Feeling alone isn’t all bad. Sometimes, in fact, it’s very good.
I used to go out to the edge of the yard where we had a tire swing hanging from a huge old oak tree. It felt far away from everyone, and I would swing and make up songs for hours. It seemed like hours, all alone, the lift and fall of the swing, the almost dizzy feeling, the disconnect, and the singing.
One day I heard our sweet old neighbor tell my Mom, “I just love hearing Annie sing her little songs out there in the swing….”
I wasn’t alone. I was heard, and seen, and what I thought was private was in full view and hearing of a neighbor I barely knew. I felt violated, embarrassed, even ashamed.
I remember the next day I went back out to the swing and just kind of sat there. I knew I wasn’t alone, and I was stuck in that knowledge, stuck in self-consciousness, stuck in awareness.
It took me five minutes or so before I decided that being embarrassed was worth the feeling of singing, swinging, and being myself. I decided to pretend I was alone, and pretty soon I felt alone again, and I was free.
When Feeling Alone Doesn’t Make You Feel Good
Most of us don’t appreciate the feeling of aloneness. True?
Or perhaps we appreciate it when we choose it, at certain times when we crave solitude. The other day I told my husband I was going to start getting up at 5am again.
“Maybe I’ll join you,” he said. I smiled. And said Absolutely Not.
I need to be alone sometimes, even if just alone in a separate room, or alone because I’m the only one awake, or alone in my own thoughts while others are busy with theirs.
But I don’t want to feel alone as a way of life. I don’t want to feel misunderstood, isolated, or ostracized.
Alone can be healing, or alone can be hurting. So much depends on the situation, your own frame of mind, and – most of all – your own response.
What feeling alone can do for you
Wanted or unwanted, the feeling of aloneness can still help us be more creative.
The feeling of being alone is not the same as reality, but the feeling is often more powerful.
Feeling alone, but learning to be objective enough to contrast our feeling with the reality, helps us to see that disconnect. And that disconnect (between feeling and reality) exists a lot more often than we tend to notice. It’s good to be able to separate feelings a bit, to see them as fuzzy and incoherent as they sometimes are.
- Feeling alone can force you to find your own motivation. Groups are powerful, and we often latch onto ideas or activities because the group does. When you don’t feel like you’re part of the group, you have to go inward. What really motivates you? Find out when you’re alone, and you’ll be more valuable, individual, and interesting when you’re not alone.
- Feeling alone can prepare you for leadership. Ask any leader if they ever feel isolated, misunderstood, or rejected. The larger the group or organization you have to lead, the more likely you’ll feel alone as a leader. Leaders have to stand out in order to lead.
- Feeling alone can help you make a big change that you need to make but have been avoiding. People distract us. Conversations distract us. Stuff, activities, movies, text messages, every little thing online, it all adds up to a mess of distraction. If we want to avoid truths that need our attention, all that noise helps. So when the noise stills, and you sit, and feel yourself alone and quiet, squeeze up the courage to let the truths speak. Staying the same is never the answer. Moving forward, growing, doing the hard thing: those are often the answer. Feel alone, and feel what you need to do while you’re alone.
- Feeling alone can help you learn the discipline (invaluable discipline!) of doing the work even when you don’t feel like it. It’s so tough to get started, isn’t it? And if you’re depressed, feeling rejected, you want to just wallow in that self-pity instead of push yourself forward. You may feel justified in it. Don’t. Feeling alone is a chance to focus on your work and do it even when your feelings don’t support it. If you value your work and yourself as a creative person, seize on that opportunity to build your work muscle.
- Feeling alone can teach you how to talk to, help, or teach others who feel alone. And there are so many out there. So many of us struggle with feeling like we’re on the fringe, like everybody else has figured it out but we’re still all stumbly and klutzy and awkward, like the group has formed – in concrete – and we are left out of it. So many of us feel like we’re alone on the outside. Learn that feeling, know it, live with it a while, and you learn how to talk to others who are living with it.
Be stronger than the feeling
The feelings are strong, so strong. We crave connection so much that sometimes we reject aloneness too quickly, too violently, and we miss out on the benefits it might bring.
Next time, give it a chance. Settle in for a bit. Feel alone, be alone, and grow from it.