One of the hardest things people deal with in life, I think, is being alone. Recently I had a brief conversation with a friend of mine about this and he believes that being alone and lonely are one in the same. I told him, I believe they are two very separate things. Although they often work in tandem and many use them as synonyms, they are in fact not the same. I will discuss the differences in more depth in a moment, but lets get back the the beginning. I believe being alone is one of life’s hardest challenges for many reasons. Mainly, most of us have never truly been alone a day in our lives. From the second we are brought into this world there is always someone there wether its your birth parents, foster parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. someone is always there. What we get from them is the constant need for accompaniment or companionship. And for the rest of our lives we continuously search for more people to find that sense of companionship. This leads to us never being truly alone, or at least not for very long. So you see it’s a never ending cycle of companionship that we constantly seek and is constantly molded by our environment and the company we choose to keep. But there are instances in life when you must truly deal with being alone. Now, I understand that not everyone has to deal with these instances and the example I use will not pertain to everyone. And if that’s the case then this bit probably doesn’t and won’t mean much to you. However, I hope that you read on, as it will set the tone for the rest of the post.
So being lonely versus being alone. Alone, in my opinion, is a matter of fact. It is the word you use to describe your current proximity to people around or near you. Lonely, on the other hand is the feeling you get when being alone is hard or unpleasant. Lonely has a sad connotation that I feel doesn’t rightfully belong to alone. Like at this very moment I am alone in my room, and I am not lonely. I am not saddened by the fact that there is no one around. I am very much at peace with it. And it is this feeling of being at peace with being alone that I feel most people miss out on. And it’s because our whole lives we have been conditioned to want to be surrounded by people. This in turn causes us to feel lonely when we are alone, hence the common misconception, in my opinion, that they are one in the same. Don’t misunderstand me though, I am not an antisocial pessimist and I understand that being around people is healthy for personal development. Although Im sure those who know me well may beg to differ. But, what happens to the people that can’t adjust to being alone. The feeling of loneliness sets in and in some cases also self loathing. It can be a very self diminishing thing. For example take a new college freshman, he is going to his dream school and it’s miles away from home. Fortunately, he has his own apartment for the first time, so its assumed he will have good times with parties, and lots of friends over all the time. But perhaps he isn’t outgoing, maybe he doesn’t know how to make friends that well and all the friends he has ever had are miles away. Imagine what he must feel. This again comes from not knowing how to be alone. But it is in this moment and moments like these that we need to learn to be alone.
It goes against our nature, to turn something that has always been considered a sad or negative thing and turn into a positive. Personally, I feel there is a reason for being alone. Any time I find myself alone, my mind, naturally wanders to darker places and my first response is to be sad and feel lonely, but I decide to stop it there. I begin to, instead, think of the things I feel I never have time for, or things and places I’ve never seen or been to. This can be anything from The Grand Canyon to a coffee shop I read about in a magazine, or a movie I wanted to see. It’s this change of mindset that allows me to focus on more important things rathe than the feeling of loneliness. Instead I get excited, I find something to look forward to, and plan my time and day from there. The thing is it’s not to distract from the feeling of being lonely, it’s learning how to be alone. It’s hard teaching yourself to rewire your own thinking, especially when you feeling lonely is often the immediate emotional response to being alone. It is still a work in progress for myself and the very reason I’m writing this post. But I decided to write and voice the inner monologue I constantly have in my head rather than feel lonely. Being alone can be hard but being lonely is harder.
Now, this is the harder part to get through and although I primarily wrote this to stress the importance of learning to be alone it’s hard to do so without acknowledging what makes it so difficult. Again, this post has been nothing but opinions that I personally have on the subject and I have no evidence whatsoever to prove I am correct in what I say. However, I feel the reason we allow ourselves to feel lonely is because it is easier to do. Now, I also know there are people who are medically or clinically depressed and it’s not as easy as finding something better to do or look forward to, but I can not speak to or for those people, as I myself have never struggled with depression. I am not a medical professional nor am I someone who deals with medical depression. I have however dealt with being lonely though and understand that allowing myself to feel that way is easier than finding something good about my day. I hope this can encourage, again, that change in mindset in those individuals who do deal with those thoughts. Now there are two sides to this but as I write about it one side seems very insignificant but in order to be unbiased I will talk about it. It could be argued that feeling loneliness is a good thing as it will allow you to appreciate the feeling of having people around. Personally though, I don’t see that as true because most of the time we know what it’s like to have people around all the time and missing human interaction isn’t all feeling lonely is.
On the flip side, feeling worse about something is easier than finding something good, in almost every situation. It requires less energy but in the long run is much more taxing on us in every way. To find a silver lining in loneliness or even sadness can be one of the most difficult things people have to experience in life. It requires out of the box thinking at times and for us to push aside our immediate feelings to move onto something better that may not be immediately clear or present. But as I said, finding something better to do and feel, will strengthen you more than anything else in the world. Finding strength in yourself and being your own savior is sometimes all you really need. We are around people the minute we come into this world and we end up depending on them more than we should. We get accustom to having that comfort of someone always being there for us that it rarely allows us the opportunity to stand on our own two feet as an individual. We are all stronger than we give ourselves credit for and can choose what is best for ourselves everyday. People will not always agree and that in itself is why being alone and learning to be at peace with being alone is a lesson worth learning. It will not be easy and often times you will fail but the things worth doing are never easy and you fail to one day succeed.
So I strongly encourage you, whenever you feel loneliness or whenever your are alone think of something that you never get to do for yourself. Better yet, think of something that others don’t typically want to do with you. Maybe trying out a new restaurant isn’t something your best friend wanted to do, go without them. Maybe your significant other didn’t want to go see the new RomCom that came out, see it without them. You don’t need people to experience all of the great things life has to offer. Can people make it better? Sure, but to have someone else tell your story instead of you is crazy. Live a life outside of the people in it, and when you do, share it with everyone!