The "I" in Loneliness
This is really hard for me to admit, to myself but also to others. Sitting here, staring at my cursor blink at me, no words seem to come out at first. Even now I’m finding myself awkwardly fumbling with words, writing in short stops and starts. But I think it’s likely often the hardest things to write that are the most important. So here it is: I am lonely. I am horribly and desperately lonely and oh god, it hurts beyond belief.
I don’t like feeling this way, and I certainly don’t like admitting how I’m feeling because this past year I’ve been doing so well. Almost a year ago, I was broken up with by someone extremely important to me. It was maybe the hardest thing I’d ever gone through to lose someone I thought was “The One.”
I already wrote about the breakup a while ago in “Healing after a Breakup.” That breakup was extraordinarily hard to get through, especially at first, but eventually, I slowly began to piece my heart back together and heal. There was plenty of grief and crying and wondering how I would go on without him. But days passed and turned to weeks, which turned to months, and I was feeling better than I ever had. I learned so much about myself through grieving the loss of that relationship not least of all my resilience. I am a different person now than I was one year ago when I was broken up with, and I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned and the amazing happiness I’ve experienced in this past year.
So what happened? Why am I feeling so lonely now?
Ever since the breakup, I have been on a self-help kick: meditating, mindfulness, yoga, journaling, writing, baking, coloring and painting, and of course lots and lots of music. Trying new things and realizing I loved them and falling back on things I had loved in the past but hadn’t made time for. I discovered new things about myself and wrote honestly and blasted songs like the masterpiece “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor who declared, “I don’t need nobody else” and realized I, like Meghan Trainor, didn’t need nobody else.
Except I made a mistake somewhere along the way, and it’s taken me a really long time to realize it. Individuality is a really big thing in our society and that includes the idea of not needing anyone else. And I bought into that for a long time, I truly believed I didn’t need anyone else and that I should be 100% happy and loving myself without the help of a partner.
Self-love is extremely important and realizing your own worth is a prerequisite for any healthy relationship. And the idea that you don’t need anyone else may seem like a revolutionary declaration of self-love. In some ways it is, but in other ways, I’ve come to realize how problematic and counterproductive this idea can be if taken too seriously.
And I definitely took it too seriously.
Throughout this past year, I have downloaded and promptly deleted Tinder approximately 1,000 times. Each time I felt so guilty after, thinking I wasn’t living up to my own ideals. I didn’t need anyone else, so why was I searching for validation from strangers online? I have felt profound loneliness and pushed it down and repressed it each time it popped up. I thought the fact that I was feeling lonely was a character flaw, a sign that I had more work to do on loving myself. I thought that once I fully loved myself and accepted myself I would be perfectly happy by myself and not long for anything else.
So after a few hours or days of empty conversation with people I would never meet, I would always delete Tinder feeling worse than I had before I downloaded it. And loneliness would inevitably rear its ugly head again and I would crawl right back to the App Store and the cycle would repeat itself. A year of this has tired me out and made me disillusioned of dating apps and left me lonelier than ever before.
How did this happen? I was supposed to be a badass feminist career-focused woman, running around from one important thing to the next, completely self-sufficient and getting everything I need from myself. Was I a bad feminist to keep craving the love of a man? Did I have to self reflect more, unlearn the idea that I needed love to be happy? I thought if I just loved myself enough, I wouldn’t want for anyone else. I thought loving yourself meant not needing partnership, romance, and intimacy from someone else in order to be happy.
The loneliness never went away though, if anything it just grew stronger with each passing night sleeping alone. And I realized only recently this “I don’t need nobody else” attitude is kind of bullshit. I was feeling bad this entire time for an entirely human emotion: loneliness. There’s no way to unlearn a need of people because I’m human, and even if there was a way I wouldn’t want to.
The truth is that I love love. I love cheesy romcoms and want to get married and have a happily ever after with lots of dogs and cats with someone. And no, that doesn’t make me a bad feminist or mean I don’t love myself enough. It means I’m a human, and I can drown in love for myself, but it will never take away the fact that I also need other people.
You don’t need to deny yourself of your feelings and your basic human wants. Don’t let your strive for individuality cut off human connections that we need to thrive. It’s okay to want, it’s okay to long for love. Don’t be so caught up in positivity and self-love that you stifle emotions that are trying to tell you something. You don’t need to repress your feelings and feel flawed for not being happy all of the time by yourself. It just means your human. Connection and love are two of the most beautiful things and you don’t need to deny yourself that. Sure, love yourself and take care of yourself and all that good stuff.
That’s all super important. But don’t get so caught up that you forget the importance of other people and of love. Be a badass career-driven feminist who watches romcoms and daydreams about princes riding in on white horses and falling in love. You can have both. You don’t need to sacrifice parts of yourself to love yourself, that wouldn’t make much sense! Learn to accept every aspect of yourself. Your feelings, as much as you might want to shove them down and bury them, might be trying to tell you something. Listen to them, let them speak. You don’t need to be perfect and self-sufficient. I’ve learned that I need to love and be loved and that’s a scary and beautiful thing and I need to embrace that. And you can embrace the parts of you that might be hard to accept or love, and I promise you’ll feel much more whole for it.
Image credit: healthlibrary.in