Loneliness is difficult to confess because it preys on you during your weakest moments.
It distorts your view of reality and isolates you from everyone else. The lonelier you feel, the easier it is to continue feeling that way. It makes you less prone to reach out to others, because how could anyone else truly understand how you’re feeling?
But what we need to internalize is that many others are also experiencing the same thing right now, at varying degrees – and I need to emphasize the idea of experiencing this feeling together, because there is something healing about knowing that we are not alone in our aloneness.
We are naturally drawn to sharing the highlights of our lives, yet consuming this type of content often make us feel worse about ourselves. When we see others doing meaningful things, we question why we are not as happy ourselves. It makes us feel like we’re not doing enough, like something is… wrong with us. We all know that we hide behind filtered selves on social media – yet we fail to register that when we click on our friends’ highlights. We internalize their lives through those filtered lenses, despondent about why our lives are not as vibrant.
If we look at the happiest countries in the world, they also have some of the highest suicide rates. Why is that? We can hypothesize that when those who are “less happy” look around them and see everyone else “more happy,” they end up feeling even more alone and depressed in their feelings. Their surrounding environment becomes the filtered lens through which they compare themselves to, making it harder for them to get through their personal suffering. But when we break that barrier, when we acknowledge and share our negative feelings, we provide a kinship to those who feel the same, and actually make these feelings more bearable.
This is because the one cure to loneliness is connection, even if you’re as introverted as I am.
We need to feel a connection to others, even in our aloneness, so we feel reassured – or validated, even – in the tumult of our feelings. Forming relationships is part of being human and the key to our collective survival. Having just one person to listen, validate and empathize with us is all we need to get through your toughest times.
Personally, I find immense meaning in the few close relationships that I have. As much as I would love to be completely self-reliant, I would just be trying to defy nature. The few relationships that I have are crucial, necessary, for my continuous self-growth.
I also find the occasional interactions with other people surprisingly… rewarding. The freshness of having unattached conversations with strangers often leave me with a feeling of freshness, as if the interaction provided me a new way to perceive myself.
In times when you are truly alone, I encourage you to seek out connection in some way or another. During my lowest moments, I would go on sites like 7 cups and let out my cries of help to strangers. Fortunately, the strangers I encountered were kind, empathizing with my frustrations because they, too, were dealing with their own personal traumas. The connection that we made based on our shared pain for some trauma in our lives was enough to make those times a little bearable.
You can also sign up as a listener or volunteer for your local crisis text line, which I think can be incredibly humbling. When you become of service to others, the benefits that you reap from the experience surpass the benefits of those who receive it. We derive happiness not from how much we get, but from how much we give to others.
Putting yourself in a role where your energy is concentrated on what others are going through is oftentimes what we need to get out of our own heads.
So, if you’re feeling lonely, I encourage you to be a listener. You will not only help someone feel listened to and understood in their struggles. You will also be able to detach from the intensity of your emotions, and put them into perspective.
A more solitary but immensely healing thing to do is to lose yourself in a fiction book. It’s also called bibliotherapy, the art of using books to help you solve personal issues. It’s just like binge watching a TV show – except that you won’t feel crap about yourself afterwards. You will actually feel great – because since when isn’t finishing a book an accomplishment?
Reading forces you to not just empathize but also become the characters themselves, jubilant in the protagonist’s triumphs and crushed by their sorrows.
Books help you put your own life – and struggles – into perspective. They detach you from your own body, and reattach you back again with a different perspective on how to approach your own life.
Our imagination is also wilder than any film or TV show produced out there, and books allow us to unleash that world. Some of the books that completely destroyed me and built me back up again are the following:
- Educated by Tara Westover, a must-read.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, a soul-crushing, romantic tragedy.
- City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, the post-WWII historical fiction novel set in New York that feels oddly parallel to our current situation.
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a monumental, star-crossed love story. Perhaps the greatest in history.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, for when you don’t think you can continue any longer.
A few years ago, I got rejected from college and found myself in a gap year, feeling lost, crushed and directionless. I decided to find connection by creating an audience for myself. I started my blog during this time, because I needed an outlet to vent my frustrations, my loneliness. I was already writing daily on my journal, but I wanted to share some of those thoughts. I had virtually no audience, but imagining I had one in my mind somehow validated my conflicted thoughts.
The last thing I need you to do, which is also the hardest, is to embrace the discomfort of loneliness. Embrace the discomfort, so you can grow comfortable being alone without feeling lonely. No matter how many friends and connections we have, we will find ourselves alone at the end of the day. And when we do, I need you to know that loneliness is an impermanent feeling, just like all others. It need not define who we are.
If you can embrace the impermanence of life, you will start to rely less on those cravings and those uncomfortable feelings – because they are not part of you.
One of the reasons I am embracing minimalism so much is because it teaches you the impermanence of things. The loneliness you are experiencing now is nothing but a fleeting feeling, one that does not dictate the course of your life. So when you’re feeling lonely, use that energy and channel it towards honing your craft and building your passion.
I am with you in your struggles with loneliness. I know how isolating, how frustrating, how utterly debilitating it can feel, but I am with you in working towards acknowledging the fleetingness of our emotions and not letting that deter us from living our best life. Because, alone or not, life can be pretty freaking great.