For years he battled the fear and shame of being alone. Then he remembered how to love his own company.
After having a couple of disastrous relationships, I’m starting to realize that my singleness is a gift. It is a prize that for so long I deemed worthless in my pursuit of other outside partnerships. Being single is a wonderful blessing that I failed to appreciate in my pursuit of a love divine.
Now however, I have acquired new eyes and realize that being single is a remarkable present that I give to myself every day. It is a precious offering that I rest at the altar of my personage. I prize my aloneness and celebrate my solitude daily. I didn’t always feel like this however.
Growing up, I found joy in playing alone. I was not the type to rely on the company of imaginary friends. I was happy just playing in place and letting my unbridled creativity be my daytime company. However once I started school that all changed. In an effort to socialize me and prepare me for life on the inside of the status quo, schools applied grading systems to my ability to “get along well with others”. I became groomed to need others because now my graduation from pre-K depended on it. The sanctity of my solitude became unnervingly interrupted by group activities and class participation exercises. Everything now required a partner. From freeze tag right down to games like mother-may-I, hide and seek, duck duck goose I learned to attach permission slips to my independence.
My adolescence was a struggle as I yearned to fit in and be liked by a jury of my peers who sentenced me to snide looks, criticism and mockery daily. I began to crave acceptance and learned the importance of having a clique as I came to believe that there was indeed strength in numbers. Validation was my drug of choice as I absorbed the message that I was no good alone. I learned that I needed someone to reinforce who I was.
Young adulthood proved to be a challenge as well as I yearned heavily for intimacy. It wasn’t enough that others liked me, I now needed them to understand me, to know the me I was discovering daily. I learned quickly that newfound identities do not easily lend themselves to empathy as people try to forget how uncertainty feels once their confidence kicks in and they’ve successfully overcome an uncomfortable stage in their own personal development. So in the midst of my personal transformation, I struggled with chronic feelings of intense loneliness that created a series of somatic aches and pains throughout my body.
I was painfully alone in my twenties, seeking intimacy at every juncture even if I had to manufacture it. I saw being single as a last resort. I did not believe that happiness could ever be secured from going it alone. Phrases like “Dinner for one” and “Oh, it’s just me” scared the living daylights out of me. If on the off chance I entertained the idea of dining alone, I always believed others would be looking at me, feeling sorry for me, avoiding me, glad that it’s not them as they clung on tighter to their momentary lovers and friends. I always felt like a leper searching for a humpback to befriend. To me being alone was a fate worse than death. I didn’t want to continue living like this.
In an effort to avoid loneliness, I denied myself. I agreed to things I didn’t want. I sold myself short. I tolerated things that no one should, ever. I put myself in situations that any partnered person would never have done as I was dizzy off of disbelief and loneliness wondering how someone as talented, gorgeous, educated and funny as me could ever be alone. It didn’t add up. The dissonance between who I was, what I deserved, and what I got served just did not add up. For a while it fueled an inner rage that was hard to shake till I realized that great guys often sit alone because people these days don’t even like themselves. How can they ever like and appreciate me if they suffer from differing levels of self-loathing? Somehow this became my solace as I suffered with lonely feelings.
Towards my late twenties, I realized that being alone may very well be my fate. I felt that instead of trying to escape this through passive compliance and eager cooperation with other peoples wishes, I might as well embrace it and go out on dates with my loneliness.
I began doing things with myself, going to movies alone, restaurants alone, parks alone. I began going to clubs alone and bars alone, dancing alone. I stood across from my mirror and acknowledged out loud that I AM ALONE. I proclaimed it and thereby claimed it. I realized that I am all I have. I realized that sometimes the love I have to offer gets lost in translation when expressed to others. I know what I mean when I love but sometimes others don’t speak the same lingo. I also realized that it is not safe to love others the way that I want to so I might as well love myself the way I want to be loved. And I did just that.
I practiced loving myself. I felt the physical and mental pain of bringing myself back in from where I once came. I reigned in the extensions of myself I used to please everyone else and decided that I was worth remembering, worth considering, worth being with. I decided that for once I deserved to be happy and not have my happiness hinge on an updated relationship status or a series of perfunctory congratulations as though being in a relationship is a lottery to be won by the masses. I decided that I mattered and that being alone was a myth as I am not alone. I have someone and that someone is me. I recognized that being single has afforded me the opportunity to really get in touch with my identity, my needs, all of me, parts often departed from in my search for partnerships. I realized that being single yields the gift of discovery. With singleness I am free, free to find me.
I used to think that being single was tantamount to being gypped out of a relationship, but I am now convinced that my singleness is a gift that I can use in the service of my personal empowerment. It will be to me a tool of measurement to see how far I’ve come and how much I can go the distance. It will be the one stable connection that I have been able to secure. My singleness is a gift that will definitely take me very far.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.
Photo: Getty Images