Loneliness is the feeling of an empty void that needs no introduction. Everyone gets bit by the loneliness bullet at some point of life. Sometimes, the feeling scratches the surface and heals itself in a day or two. However, lonely feelings can extend to a few days to months to entire life. It’s like that cola can in a dark street that everyone kicks and moves on or sometimes, the can is too unfortunate to get noticed. As human beings, both feelings are equally draining and painful. Our lives are continuously evolving and despite the boom in smartphones, communication technology, and apps, our levels of loneliness are drastically increasing. Official data reveals that over a quarter of the US population now live by themselves and social isolation amidst covid 19 now has made things worse. Can we deal with it all by ourselves? Let’s see.
What Exactly is Loneliness?
The dictionary definition can be different, but for me, loneliness is a feeling that no one cares! Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, the feeling can hit you with equal intensity.
Therefore, it’s a myth that being social and making friends or globe-trotting is the perfect cure to your lonely feelings. These are all temporary coping mechanisms and their effects are likely to fade soon. They sometimes help, if the underlying cause is superficial only. You can be surrounded by a hundred people, and yet feel empty and disconnected. You have to find the root cause and then uproot it, once and for all.
“Loneliness is not the absence of people to share. It’s the absence of people worth sharing with.”
I was listening to Chester Bennington, Linkin Park lead singer’s interview before he committed suicide, where he clearly told his loneliness and depression wasn’t coming from an external source. For most of us, the adversities of life come from external sources such as bullying in childhood, divorce, heartbreaks, toxic relationships, marital problems, and so on. I couldn’t save my beloved singer, but I will try that no more lives sink because of loneliness.
Loneliness Isn’t the Absence of Physical Presence, But Mental Isolation
Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs emphasizes that as humans, we have an innate desire for love, intimacy, and a sense of belonging. Although it’s entirely true, as our lives are continuously evolving, it’s high time to accommodate self-love in our definition of hierarchy of needs.
We must put our needs on priority first, before we try to pour from our empty mind to fill someone else’s cup. When you are going through a tough time like recovering from an illness, feelings of rejection, or regret, those feelings will only go once your body and mind process them completely. Even your best friends, spouse, and family can provide you temporary comfort, but permanent resilience takes time to build.
The Journey from Lonely to Alone: Loneliness Can be Liberating
From teenage to early adulthood, once our growth hormones start kicking in, we feel attracted to a particular gender. Isn’t it? Slowly, all our friends are hitched, posting couple goals on social sites, cooking together, living together, and exchanging vows of forever. When we move through life, all by ourselves, all these things start bothering us. Instead of being happy for our friends, we feel envy and frustration.
Our mind says, “I am going to die alone” and that one statement starts dictating our entire life. We shut off people from our life because someone rejected us earlier, or someone decided to walk over our feelings.
Let’s flip the entire idea now.
You are free! You have time to make the career of your dreams, to start that passion project, to watch that sitcom, go on dates, and work on everything you always wanted, but could never find the courage. Every phase comes with its own set of challenges.
No one can stop you. You can be feeling lonely now, but once you have friends and a partner; you will have to take care of their feelings, their demands, their preferences, and so on. It’s a beautiful feeling to have amazing people around, but how can we find bliss amidst our own brokenness?
Use this time to form new habits, watch sunrise and sunset, and to have meaningful conversations and connections with people. Remember that one good meaningful connection is worth 100 mediocre ones.
Go On a Voyage to Self Exploration, Before You Find Someone
In our search for love and belonging, we end up chasing people and instances of rejection leaves us with a broken self-esteem and low self confidence. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” If you have to chase love, intimacy or a relationship; that means they don’t want to be with you. Trust me, forced attention is not worth having because if the energy and efforts are not equal, your connection is going to fall apart.
Therefore, it’s important to rely only on emotionally available people. There are our parents, siblings, and a few genuine friends who always have our back; no matter what. That’s the place where loneliness must start disappearing from our lives.
I have found a few things that help with self-acceptance:
- Eliminate toxic people: Think about the people you generally hang out with. Do they pull you down or demean your aspirations? Are they always pinpointing the negatives in you rather than helping you feel better and positive. If yes, it’s time to let go of them. Having fake friends can’t be the cure to loneliness.
- Work on your self esteem: People with low self esteem try to please others and apologize constantly for their approval. They have a mindset that if they don’t do that, they will be left alone. Again, you must work on the principle of energy and vibrations. Think highly of yourself, indulge in habits that make you feel worthy and confident. Pick your interests and reach its pinnacle.
- Practice forgiveness: You must heal the situations in your past, if you want to take the remote control of your life back. For your own sake, say out affirmations loud like, “I am the most important being in the universe.” You can also find plenty of affirmations on Youtube and video streaming sites.
- Live Solo: I truly believe that loneliness arises from external people, solitude stems from internal beliefs. Alone is a state of mind that says I am enough first. Rest everything is secondary. I have been working in cafes before, went to the movies, ate in restaurants; all by myself. Trust me, if done for a season, that gives you true strength and freedom. Make staying alone a choice, not a punishment.
- Pursue hobbies: Do what makes you feel alive. Even if that means binge watching for a day or two, go ahead and then try new activities like writing, sketching, coloring, reading, and more. Do anything, but lonely and sad songs.
Get Out of Your Bed: Opt for Mental Health Counseling and Therapy
I wonder, we are quick on our feet to watch that latest flick, try that new dish, and go to that new place, all by advice and recommendations. But, we have carried so much stigma around therapy and counseling that we are afraid of being judged. We say, “What if someone calls me mad?” “What if someone thinks I am crazy?” I ask you today:
What if that “what if” becomes the reason for suicide one day?
Loneliness is not just a feeling and it has serious physical consequences. Depression is linked to high suicide rates, weakened immune system, heart disease, and cognitive decline. When we talk about our feelings with family and friends, they feel helpless because they are not able to help you cope up. It’s not their fault. Because, until you get to the root cause, you can hardly plan to come out of the cathartic feelings. It’s time to remove the stigma of therapy for the sake of your mental health. You will get precise directions to process those feelings and a clear roadmap to cope up with such ugly feelings, panic, and anxiety. You deserve a life full of joy, my friend! Go get it! Dance, sing, spend time with nature, and I am sure all your lonely feelings vanish soon!