Being Alone vs. Loneliness
Today is my birthday (originally written and recorded back in April 2020 at the height of Corona quarantine)! Although birthdays are everyone’s time to celebrate their uniqueness and share their joy with friends and family, in this weird year 2020 probably most of us were or will be forced to have a very slimmed down version of this very special day. Or perhaps many of us will be forced to celebrate it by ourselves. In this situation I think it’s fair enough to think about the difference between being alone and feeling lonely and how to overcome real loneliness. Let me explain.
Difference between loneliness and being alone
When forced to choose between feeling lonely and feeling alone, of course you should choose the former. That's because loneliness is an illusion. People are social creatures, so we want to be together with other people. It’s in togetherness where our strength lies. Together we are all one big human family. Even introvert people need other people to rely on and to feel appreciated. It’s understandable that no one wants to feel lonely, because loneliness is associated with negative feelings, with inner emptiness which is very uncomfortable to deal with.
However, being alone is just a physical fact of being by yourself in a room or some space. To claim I’m alone doesn’t have that negative connotation of emptiness or negativity. It’s just a plain description of facts.
During the quarantine time if you are by yourself, if you are alone, please do not feel lonely. That's because you are never lonely! Loneliness is an inner attitude, a wrong perception of things. People might not have many friends, they might not have a big family and yes, friends are sometimes not very reliable - but you are never really alone in terms of absolutely lonely. There’s always someone who loves you and I want you to focus on that and never ever forget it.
the nature of loneliness
Loneliness is a mental state. There are many people who love to be by themselves, to work by themselves, or who are just very introvert. And they might be totally happy with being alone. Why? Because they enjoy it. In this case they are alone but without feeling lonely.
Loneliness is the mind thinking that there’s no one there who cares about you and I can assure you this isn’t the case. Yes, people run around and are busy with their own lives. But let me assure you, if each of the strangers on the street could read your thoughts and really feel what you’re going through, they wouldn’t ignore you just like that. They would be nicer to you than you think.
It’s often us who don’t communicate clearly and aren’t courageous enough to say how we feel. And then we wonder why people misunderstand us and we blame everything on the external causes, instead of looking inside ourselves and check our own attitudes and thoughts. If you don’t do a bit of internal introspection, then projecting your faults on others is the quickest way to self-imposed isolation and ultimately illusory loneliness.
You are never alone! Remember that.
inner separation from others
Let me use my birthday to claim this one most important thing: loneliness comes from an inner place of weakness. We all want to grab other people’s attention (I’m probably the wrong person to say that as I do seek attention a lot, but mainly for marketing reasons), we all want to get from relations with other people a lot and expect others to understand us.
We easily make fun of others who look different, are not the way we are and who think and speak differently… Somehow many people have this weird expectation that they are very reasonable and normal and correct, and others are quirky and wrong.
That’s the quickest way to separation and isolation and you don’t want that. If you think this way, then you come from a place of separation, from a place of weakness. You want to absorb people’s attention to feel yourself better while making others down - once again: that’s the quickest way to separation and loneliness, because loneliness is at the end of the day the feeling of separation.
be pro-active in your mental attitude
All I’m trying to convey is this: don’t come from this place of inner weakness where you try to grab people’s energy so that you can elevate yourself from your poor little self. That won’t work in the long term and you’ll end up disenchanted. Instead, make yourself independent of expectations and behaviours of others, and try to contribute to other people’s wellbeing instead of expecting that others should contribute to your wellbeing first.
Do you get that? Do you understand what I mean? I repeat again: you have to make the first step by contributing to other people’s wellbeing everyday without expecting anything in return. That will make you independent of other people’s moods, opinions and you will notice that the little gestures of service every day will make you feel stronger with every little attempt. This is a slow progression, and personal growth takes time. Actually, it takes the whole life to be self-determined and emotionally capable.
Please come from a place of inner fullness by spreading your fullness with other people, by giving joy without expecting joy, by giving fun without expecting fun, by smiling at people without expecting them to smile back, by asking first without expecting to get an answer. That’s real inner independence and real strength. Such a person will never feel lonely, because everyday there’s just so much to do and you won’t have time to think about your presumed loneliness and your own mental delusions.
Practical steps to overcome loneliness
At the end of the day you need to know that although loneliness is an illusion, it can and always have a very strong and deep impact on the person experiencing it. There’s always a phase in life when you have to go through some kind of crisis, maybe an identity crisis, maybe an existential crisis, or maybe a crisis of change… and this might often be followed by the feelings of loneliness. Although loneliness is an illusion, it is a very powerful one and to the person experiencing it this feels totally real.
It’s important that out of an illusionary crisis personal growth can arise. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but you need to go through the tunnel to reach the exit. If you continue dwelling on your faults and playing the blaming games, you’re just staying in the tunnel for much longer than needed instead of moving towards the light as quickly as possible. Whatever the state you feel in, whatever the life situation you’re in, I want you to ask yourself this one big question: who am I in relation to the situation and how do I want to react to it? Remember, it’s a choice you make consciously.
Yes, you might feel down, you might feel unsure and you might hesitate and feel overwhelmed. But also remember you’re not your feelings. Feelings is something that you experience, it’s not something that you are. You are the ever existing focus of consciousness that makes decisions and not what you feel so superficially on an impermanent basis.
Shift in perception
Having said all that, please make the best out of your life situation. Remember to make conscious choices, have resolutions and motivational thoughts, whatever works for you. Don’t yield to the situation as it is playing a victim of life circumstances. Try to be the master of your happiness and dramas.
With such a constructive attitude you won’t have the energy left to feel lonely. You’ll just acknowledge that you’re by yourself, and your shift in perception will make you focus on all the few lovely people and friends and family who are only just one video call away from you. You might be alone right now, but you’re never lonely. Unless you’ll decide to feel that way.
I hope you found that useful and uplifting and motivational. I wish you a wonderful day.