The Stigma of Lonely
“I am alone, but I am not lonely. There’s a difference!”
There is a difference: one is celebrated, and the other is shamed.
Being alone is empowering, while feeling lonely is sad. Admitting you’re lonely is taboo.
In an effort to break the stigma of loneliness, I’ll speak on it from my perspective.
I’ve been alone for a long time, but I’ve been in denial about my loneliness. I avoid and numb it by scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, listening to podcasts, texting, eating, watching Netflix (usually while scrolling and eating), and flicking through other lonely souls on Tinder. We numb our loneliness because of the messaging that alone is “good” while lonely is “bad”. As a result, a lot of people (myself included), deny feeling lonely while attempting to operate under the guise of empowered solitude. The trouble is, when we live with denial or in avoidance of what we are feeling, we aren’t living authentically. And when we live inauthentically, we rob ourselves of the experience of living fully. Whenever we breathe into a feeling (whether we perceive it to be negative or positive), and are present inside of it, we are alive at full capacity.
So, this is me, breathing into my loneliness.
Last night, I got real quiet with it. I leaned into that feeling, and acknowledged the loneliness that occupies space in my chest. And it wasn’t a dismissive “oh yeah, there you are” kind of recognition. This time, it was humble, and honourable. I spoke to it, with compassion. “I see you, loneliness, and I honour you. I feel you. Thank you for giving me something to feel. I surrender to you. You are welcomed here. Stay as long as I need you to. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”
Without the influence of fear, I gave my loneliness permission to take up space.
There are a number of social and neurological reasons why we are scared of admitting to ourselves and to others that we are lonely, but what is at the root of all loneliness is fear, and the wounding at the source of that fear is unique to all of us.
For me, my loneliness manifests from the fear of not being enough to love and be loved.
What fascinates me is that even thought I know intellectually that I am enough (my brain reassures me every day that I am, and I believe what my brain is telling me), my body isn’t there yet. Enoughness isn’t cerebral; enoughness must be felt. Enoughness must be embodied. My bones must dance with that truth.
In just over two months I’m moving into my van; alone, and hitting the road; alone. There is no plan, and no destination. I am moving in with loneliness. The visceral process of embodying “enough” is about turning towards, inviting in, and creating the very situation and experience that I fear. I am consciously choosing to feel my loneliness more deeply and fully, so that I can heal it. So that I can become whole. I want to exist and thrive inside the feelings I seek to avoid, so that I can relax into them. No more fighting, no more avoiding. Am I afraid? Hell yes. But I am in choice with it. I’m redefining my relationship with fear. Instead of letting it control me, I’m going to harness it’s power. Fear will become my greatest ally.
With arms outstretched and joyful invitation, I turn to face the vacuous expanse of loneliness. I ask it to overwhelm me; so that I survive it, so that I can feel happiness inside of it, so that I can be more in love because of it. I embrace my fear so that one day my bones will vibrate with the truth of my enoughness.
The inspiration for this post:
I was swiping through Tinder last night when it hit me: I am a lonely person, swiping through other lonely people. I am never going to get what I want from spending my time there. What I want is to meet a man who is whole within himself (or at least, damn close to it), and in that moment of clarity I realized: people who are whole are not on Tinder. They are out in the world, living their lives. They don’t swipe for love, they ARE love. They taste it, speak it, create it, make it, live it. That’s the person I want to be, and those are the people I want to dance with.
As a disclaimer, I’ve learned some really valuable, wonderful lessons about myself thanks to some incredible men I’ve met on Tinder.
But each time, inevitably I end up alone. I’ve received the message: that’s not the place, nor the platform for my heart.
Adios, Tinder amigos. I’ll catch you in the wide open: in loneliness, and in love.