Love and relationships have been on my mind lately, and maybe it’s because February brought with her all the hearts, chocolate, pink glitter, red balloons, and a reminder that despite all the bad in the world love still exists.
I’ve been inspired to take a deep dive into love and as I’ve been exploring what it means to love others, myself, and two people who are attracted to each other, I’ve found myself thinking:
“Well, okay, but what happens if “this” doesn’t happen for me?”
This being a relationship.
Why would I be concerned about that?
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned per say, but there are a lot of people my age dating, and I’m not, which is fine, but I can’t help but wonder. What if–what if I never find someone to love me? What if I’m alone forever (in the romantic sense)? And if I am, could I be happy single and alone?
Maybe you’ve wrestled with the same question as you watch your friends get dates, fall in love, learn how to balance a relationship and life, but you are just—vibing in the corner doing your own thing. Maybe you wonder if love is broken for you or even if you want to be in a relationship at all.
Regardless of where you are on that spectrum, I think there is something important to be learned whether we are in a relationship or not and that is: the art of being alone but never lonely.
“Single is not a status. It is a word that describes a person who is strong enough to live and enjoy life without depending on others.” – Unknown
The reality is if we can’t learn to love and cherish ourselves when we’re not in a relationship, how are we going to love, cherish, and enjoy being with someone else?
In my quest to learn more about love and all its complexities, I’ve come to a few realizations about being single and what we can learn from it.
Lonely vs. ALone
I didn’t realize that there was an actual difference between being alone and feeling lonely. I’ve listed the difference below so you can take a look between the two yourself:
- is a feeling
- is a state of mind
- is a physical state
- is a state of being
While Lonely and Alone often come as a packaged deal, there is a difference in how they are felt and how we perceive them.
You can often be:
- Alone and Lonely
- Lonely and not Alone
- Not Alone and Not Lonely
- Alone and Not Lonely.
When I was younger, I fell most often into the category of Lonely and Not Alone which is quite a paradox to the thirteen-year-old brain, but as I’ve worked on myself and my “okay-ness” with being alone, I find myself drifting more towards the Alone and Not Lonely category.
“Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people—it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else.” Johann Hari, Lost Connections
Feeling lonely can often show up as:
- Not feeling seen or heard
- Feeling empty
- Not feeling accepted
- Feeling unsupported
- Feeling like there’s something–missing
Looking back on my loneliness, I’m beginning to realize that these feelings of being unsupported, emptiness, and not feeling heard, stem from me not accepting, hearing, or supporting myself.
I know, mind-boggling isn’t it?
So, to “fix” the feelings, I made friends, piled on work, read, and practiced many and all distraction techniques possible in an attempt to squelch those unpleasant emotions. I looked outside of myself instead of inside and away from God to make myself feel better, and avoid coming back to the source of my problems.
Know It’s All Temporary—And If It’s Not, Know It Will Be Okay
I don’t like feeling my feelings, and will do everything and anything to avoid confrontation with myself until everything I’ve stuffed away overboils, and I’m left standing in the wreckage of my own design wondering, “Well Lord, where did it all go wrong?”
It all went wrong when I stopped expressing emotion and turned to suppress it instead, and it became painfully clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to sustain living like that for long, and after the advice of many loving people in my life and a lot of prayer and wrestling with God, I decided upon a “ground-breaking” discovery:
Why not feel all the feelings and see what I find lurking in their depths?
It was not easy or fun, and very stripping in the sense that it forced me to become vulnerable and honest with myself. Despite the pain of the work, I knew if I couldn’t sit in silence with myself and know who I really was…..how could I ask someone to love that? To love someone who couldn’t be honest with herself–let alone them, would never work.
So, I felt every feeling and I still continue to try and do so today. It’s not easy, and I don’t enjoy it all the time, but it’s—it’s healthy. You can only run so far from yourself, but you can’t truly become free without going back to the very beginning.
Imagine yourself on a deserted island, but by my rules you can bring nothing but yourself. Would you be able to sit in silence with your thoughts? Could you entertain yourself without needing someone there with you? Could you dig deep and find the will to survive alone?
If one can do those things, that’s pretty cool, right? You wouldn’t have to constantly live in the fear of being alone. The fear of silence. The fear…of yourself. The fear of the unknown that lives inside you.
But what does befriending yourself look like? It looks like getting to know yourself again. All too often, we believe the lies that we are fed by society and we change ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually to conform to them and in the process, lose who we are. In order to undo all of that, we have to unlearn old thought patterns and behaviors.
We have to—court ourselves if you will.
What do you like? What don’t you? Why? What makes you feel accomplished? What makes you feel alive? What are you passionate about? Discover. Learn. Try new things. Make room for new processes, ideas, and ideologies because the better friend we are to ourselves, the better we understand our needs. The better we can be for ourselves and understand what we need, we are then able to communicate those needs/wants to the people around us effectively and with less miscommunication.
Some questions I like to ask myself often whenever I am alone are:
- Who am I and what do I value in my core?
- What kind of person do I want to become?
- What kind of life do I want to live?
- What brings me the most joy?
- How can I better serve those around me?
My challenge for you is to find a quiet place and just sit in silence for a bit before attempting to answer these questions. Did you find anything that surprised you? If so, why, and if not, why do you think that is?
This is about getting to a place where you can enjoy your own company and reach a state of peace with yourself that can only come when you aren’t afraid of your thoughts.
You trust yourself.
Believe In Yourself
The stories you tell yourself will become your reality if you keep speaking them over and over again. Treat yourself gently and don’t allow yourself to become constrained by the lies you, others, and Satan have been feeding your heart. This is more abstract than the other tips above as there really aren’t any “actionable” tips I can give you to work off of as it’s unique to each individual. How I got there (and am still getting there) may not be how you’ll get there.
However, I do believe that God has set us in this world for a purpose and that He will equip and guide us through the process if we allow ourselves to be open to His will and the love He has for us.
Reframe Your Circumstances
Instead of feeling anxious and bothered by the fact that you are alone (aka don’t have a significant other), take a step back and reframe. What are some positives in this situation? Here are a few I came up with:
- Not having to socialize when you don’t feel like it
- It’s quiet
- More time to do the things you love
- No fighting over which show you want to watch next
- Space to focus and work on yourself
Instead of focusing all your attention on thoughts like, “I’m going to be single forever!” “Nobody loves me!” “I’m so lonely!”, redirect that energy and turn it into something positive. Make the most of this time by yourself, because this may be the only time you have to get to know who you are and by knowing who (and Whose) you are, you are making a better you.
Being alone can have its perks too, aye?
Understand What Triggers You
Are the photos on Instagram of the happy couples, the pics of friends smiling and laughing, and seeing people with the relationships that you want and that you desire, triggering a sense of loneliness and depression? However, you don’t really know what is going on in their lives.
People portray what they want you to see on social media and in real life, and they may have all the relationships they want and still feel lonely, depressed, anxious, fearful, angry, hurt, unseen, not heard, etc.. Relationships are not ever going to fix your problems or take away your emotional insecurities and if you ever go into one thinking they will, you are 100% wrong. If anything, relationships can amplify those problems.
Why? Because you don’t know yourself, don’t know your needs, how to communicate those needs clearly, and if you both aren’t healthy, you then fall into a cycle that is toxic for both of you.
So, if you find yourself feeling lonely because you spent the last hour scrolling Facebook and Instagram and now feel insignificant and like no one cares, that’s probably a sign you’ve found one of your “triggers” and should avoid doing that.
I could do a whole post about how to make your phone and social apps work FOR you not AGAINST you, and I might in the future, but for right now, take note of what makes you feel particularly lonely and then challenge those things.
Is it because you are listening to sad music? Binging too many rom-coms? Watching too much Kdrama (*coughs* not me *coughs*)? Many different things can bring out loneliness, and if you can identify those things ask yourself: Why? And keep asking that question until you really get to the root and heart of it.
Lonely But Never Alone
Vulnerability is the essence of connection and connection is the essence of existence. – Leo Christopher
This journey of self-discovery and learning to be okay single and alone doesn’t have to be done alone. You still have friends, family who will never leave you, and people willing to help you if you need it. The feelings, thoughts, and emotions that we have are all universal even though at times it feels like we are the only ones in the world struggling with X, Y, and Z. So don’t be afraid to open up to people and be vulnerable and honest, because they might have some tips to help and comfort you, or maybe even to just listen.
The most important relationship you will have in your entire life is the one between you and God, and the one between you and—you. You only have one body and one mind for the rest of your life, and if you can’t love and understand yourself, how in the world do you expect yourself to love, understand, be present, and vulnerable with someone else?
There is a quote I love that I think can wrap up this post perfectly, and it goes:
“One whose chief regard is for his own mind, and for the divinity within him, and the service of it’s goodness, will strike no poses, utter no complaints, and crave neither for solitude nor yet for a crowd. Best of all, his life will be free from the continual pursuing and avoiding.”
– Marucs Aurelius