How To Overcome The Stigma of Being Single

Relationship expert Nicoa Dunne shares the steps she took to change her story and embrace single life.

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Overcoming Single Stigma

Being single is brutal these days…

When I was still with my ex-husband, I specifically remember a time at the grocery store where I felt this overwhelming shame about what I had in my shopping cart…

See, I wasn’t much for cooking (the hubby did all that for me), so I’m walking through the aisles pushing a cart full of cheese, wine, and single-serve microwavable dishes. Everything a single person would purchase to stock their fridge was in my cart. 

Even though I was still with my ex-husband, I remember feeling embarrassed to face the checkout counter with a cart that made me look single.

As I’ve had time to reflect on this years later, I’m amazed at the negative stigma that surrounds singlehood for adults. That stigma seems to seep into every facet of life, even down to what you put in your cart at the grocery store.

 As I walked up to the checkout with my cart, I felt the way society had brainwashed, shamed, and pressured me to live my life in a conventional way that may or may not be what I want. And, I felt all those things as a married woman—I was following the traditional prescription for life, and I still felt shame at being perceived as if I hadn’t adhered to that timeline.

 It’s odd, really, how much we as women are pressured to center our lives around marriage. When I was a kid, I even had a wish-book of photographs and details for my wedding that I kept neatly tucked under my bed, and I would add to it regularly as I imagined my life by design. This was such a big part of my identity that even when I was married, I would worry about appearing to be single.

 The checkout girl was probably looking at me, thinking, “This poor lady has to go home to an empty house and eat a tasteless microwavable lasagna for dinner then crawl into an empty bed.”

 It’s like if you aren’t married by the time you’re 25, and you don’t have 2.4 kids by 33, and you don’t have a rocking career with a beautiful home and a manicured lawn by 35, well, you’re failing. And failure is exactly what I felt in that grocery store.

As women, we have turned to this idea that “You must have it all and do it all!” And if you haven’t, well, poor thing. I didn’t want to be perceived as a poor thing. Ever. Which explains my overachieving, workaholic tendencies and obsession with external validation…which I ultimately realized to be bullshit and forced myself to let go of…but that’s for another blog.

What is it like to create a life by design as a single person?

 I get it, society is big on marriage and babies and doing the whole American Dream thing by the book. I believed in that so much that I got out of the checkout line before any of the workers could even have the opportunity to judge my cart. I ditched the microwave dinners and headed toward the aisles that screamed, “Hey, I’m married to the partner of my dreams, and I have kids to feed! They’re just gone to see family for the weekend!”

 I filled my cart instead with a package of eight hotdogs and a bag of eight buns—irrefutable proof to the checkout crew that I had a family to go home to. Can you believe that? I was so afraid of my at-the-time-nonexistent singlehood that I resigned myself to cooking and eating hotdogs all weekend.

 Since that night at the grocery store, I have had to accept my own singlehood again. And I had to start by asking myself some difficult questions that I didn’t really have answers for straight-away.  

 What am I making singlehood mean? What am I telling myself day-in and day-out about the fact that I am not in a relationship, not married anymore?

 And when I tell myself those stories, how do they make me feel? What if the story I told made me feel better? Good? Empowered? Strong? What would I need to let go of in order to live in that new story?

 When society imposes those stories of the only “correct” timeline of life on me, what do I make it mean? How do I allow myself to feel every time my mother says to me, “I bet he’s the one” or “The clock is ticking?”

Three tips to overcome the stigma of being single

There are three things I decided to remember when shifting this narrative so I no longer had to take on the societal pressuring and shaming—and yes, that’s actually what was happening. I was being shamed because others did not know how to define where I was and why I didn’t do the things they did!

 It’s my story. It’s my life. It’s my decision. 

 I know, I know, but everybody else says I have to be married to the perfect partner and I have to have the perfect kids in order to be happy and fulfilled. Well, screw what everybody says. Nobody else’s opinion on the order or timing of my life is more important than my own.

 I learned to practice self-acknowledgement first, on my own terms. I stopped looking to others to define me. I decided to figure out my heart’s deepest desires and go after them, without thoughts of what society believes my desires should be.

What if nothing is wrong? I gave myself permission to be okay.

 I had to release the judgements of failure, loss, unworthiness and put those judgements somewhere outside of my story. They had no place being trapped in my head on a constant repeat cycle of emotional self-abuse. So I threw them out! What good were they doing me?

 I asked myself, “Where is the right place for me to be?” I went deep into the story of “this is actually good.” I learned that I can’t attract what I want until I am okay with where I’m at.

 Repeat that this way: Until I love where I am, I can’t attract the life and the love I want!

I had to stop chasing it.

 No matter what I wanted, I had to stop telling myself I was falling behind or failing at achieving my dreams. That mentality can often cause desperate, needy chasing behavior—more aggressive and pushy, this mentality follows the “I have to make it happen right now” thinking.

 This actually creates the exact opposite of what I was trying to accomplish. You see, like energy attracts like energy. If I am desperately seeking something—anything—I may be attracting like-minded individuals and circumstances. Then I set myself up for failure and disappointment, and I see a lot more misses and losses in life. 

 I realized I didn’t have to seek it, strive for it, chase it, or obsess over it. As I said, when I do obsess, I repel, and my magnetism becomes opposition. Yep, I was sending desperate, dependent, fear-based, scarcity energy out there, and every person I wanted to attract my way could feel it.

 I was falling into the trap of believing I couldn’t be whole without a partner and a complete family—like I could never be fulfilled simply by my kids and my career. I thought I had to have someone else there to share my life with; I thought I couldn’t be happy by myself.

 I had to make myself sit in a space of “I am enough, and I can see and visualize the life I want coming to me. I am inviting it. I am allowing my beautiful and worthy self to sense it and feel it.” Feeling it now as if it were happening and knowing it can and will happen—that is the practice. Be here now. Be happy and content.

 These are the thoughts that pulled me out of the pit I was drowning in. It was never my singlehood that was sinking me—no matter what I imagined the checkout girl was thinking of my almost-purchased microwavable dinners.

 The things that dragged me down were the ideas that I had been programmed to believe surrounding my own life as a single woman. Once I realized I could abandon those beliefs and adopt the new thoughts I’ve laid out in this article, my singlehood didn’t mean anything anymore to my happiness as a person.

 I learned to look for what was already working and beautiful in my life, then go to sleep each night and wake up each morning excited to see if today is the day, if tomorrow is when I will meet the love of my life—not seeking but simply allowing.

Find out more about Nicoa Dunne’s blueprint to a Life By Design at http://nicoadunne.com

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Nicoa Dunne
I'm a seasoned creator and life guide with 20+ years as a Human Resources Executive with General Electric, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Allscripts. I have excelled as a professional coach certified through the Newfield Network and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching all while proudly co-parenting three, and now six! kids in my new love relationship! Over the years, I've consulted 100s of individual contributors, small business owners, corporate business leaders and top executives from Fortune 100 companies across the globe, shaping more effective leaders through the 7 levels of energy concepts and my proven blueprint for a Life By Design. Learn more about me at http://nicoadunne.com.

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