‘People are afraid of being alone because they are hesitant to rely on themselves for happiness, but there is no escaping one’s self.’

Thomas Dumm

Thomas Dumm is a professor of political science, and wow, how – true – is – that? There is something about that sentence which resonates with my own and others’ experience of modelling, which has included feelings of solitude and loneliness. How is it possible to get comfortable being yourself and being on your own, when your success and happiness within your work is depending on other people’s opinion and perception of you?

Recognising loneliness

I am going to highlight two common ways of being lonely as a model; firstly, when you are physically on you own, most likely somewhere away from home, and feeling the negative implications of it. And secondly, there is the loneliness you experience when there are loads of people around you, but no one seems to register or simply care about your wellbeing. The latter one I recognise as being quite intense in modelling, as constantly working in new environments with strangers touching and pulling you can be overwhelming and surprisingly lonely.  

It wasn’t before my old psychotherapist said to me:

‘It must be so hard, to be the centre of attention, but when it comes to it no one really cares’

that I recognised it as a kind of loneliness.  Even then I remember being apprehensive towards the idea, but there really is some truth to it. The fashion industry is many things; creative, openminded, inspiring, but it is not known for looking out for the individual’s wellbeing. 

Long story short, I have never, ever felt as lonely as the times where I have been uncomfortable, anxious, tired, or unwell at work and no one really cared to take it in to consideration.

Then there is the simple element of you being on your own a lot. You just spend a surprising amount of time on your own… Everyone has heard the part of modelling where we travel the world, go to parties and work for famous clients. That’s all true and amazing, but it is also so incredibly lonely a lot of the time, as you are travelling on your own.

Travelling is by far one of the greatest perks and opportunities this job offers, but with the loneliness factored in, it creates a major contradiction within you. This is because, despite loving the travel and excitement, you sometimes cannot help yourself hating it from the bottom of your heart. I find that this loneliness often appears when you find yourself going somewhere that you do not really want to be. For example, often you must compromise important personal plans to travel for work, which creates the feeling of missing out.

Another example is perhaps you have been based in a new city for a while without having any success booking work. In the latter case, you might start blaming yourself for not being good enough, and then, once more referring to the words of Thomas Dumm, it becomes difficult to thrive in solitude.

Well then, who is out there then when I feel lonely?

On a more positive note, I have really noticed how people in the industry have started to recognise loneliness and distress in models and colleagues. There will always be a hair or make-up artist, a stylist assistant, or a photographer who ‘has your back’. Seek them out and stick to them as much as possible, do not try to go through a hard day on your own.

Moreover, I know that many models try to connect with other models when travelling and working, and I believe that this is one of the best ways to tackle loneliness – by making the effort to make friends if you can!

You may think this an obvious suggestion, but I must admit, making model friends hasn’t always been easy for me. I do not know why, perhaps it is my disinterest in mainstream fashion and social media… probably it is a longstanding apprehensiveness towards girl groups, especially big ones, formed in my adolescent years. This has probably resulted in me being lonelier than others, who knows? But I wonder if not most will be able to relate to this somehow. 

But most importantly, how to deal with myself?

When all comes to all, modelling is one big evaluation of you as the right fit for different brands, so you will need to make that extra little effort to make yourself more content and at ease, as it is hard on your self-esteem!

Because of this, I have focused on discovering self-indulgence. I always try to do the things that I want to, like going out for food and drinks while people-watching, enjoying the fact that I don’t have to compromise with anyone about what I want to do or what restaurant to eat at in my spare time. On good days like this I just love travelling solo!

However, bad days do happen, and even good days can turn into lonely days. If I get lonely, I try to call my husband, a friend, or my family.

If I don’t feel sociable, I will run a bath, buy a drink, and order a Deliveroo to my room. Indulgence has so many shapes, the important thing is that your choice of indulgence really makes you content and happy to be where you are on your own. Stop focusing on what you think you need to do, to
be liked by clients, like eating less or posting more.

It’s your time, so listen to what you need.  And just like that, you don’t feel so lonely anymore.

Author

Sofie is currently working as an international fashion model, as well as a mental health worker concerning people with suicidal tendencies. Having travelled the world and encountered numerous unique individuals, she draws from her personal experiences as well as her academic and professional knowledge, to shed light on issues that are yet to be brought to the surface.

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