Have you fallen off the social circuit?
There’s no time like spring to hop back on!
The fear of walking into an event by yourself or the discomfort of being “third wheel” can keep lots of single women and men home on the weekend.
Don’t I know it!
Though it was years ago, I still remember the dismal details that followed an invitation to a relative’s wedding. It wasn’t long after my divorce and I surprised myself by actually giving it consideration. What was I thinking?! A wedding? Alone?
But I like marriage ceremonies and I wanted to reconnect with some friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in some time. Plus, it was a reason to dress up and get out of the house.
So on that fateful day, I pulled up to the church, parked and sat in my car. There I waited. And watched. And waited some more. Then withered.
I watched one happy couple after the other walking in, holding hands, laughing and looking oh so in love. I could feel my blood pressure rising and my courage crumbling.
I started to think, “What am I doing here?” And then a surge of “poor me” self-talk showed up and robbed me of my resolve. I sat there in my pretty dress and pumps, unable to muster the confidence to enter the church alone.
I turned on the ignition and returned home to my empty apartment.
Disappointed in myself, I vowed not to let something like that happen again. I wasn’t going to miss out on life’s experiences just because I was single. In that moment, I made a promise to myself: I wouldn’t let my fears and insecurities keep me confined at home and within a safe circle of women friends.
Learning to do things solo and to actually enjoy myself, took time, practice and, frankly, some guts. Over time, I became increasingly comfortable socializing in a couples’ world.
Overcome self-conscious thinking
Part of what kept me from going out to eat or to a movie by myself was my concern about what people would think of me — or, more accurately, what I thought they would think of me. Did I have no friends? Was I undesirable company? Or worse, was I on the prowl?
Overcoming self-conscious thinking was essential to moving forward and out of my house.
What do you think when you see someone walking into an event alone or sitting by themselves at Starbucks reading the paper? Do you assign negative attributes to them? Probably not. You likely don’t give it a second thought. Or maybe you secretly admire their confidence and ability to enjoy their own good company.
Keep this in mind the next time your fears and doubts keep you from venturing out alone.
Expand your social circle
If you’ve fallen off the social circuit, it’s your responsibility to find a way back on. You need to make the first move, and one of the best ways to get back onto invitation lists is to embrace the theory of reciprocity: You invite people into your world, and they, in turn, will invite you into theirs.
No need to go overboard; inviting a few friends over for coffee or a cookout will get the ball rolling. Your social network will begin to grow and before you know it, you’ll find yourself enjoying the company of good friends, both old and new.
Be prepared to bump into your ex
If concerns about running into an ex-spouse or significant other at a social event keeps you from accepting invitations, be prepared.
Before you go, anticipate and visualize running into your ex. See yourself handling the encounter with grace and, most importantly, brevity. A few pleasantries and a polite “take care” will help you move past the encounter in a relatively quick and painless manner.
Bumping into an ex may be inevitable depending on your situation, so gear up, grin and bear it, and get going on your way.
Walk in alone with confidence
Even after all these years of living alone and attending social engagements on my own, I still don’t relish the thought of walking into an event by myself. In fact, to make it more palatable, I developed a five-step formula to ease my way in — and it has never failed me.
Here is my game plan:
1. Pull up to the event and gather my thoughts in the car.
2. Repeat my mantra: “All I need is within me now.”
3. Take a few deep breaths.
4. Remind myself to be myself and to be curious about others.
5. Enter the event and make a beeline for the host to say hello and introduce myself to others standing nearby.
After connecting with the host and a few guests, I can more easily enter into universally accepted small-talk subjects: books, travel, food, movies and sports (or more precisely, pickleball).
Feeling good about living alone often means confronting social, as well as emotional, challenges. Getting comfortable in a couples’ world is among them. But once mastered, it gets easier and easier. Even fun!
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com.