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Loneliness is something felt by everybody at some point in their lives, regardless of orientation, marital status or the number of partners you have or have had before. That sinking sense that you’ll die alone, nibbled by a pack of cats, can come to a person of any level of wealth or education, any race or ethnicity, or any age.
Being social creatures, loneliness can have a devastating impact on us. It may seem that social networks, dating tools like Cupid and Grindr, and today’s jetset lifestyle give us so many opportunities to find new friends and acquaintances, that finding love affairs or potential wives and husbands, should be easy . . . But why then are so many of us lonely?
A strange paradox of modern life is that people feel lonelier (and they feel it more often) now than they did 20 years ago. With so many ways to connect, there are even more ways to feel disconnected too.
I experienced the worst loneliness of my own life last spring. It was accompanied by depression and social isolation. As a writer, it was too easy for me to retreat to my study and shut people out. It was only when I began to focus on what I needed, and then became happier with myself, that I was able to reconnect with others and find meaningful relationships again.
For the benefit of those of you like me struggling with loneliness, I would like to share my story of struggling with loneliness. If it can guide you through that darkness, even just a little, then I’ve done my job.
Online Dating Phase
Throughout my loneliness, I never stopped with the usual suspects: Tinder, Badoo and Hornet. And, of course, the big yellow ski-masked stalker app (since when did Jason Vorhees become the face of online same-sex cruising anyway?). Dating sites get millions of single people together – even if just for a few snatched moments. So why not for me?
When you feel alone, you think there must, somewhere on this miserable planet, be at least one person who will be able to understand you, share your emotions and put an end to your loneliness.
In fact, I met a lot of great people online, though that didn’t improve my situation because at the time I didn’t realise that first before flinging myself headlong into online dating I need to restore my internal balance. To be frank, I was desperate, needy and unhappy, and I needed to get my own house in order before I invited anyone to move in – or even just stay in the spare room for a while.
Getting laid online wasn’t an issue. But I still felt lonely. When I tried to make deeper connections, people ran a mile. I wasn’t putting out the right signals because I wasn’t there yet. You have to be ready to leave your crap behind before you can move into your future.
I understood the simple truth. I felt ashamed of my loneliness. I felt my desperation would be a turn-off. It seemed like a catch-22 situation.
The first step towards healing is accepting all the diverse parts of your personality and what makes you who you are, and not judging them. Feeling lonely and depressed is normal, and that does not mean that you are worse than others. Having flaws is normal too. Love doesn’t come to you because you’re lonely and need to be rescued. It flows to you because it flows out of you.
It’s true what they say: how can you expect someone else to love you if you don’t love yourself?
Looking for the light at the end of the tunnel
Loneliness is a warning sign from our mind. It’s a signal telling you there’s something wrong with the social connections you have – it’s a call to action to fix them up as soon as possible. Being part of a social group is an essential condition of surviving in the wild – and even though we’ve left the trees, we make human settlements to keep us together. That’s why it is so important for us, as social creatures, to stay in touch.
It was time to undertake measures instead of being unhappy all the time. My way was not innovative, though it was effective for me. Before looking for new relationships to address my loneliness, I tried my best to be comfortable with myself, to shift the focus from my personality flaws to doing the things I enjoyed, to find hobbies and purpose to live for, and to figure out which of my existing relationships weren’t working for me.
I engaged in volunteering activities, enrolled in new educational courses and spent more time with family and those friends who made me feel good about myself. During this phase, some fair-weather friends told me I’d changed and was being selfish. They drifted away as I reinvested my energy in those people who understood my journey and supported me it. Cutting out all the toxic people in my life and taking a few months to really just focus on the things I wanted to do, helped me re-prioritise. I enjoyed saying no to all the things I would have previously felt obliged to do, but which would have left me feeling tired and resentful.
Ironically, seeing fewer people and turning down invitations helped me feel more confident than trying to please lots of people ever had. I began to see that I had been doing a lot of what other people expected of me, and as a result had begun to feel I’d lost myself.
My loneliness was estrangement from myself. I felt people didn’t understand me because I didn’t let them see the real me.
Once I began to feel myself again, I made some new friends, strengthened relationships with old friends (many of them commenting on my improved mood and personality), and met the love off my life on Cupid Dating (yes, I went back to online dating – and my improved mindset meant I was able to express and find exactly what I wanted).