The reason I decided to call myself a single coach is solely based on the fact that I know it very well since I’ve lived my whole life being single. One of the major themes that I have attached to this part of my life is shame. This is a big one. There is a lot to say on the topic and this is one of my takes on it (I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll bring it up).
I can’t even being to explain the amount of shame I’ve felt and experienced in my life due to being single. The first time I felt it was my last year of high school. Everyone around me was coupling up except me. My girlfriends would gather up to talk about the latest exciting news, because they all had boyfriends. At first it wasn’t so bad but with time I would take a seat in the background. It was obvious that I had nothing to add to the conversations while my high school friends were sharing the updates about their puppy love. I felt shame and I no longer felt part of the group like I once did which also lead to a feeling of loneliness as a bonus. A few years later the intense feelings of shame and being outside the group started reoccurring again. This time it was at a different stage of life. Most people around me were settling down all of a sudden. They were moving in together, getting married and/or pregnant. I was once again part of the background.
I’m guessing these feelings get extra triggered around phases where our existing norms and trends around coupling up are directly connected to the certain life stages. We are “suppose” to experience certain things at certain times and if we don’t then tough luck!
When a strong norm exists and we don’t follow I think it’s easy to point the finger inwards and start blaming or questioning ourselves, or more importantly our value. That’s the core of shame, its aiming straight at our value communicating that we are somehow less than everyone else. If shame had a voice I imagine it might say something like “I’m the problem”, “something is wrong with me”, “I’m worthless”, “I don’t get chosen but everyone else does” and so on. Another aspect that I feel is central to highlight about shame, is that it’s extremely good at convincing us that whatever it’s telling us is an objective fact or a solid truth. This combination is obviously extremely painful and destructive, leading to a fast emotional downward spiral and have severe effects on our self image.
Even though shame is painful state to be in, I believe it’s quite beneficial to stay with it. What I mean is to locate it in the body, where is it sitting? What is the shame communicating? What thoughts are popping up? For me personally writing it down and looking at it really helps. After that reminding ourselves that what the shame is telling us doesn’t need to be true. Now, telling yourself this while you’re feeling shame is not the easiest. The brain will go wild and come up with all kinds of arguments and examples to prove its point. It’s not an easy task for someone who is feeling worthless for example to immediately start thinking differently. But how about questioning what the shame saying? Maybe, just maybe there is a small chance that it’s not true, what counter proof can we come up with?
I believe we need to start becoming conscious of our shame and questioning it, for it to slowly begin to lose its power over us. The truth is though, we all experience shame. We all are usually trying to hide our shame as much as possible like a dark secret we don’t want anyone to expose. When I started thinking about it I was quite surprised that I’ve barely had any conversations in my personal life about shame with friends or family. Very strange since its one of the most painful states we can experience emotionally. I heard a podcast with Renée Brown where she said the antidote to shame is empathy. That was so spot on. Showing ourselves empathy or opening up and receiving empathy from another person is incredibly soothing. When you begin this kind of work I would say it’s easier to start by receiving empathy from another person (someone you trust, very important).
Facing these feelings and receiving empathy in my shame has been one of the key ingredients for me to be steady and happy with myself. So does this mean I’ve overcome all shame relating to me being single at 30 with zero relationship experience? Nope, I still feel the occasional sting. But nowadays it’s not as near as frequent or long lasting. After a lot of single time (!) and inner work, I’ve managed to develop my way of dealing with shame in a smooth and nondestructive way.
Have a great day 🙂