Alone vs Loneliness: The Path to Self-Love.

A few years back, I made a comment to my mother about feeling alone. I had been single for a number of years. And even though I was actively engaged in raising my two children alone, completing my Master’s degree, and then starting my private practice, I
still had moments when I felt alone.

My mother’s response, “Everyone feels alone at times, even when they are in a relationship.”

Hmmm! I had to ponder that response.

My parents 56th wedding anniversary was on June 22. They’re high school sweethearts that have endured the ups and downs of life and are still very much in love.

Just the other day, I took my children for a visit. We watched my mom tease my dad. Without hesitation, my dad chased my mother around the kitchen island like two young, love-sick teenagers.

Wouldn’t you think that a relationship like that is the ultimate cure to loneliness?

Disney and the Hallmark Channel are just two entertainment empires that have brainwashed us into thinking that a loving relationship is the antidote to loneliness.

Unfortunately, that just isn’t so.

What is Loneliness?

I did a YouTube search on the topic of loneliness. In a video titled Loneliness, I found 11,000 people had liked the following comment. 

“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

Robin Williams

That’s a lot of people ‘liking’ a common sentiment. 

So, what is this thing called loneliness that leaves us so destitute in pain and suffering? What is it about other people that can make us feel alone? 

Based on all the deep work that I do with individuals, here is how I define loneliness. 

Alone: The state you need to be in to grow, mature, and connect to yourself. 

Loneliness: A feeling of disconnection from those around you. 

We are pack creatures. That means that we feel security in feeling connected to the people around us. 

This has worked for many years and many cultures. Looking out for each other and sharing in survival duties provided safety and protection from dangers. 

Now-a-days, merely having people around is not enough to protect you, especially emotionally. 

The majority of the loneliness comments that I read on YouTube are about individuals wishing they had someone there to listen. To have someone that can hear your pain and just be there for you. 

Indeed, we do need someone there for us to feel supported. But where this goes awry is wishing we had someone there to help take the pain away. 

You see, there is pain inside each of us. I won’t get into why I think it’s there, or how I think it got there, but there’s pain. 

Negative self-reflection stems from pains that live inside of us. Have you ever thought, “No one will like me!”, “I’m a failure!”, “I’m worthless!”, “I’m not good enough!”. 

If it wasn’t painful, we wouldn’t be thinking the thoughts were negative. 

The bad news? No one can take this pain away for you. When we seek closeness with others to take this pain away, it won’t ever fully work. Because the person that is meant to do that for you is…You! 

If you look deeply into the words of Robin Williams, you can see the clues. Being with people who “make you feel alone”? It’s a reminder of the pain that comes from interactions with others that accentuates the pain. Especially when we hope that connections with others may be the answer to minimize our pain, not magnify it. 

If the answer is not in the people that we surround ourself with, then how do we get rid of the pain?

Why You Need To Be Alone

Here’s the good news. 

Being alone is the space where you truly find yourself. Where you learn to love and accept yourself. And you do this by meeting your pain head on. 

This is where self-love becomes more than just positive affirmations. You know, the kind you repeat to yourself on a daily basis, then hope that one day these delightful mantras will become automatic for you. 

When you are alone and those awful feelings come up, this is the gift to connect to yourself on a very deep level. The craving we have to connect with others can never fully be felt or satiated until you have connected to yourself deep within. 

You’re actually the source of the love that you’ve been craving. That love is buried deep within you, under years of misunderstanding. 

The uncomfortable feelings that are accompanied by negative thoughts are just old programming. When you were a child, you could not adequately make sense of your interactions with the world. So, when you got in trouble, or your parent had a bad day, or someone was not as excited about your behaviour as you were, it felt like a reprimand or rejection. 

That was negative. It didn’t feel good. So your body stored that inside of you. Your mind wants to protect you from pain. So now, it gets triggered. That’s why you spend more time thinking about all the reasons no one wants to be around you. 

But that’s old garbage. Being with the emotion and showing that it doesn’t have power over you anymore is when you grow. Tolerating the discomfort, validating the pain, and providing evidence that you are not little anymore are all ways to heal from the past and start to live now. 

You have to be there for you first. This is where strength begins. And once you feel that, and know that you don’t answer to anyone anymore except for yourself, you begin to feel connected to you. 

There is a caveat, however. You do need someone there for you as a rock. Not a person to hear all your pain with the hope that this will make you feel better. But instead, knowing someone will be there for you while you work through the pain. Someone that can be strong for you while you work through your own stuff. This can be a family member, a friend, a therapist, or even a crisis support line worker. 

We usually seek others to share some of the burden. Someone that will listen, but also carry some of the weight of our pain. But no one is meant to do that for you. You have to do that for yourself. 

The pain is there to grow you. We grow by being with our own emotional space. I really think the core of our power lies in being with and working through the emotion that is within us. And what is more powerful than truly, deeply feeling a love for yourself? 

Are you comfortable being alone with yourself? Comment yes, or no below.

Loneliness (February 17, 2019). Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell