Letting Go of Society's Expectations

by Tamika Burgess

“What would people think? Would they assume I was lonely and had no friends?” These questions ran through my mind one night as I texted several friends to see if they were free for the evening.

I FEARED WHAT THEY WOULD THINK

I had been craving a nice meal all week and when I couldn’t find anyone to go to dinner with, I started entertaining the idea of going alone. But when thoughts of what other people would think and say about me popped into my head, I quickly banished the idea, eventually ordering a pizza and staying in for the night. 

This was my life four years ago. Back then I applied that way of thinking every time I wanted to go somewhere. Whether it was to a restaurant, the movies, a museum or anywhere else, if I didn’t have anyone to go with, I wouldn’t go. I was truly afraid of what others thought of me. And that way of thinking caused me to miss out on a lot of things that I wanted to do. 

LETTING GO AND EMBRACING THE NEW

But thank goodness for growth and change, because my thought process on this subject has completely changed. I attribute the change to growing up and realizing I could no longer let people’s assumptions and judgments of me dictate how I lived my life. It wasn’t fair to me.

I now enjoy doing things alone. I find it somewhat rewarding (probably because I’m an introvert). I still enjoy going out with friends, but now I try to take myself out at least once a week. It’s a good way to have some alone time and treat myself to something nice. In doing so, I am able to enjoy and really experience the places I go. The best part is that I no longer have to waste my time reaching out to friends to accompany me.

I think my past insecurities about being seen out alone came from what I saw in movies and on TV. Society’s views on this have been negatively shaped because women who go out alone, especially to eat, are portrayed as lonely, friendless, and unwanted. This has us programmed to think that in “real life”, women shouldn’t do things alone because it’s wrong.

But it’s not wrong. The only thing that’s wrong is allowing others to determine where you go and how you feel about yourself. Getting to a point in your life where you no longer worry about what others think of you is very freeing.

The only thing that’s wrong is allowing others to determine where you go and how you feel about yourself.

And I am happy to be in that place today. If I’m out alone and the perception of me is negative, then so be it. Because all that really matters is how I feel.

In learning this life lesson, I realized this situation is about more than just going out alone. It’s about understanding you have to live life for yourself and do what makes you happy. 

How have you held back yourself in the past based on society's expectations?

Updated: June 2016