Overcoming Social Pressure: Going Out Alone
As a follow up to last two blog posts about how avoiding negative emotions can subvert happiness I am going to provide some examples of how men can overcome some of these social and internal pressures over the next couple of weeks. I pointed out that there are both social pressures as well as internal pressures that lead us to flinch from persisting in situations which can actually foster our growth. Today I want to use the example of going out alone when, particularly when recovering from a break up.
One of the most difficult situations for most men to endure is recovering from a break up, and even more so a divorce. You are in that limbo where you desperately want your life to go back to the comfortable times of being in a relationship, BUT at the same time your partner is not coming back nor are you ready to get out there and start dating again. You might not feel like being around people at all, BUT you’re sick of sitting around the house wallowing in your misery and can’t take another minute streaming the vast selection of mediocre movies on Netflix. What about going out alone? “NO WAY!” you say? You’re not alone. Going out alone feels like one of the most highly socially stigmatizing situations for some men, though this pressure is mostly self-induced. You may feel like everybody is looking at you or you think people must be thinking: “Oh, look at that loner.” “Who is that loser?” “Why is that guy alone? He’ll never get a girlfriend.” I used the words “you think people must be thinking” purposely here because this reflects what you are thinking, not others, and highlights how ridiculous our minds can get in twisting and distorting how we think people see us. These distorted thoughts trigger powerful emotions that are not constructive at all. The fact is most likely these fears are never coming to light. People are usually so absorbed in their own experience they don’t take the time to think about what you are doing. Even if any of this did happen, who cares? If I notice someone out alone I feel immense respect for them. I have been through that struggle and know how much courage it takes to break through the anxiety and misery to get your butt out of the house. I also know how good it feels to get in touch with yourself again.
Getting out alone is one of the best things you can do for yourself. For one, by going out you expose yourself to this immense pressure and learn firsthand that your worst fears are not going to come true. This alone can feel very liberating. Secondly, instead of wallowing and engaging in this attitude of deprivation, you are doing something nice for yourself. This is especially powerful if you are the kind of person that tends to go along with social expectations. You can’t “go along with” what everybody else is doing, there is no one else’s example for you to follow, you can’t hide your true self behind what other people want. Do something not because other people are doing it, not because someone else wants you to, not to meet someone else’s expectations: Take this time to do something strictly for yourself. You’ve been in a relationship for a long time where you probably had to consider your partners opinion and maybe even chose what you did based on what you thought your partner wanted. Now you don’t have to think about your partner at all. You are faced with you, yourself, and you. You may have felt you compromised and gave up more than you wanted to in order to keep the relationship afloat. This is a chance to get intimate with yourself and discover what you would like to do without any thought at all about what that damn ex wanted. Yes, get a little angry! Let that anger drive you into your new life. Take care of yourself... splurge on yourself... look out for just yourself for once.
I was out at the movies once with an old girlfriend. While I was waiting for her to come back from the ladies room a woman who had come to the theater alone came up to talk to me. I could tell she was nervous, but braved the pressures to make a connection. Truth be told I thought she seemed cool, respected her willingness to take such a risk, and really wanted to get to know her. I would have gone along with this insta-date had I been single. Point being, there is a lot of potential to meet others going out alone, but because of self-consciousness these opportunities are completely lost. Many, many other people are out there alone and soul searching as well whether they are willing to admit it or not.
Any belief that you have that by going out alone people will look at you or judge you is simply not the case. Anyone who would judge you for doing so probably feels insecure with themselves. It’s their problem, not yours. Don’t let social conditioning, your own anxiety, or others negativity hold you back from experiencing your reality. Go to that movie. Go get that drink. Check out that concert. Find that bike path. Go to the beach. Find a park to sit in. Don’t let these fictions hold you back any longer.