If I hadn’t been to the TEDxGroningen event this fall and heard a talk by Gerine Lodder about this topic, I myself would have probably been too ashamed to write about it. In retrospect I ask myself why. Why is this very feeling – that everyone has dealt with before or encounters on a regular basis – one that most people are too ashamed to talk about?
I moved from Austria to the Netherlands at the end of August to study. I never had a problem with being on my own – I love spending time with my badass self, whether that’s going for lunch, coffee, a walk or shopping – I genuinely enjoy doing these things alone sometimes.
being alone ≠ being lonely
As Gerine Lodder accurately expresses in her TED Talk, being lonely is like being hungry. If you’re hungry, it’s your body telling you to eat. If you’re lonely, it’s your body telling you to connect with others. What was different, in my first 2 months in my new home, was that I didn’t have the POSSIBILITY to connect whenever I wanted. By that I mean I couldn’t call a friend and be like “let’s go grab food” or call my squad and spend a night gossiping or going out. Especially in my first few weeks I was surrounded by new people all the time on introduction and welcome days or weeks.
That’s the paradox of this feeling and what makes it so interesting. Look at the cover photo I chose for this blog post. This is often what we imagine in our heads when we think of someone who is lonely. Someone who is ON THEIR OWN, not part of something, or a group. However,
being surrounded by others ≠ not being lonely
Being surrounded by others doesn’t necessarily make you less lonely. It’s about the quality of the connections you make with others. You might only truly connect with one (like-minded) person, but that alone can make you less lonely.
So, we all know the feeling of lacking something in our social life, whether that is quality or quantity. We all have not only felt ALONE at some point of our lives, but LONELY. So why is it that we feel so ashamed of talking about it?
“Loneliness touches our core”, doesn’t it? It’s a feeling that hits you hard, it surprises you when you realise it because it is something you are not supposed to be.
The problem is, there is no one-size-fits-all cure to it. You can’t just intentionally (more or less) deeply connect with someone, because usually it happens unintentionally. You can make your best effort to meet more people just to find yourself at the end of the day even more exhausted, drained, and, well, lonely (as it happened to me!). I don’t have a solution on how to be less lonely. Cause loneliness is a damn broad topic. Loneliness can start in kindergarten and school (or even before!) and can be never ending – and everyone perceives it differently! I can’t tell you how to be less lonely – to be fair I don’t even know how I exactly got out of MY OWN loneliness last time I found myself feeling this way
What I DO want to get across is that you don’t have to be ashamed of it. What’s the point in that?
If you feel ashamed of it, TELL those you open up to that you do! If someone tells YOU that they are lonely, tell them they don’t have to be ashamed of it! Maybe the reason you are NOT opening up to ANYONE about it, IS because you’re ashamed of it. Well, acknowledging that is already a big step and only means you’re moving into the right direction!
The truth is, we have all felt this way before. Whether over a long period of time, or even just in some very short moments. The feeling hurts. A lot. The impact of it on our body and mind is severe. The feeling is brutal, even when just remembering it. But speaking from experience, burying it underneath your shame deep inside of you will make you feel even more lonely and isolated. Shame is not how we should respond to it. Openness is.
I believe most people would rather be impressed by you telling them about it, than judge you because of it.
Have a good week,
P.S. Here is the Ted Talk by Gerine Lodder at the TedXGroningen event!