There is one word that singles dare not speak out into the universe.
There’s something about being strong, independent singles that makes us averse to using this word.
I watch us all actively avoid it. We keep ourselves busy and we present this façade to the world that we’re doing just fine on our own. And on the one hand, we are doing just fine. On the other, we dance around ever using that dreaded word:
We are sometimes lonely.
Why do we do this? Why can’t we admit that sometimes we feel deeply, shockingly, incredibly alone?
“The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” -Charlotte Bronte
First of all, there’s a stigma to being lonely.
If we admit that we’re lonely, we’re afraid that others will feel sorry for us or pity our lives. We think it makes us seem desperate to admit to this basic human emotion. Or worse, needy. We don’t want people to think that we are reliant on anyone or anything. We want to give this impression that we are self-sufficient and able to take on the world.
Secondly, if we admit to being lonely, we’re opening ourselves up to an avalanche of advice on how not to feel lonely anymore. How to date correctly. Where to meet other singles. The kind of singles we should meet. How we should work on ourselves. How we should get a makeover. How we should learn to love being alone. How we should do online dating or not do online dating. How we should meet this single friend. Stop being so picky. Lower our standards. Raise our standards. Just give it time. Pray about it. Just be patient.
We’ve heard it all before, and admitting loneliness opens up the door to all of that and more. Also, if we admit we’re lonely, we’re going to have people who are made uncomfortable by it who will try to convince us that we’re not actually lonely. Or how we should enjoy our single time. Or how we should get a hobby and focus on something else. They’ll deflect us because it makes them deeply uncomfortable, particularly if we make it clear that we’re not looking for advice or a blind date.
But the truth is that when we’re not in relationships, we do get lonely. Sometimes it feels like we always will be. And it’s hard to walk around this elephant in the room because it makes us and other people feel uncomfortable and because it has this huge awful stigma attached to it.
The truth is that even in relationships we can feel deeply lonely, but no one wants to talk about it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been practicing being very raw, open and vulnerable. I’ve been trying to speak my truth in hopes of encouraging others.
The truth is that right now, I am lonely.
It can be overwhelming. It can seem like the darkest place, particularly because I’ve felt this way for a very long time. From the outside looking in, it may seem that I left one long-term relationship and immediately need another. But the truth of that relationship is that I was alone in it for a very long time. I get tired of feeling this way, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to compromise my standards or settle for less than what I want.
Many of us will reach a point in our lives where we truly love ourselves. We’re confident and body-positive and able to create meaningful, joyful lives. When we reach this place, we’re unwilling to add anyone else to the mix who doesn’t add value to those lives. We want someone who makes our lives better, not someone who adds anxiety, uncertainty or conflict.
Still. Even as confident individuals, we do experience loneliness that can be so sharp it steals our breath.
This doesn’t mean that we’re not strong or independent. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with us. In fact, sometimes we’ve been strong for so long that we just can’t do it any longer. We get to break down and then heal before we put the weight of the world and doing all of this on our own back on our capable shoulders.
Sometimes this starts with admitting that we’re lonely.
The website Love Again is trying to take the stigma out of loneliness with a campaign called #LonelinessFeelsLike. This campaign seeks to reach out and educate people about loneliness and to provide resources to help people feel less alone. Instead of making this word and feeling taboo, they’re hoping that talking about it and allowing others to openly share their experiences will help to reduce the stigma and also to help people feel less lonely.
It’s an interesting campaign, particularly when we consider how loneliness plays a role in anxiety, depression, overall health and suicide. In order to be healthier, stronger individuals, we need to be able to utilize resources to feel less alone, and it’s difficult to do that when we have trouble even admitting our loneliness. Breaking that stigma means that we have to get comfortable being vulnerable and admitting how we feel.
In my experience, when we share our raw, true experiences, we are rewarded with other people opening up about their own. It creates an atmosphere of safety and compassion when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Simply sharing the struggle can help us feel less alone in it.
We don’t have to keep avoiding it. That dreaded word. It’s okay to admit it. We’re lonely. It’s normal. It’s human. It’s something that everyone, coupled or single, can relate to in some way. We’re still strong. Still powerful. Still independent.
But we’re also lonely, and it’s okay to share that.
In fact, the very nature of sharing decreases our sense of being alone, particularly when others reach out to support us.
Let’s take the stigma out of the word and speak our truth.
It’s tough out there, but the truth is that we’re really not alone.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Megan Leetz/Flickr
Volunteer Editor: Pavita Singh/Editor: Travis May