“Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.”Douglas Coupland
I wonder what, if any, role loneliness plays in true belonging. Can one truly belong and feel lonely at the same time or are they enemies of each other?
I will admit that I feel lonely. Trust me, it has taken me a long time to not only admit that to myself but to utter the words out loud. I feel a sense of shame when I express how lonely I feel. To be perfectly honest, I have always felt lonely, ever since being a small child. I have had times when I feel less lonely than other times, but the feeling is always there. Lurking in the background somewhere. It’s attached to my shame. When I feel lonely I feel broken, unlovable, weak and pathetic. It has, as you can imagine, a very negative connotation in my world.
Interestingly, as a counsellor, I am perfectly comfortable and validating of clients when they express how lonely they feel. It makes complete sense in their story that they feel this way and easy to validate that it’s ok. I know, its easy to say I should take my own damn advice. I try too. I validate how I feel, I acknowledge that it will pass and remind myself not to make stupid, impulsive decisions simply to avoid feeling lonely. But its still there. Lurking in the background.
Which got me to wondering if loneliness is a natural consequence of true belonging and authenticity. After all, if we truly belong then we are fully embracing ourselves, and to be truly authentic means at times, standing alone.
Of course, this is all pretty abstract. So let me tell you what this looks like in my life in reality. There are lots of examples, trust me.
I am a nurturing, compassionate, emotionally intelligent guy. I have lots to offer a significant other who is willing to spend quality time with me but for some reason, can’t seem to find someone who wants to invest their time with me. I have dated a bit through the years but seems that there is always something that gets in the way with the one’s I connect with the most. They are moving away, they have difficulty accepting that I have children, or they live 1000’s of kilometers away…you name it.
Then of course there’s this phenomenon known as ghosting. I’m sure lots of you have experienced it. I have people who connect with me through apps or text or something and talk about how excited they are to get to know me and that they feel this connection they’ve never had before. We talk for a few days and then…nothing. They have somehow fallen off the face of the planet. Each time this happens I feel wounded. My self esteem takes a hit. This happens repeatedly and it just feels so exhausting and emotionally damaging. I can’t help then wonder “what is wrong with me” that this keeps happening. In true human fashion, I compare myself to others I know who seem to get into relationships so easily and things just “work out” for them. I on the other hand, get to be alone. It leaves me in a place of wondering do I just give up trying because it hurts too much, or do I keep trying to find someone to share my life with.
Don’t get me wrong. I determined a long time ago that I am NOT interested in getting into a relationship just to be with someone. Although I can appreciate the power loneliness plays in people making that decision. Sometimes it feels like its better to settle for something rather than face the pain of loneliness every day.
I think it takes courage to embrace oneself and to learn how to be authentic. To be able to accept yourself and then reflect that acceptance to the world around you. It’s frightening and liberating at the same time. So, this post to me is about that embracing. I know others struggle with this same issue regardless of gender or orientation. My belief is that, to be authentic, we must embrace every part of ourselves. That includes how lonely we feel. The feeling will pass. I know that first hand. The feeling though gives us power to be who we are rather than spending all our time trying to “fit in” which is the enemy of true belonging.