society in general seems to gang up on the singles of the world, what probably gets to you the most are the attitudes about your singleness from the people you know well – your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors. “When are you going to settle down and get married already?” “I just can’t understand why someone like you is still single.” “Don’t worry, someone will come along someday and then you’ll be happy.” You’ve heard them all. And these sentiments are from people who are supposed to love you. So, why do they do it? Because they’re operating under the same belief everyone else has that couples are “normal” and singles are “not normal.” Just because they’re people who are close to you and care about you doesn’t mean they’re above the influence of society. And neither are you! You’re so programmed to think, to believe, that a relationship is what you want, what you should want, what you need, what will make you whole, that you feel inadequate if you don’t have one. It’s getting past this feeling that sets you free. It’s changing your thinking about your own singleness that will allow you to hear these statements and laugh them off instead of going home and eating a pint of Chunky Monkey.

Here’s where you come in

If you think of yourself as the third wheel or fifth wheel or whatever, then you will be. But if you think of yourself as spending a wonderful evening with two great friends, who just happen to be married to one other, then that’s what you’ll have. The way you feel about our singleness has less to do with reality and more to do with your perception of reality. I used to think that I couldn’t go to a restaurant alone. People see someone sitting alone and just assume they’re sad and lonely, right? In actuality there are a hundred reasons a person could be eating alone at a restaurant. Maybe they’re traveling on business and don’t know anyone in the town they’re in. Maybe they’re catching a quick bite between appointments. Or maybe they’re just tired of mundane conversation and want to focus on the enjoyment of eating instead. Because of my thoughts I felt that everyone would be looking at the single person and thinking, “Oh, how sad. She couldn’t find anyone to have dinner with.” Get real! People are so self-absorbed that they’re paying attention only to their own tablemates. Or more likely, their phones. You could be on fire and they probably wouldn’t notice you. Once I realized that no one was paying attention to me, I started eating out by myself all the time. All I had to do was change my perception of reality and reality changed into something that I didn’t feel was working against me.

So, you see, it’s your own thoughts that are making you feel bad about being single, not other people. It’s not what someone says to you about your single status that’s negative, it’s how you perceive what they’ve said to you. It’s not the media images of happy, “normal” couples that make you feel bad, it’s how you process those images. The next time you see an image of a happy couple, think to yourself, “I wonder if they went home and had a big fight?” No one can MAKE you feel bad about being single, you get to CHOOSE how you’re going to feel about it. Make good choices!

Being single is enviable!

Here’s a little mind twist for you. What if all of those people who look down on you or pity you for being single are actually doing it for a reason that’s not even about you? What if their contempt or sympathy actually stems from a little bit of jealousy? Or maybe a lot of jealousy! When single people look at couples, we see all the good things about being in a relationship and we feel bad about what we don’t have. Don’t you think couples do the same thing? The grass is always greener, right? Your married friends are looking at your singleness and seeing all the good things about it that they don’t have. Embrace where you are right now. See your single status for all the good things that it is. Live a happy single life and show society what’s what!

Leslie Kaz, coach for single women

I help single women get from where they are to where they want to be by overcoming their sadness and starting to live their best lives through mindset and lifestyle changes. Contact me to learn how it’s possible to live a single, blissful life.

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