What We Can Learn from Loneliness
One of the hardest aspects of being human is embracing loneliness. It is easier to escape than to be vulnerable, simpler to avoid than to admit we’re feeling like we’re on an island. But what this evasion does is deny us of a greater gift: the chance to understand ourselves more deeply, says transformation expert Sloane (she has one name).
As the founder of Warriors of the Heart, a community for women, Sloane helps women explore who they truly are to discover a well of potential. Loneliness, she says, isn’t defining. And it isn’t dooming. As she shares in this personal essay, loneliness ended up being the key to her reconnecting with herself and journeying down a new path toward true fulfillment.
Alone Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely
For those of us with deep feelings of loneliness, the contrast between how we appear on the outside and what’s going on inside of us isn’t always obvious. Sometimes it’s practically invisible.
Loneliness—particularly among high-performing women—often comes with deceptive packaging. Some of us are always on the go and don’t want to slow down for fear of facing the discomfort of loneliness. Or we may have an active social life and be in a committed relationship but still feel the pangs of loneliness. And there are some of us who feel alone in the most obvious sense: isolated from people and perhaps grappling with a loss or a pain that has never healed.
The truth is anyone can feel lonely, even while in a relationship or in great company. In fact, sometimes the people who seem to have it all feel the deepest sense of loneliness.
I empathize with this all the way to my core.
Several years ago, everything was great in my life—from the outside looking in. I had been traveling the world with my partner, building incredible friendships, and experiencing success in business. But despite all the outside appearance of fulfillment, I was lonely.
I made a decision to end my relationship with my partner and put all of my other relationships (except my relationship with my daughter) on hold. I needed to take an in-depth look at myself and forge my life path in a whole new way.
Through my grief and sadness and introspection, a feeling of near-total isolation emerged. Sitting with that loneliness, feeling it and getting to know it, was one of the most uncomfortable and powerful experiences of my life. It felt like a total breakdown. But this time and space allowed me to wholly confront my feelings and choose how I was going to show up from then on. I chose to be alone. To let go of what wasn’t working. And then I chose to start acting in complete alignment with who I truly am.
Reflecting on my behavior revealed hard truths. I saw the ways I was depending on others and on ever-escalating peak experiences to feel fulfilled. The more I plugged into other people and things for energy, the less I felt able to produce my own.
I saw some of my blind spots—how I really felt about myself and what I had been allowing in my life that had been causing this discomfort. And most importantly, I saw that loneliness is really about the quality of your connection to yourself.
It’s been about a year since I had this experience. Since I made the choice to act in complete alignment, I’ve found deep fulfillment, which I am continuously cultivating inside of me. I see the world through a completely different lens.
For those who feel lonely, I want to offer three things that helped me and that help my clients. These acts helped me grow from loneliness and develop a meaningful relationship with myself.
1. Feel what you feel. Deeply.
Allow yourself to slow down to truly experience what you’re feeling.
Do you have a crutch you use to avoid the things you don’t want to feel? Instagram? Alcohol? Work? Exercise? The kids? What is it for you? Instead of trying to escape with that crutch, be mindful. Notice how you’re really feeling—because it is actually the running away that makes the discomfort linger.
After you’ve identified it, focus your attention on that physical sensation. Notice how it feels. Keep focusing until you feel it dissipate. This is so counterintuitive, but allowing your pain to just be, noticing it without making it wrong, actually allows it to pass more quickly. When you take care of yourself this way, you open up space for a new level of love and compassion for yourself.
2. Show yourself love.
You don’t have to wait for another person to make you feel special. You can do that for yourself. Every time you feel that twinge of emptiness or want, let it serve as a reminder that you can create these experiences for yourself.
Would you love to be wrapped in someone’s arms? Then wrap yourself in your own arms. Feel how it feels to be held. This may sound strange. I thought it was odd until I practiced it for a while—and it changed everything. The more you find ways to love and delight yourself, the less you will depend on other people and circumstances to feel content. And ultimately, the more you can enjoy love from others without expectation.
Would you love to receive a special gift? You don’t have to wait for your birthday, or the holidays, or even someone else. Buy yourself a gift. Wrap it and then feel the delight of opening the present. Take yourself on a trip. Do something to make yourself feel special.
3. Have gratitude for your alone time.
Relationships with others can never be deeper than your relationship with yourself. If you embrace the challenge of loneliness as a gift and take the time to get to develop a loving relationship with yourself, amazing things start to happen. You get to have the kind of relationship with yourself that sets the stage for having the relationships you truly desire with other people. And you will savor the entire spectrum of life on a much higher level.
When you have a powerful, conscious relationship with yourself, you are never really alone.
Sloane is an entrepreneur, a mother, and an expert on transformation for women. A former business attorney, she founded Warriors of the Heart, a community-focused endeavor that helps women reach the next level of their personal and professional potential. Sloane previously built a law firm in Santa Monica, California, where she worked with over 450 clients in helping them grow their businesses.