Growing up, I was a kid that enjoyed playing with the other kids most of the time, but what I liked most were the times I played by myself. It allowed me to get lost in my imagination, I was very good at escapism. Maybe it was because I grew up in a home full of adults, in the hustle and bustle of 1980s Manila. There were always people around, actually, even at night, Manila was never a quiet place in your sleep.
People can help you AND still be independent
As an adult, if there was something I wanted to try, do or places to go, I didn’t really wait for any of my friends to want to do it with me. Doing things by myself was fun, and I guess it’s something I’ve grown to assume - that most people I knew weren’t into the same things I was. Which isn’t true at all as I’ve learned, but it turns out that I just didn’t ask them. That meant somewhere down the road, I made loneliness my moat. I relied on my own skills, efforts and drive for so long that I dug and filled a metaphorical moat around my life - and now I’m slowly learning to play with others again.
I think there’s a big difference between being independent and wanting to do everything on your own. Being independent means, that yes, you are quite capable of doing things on your own (and probably kicking ass at that!), but you don’t assume that you’re the only person that can do those things, or that your way is the only way to do it. That’s your ego making you out to be a boss, when really, it just isolates you. There’s a great sense of pride to finish a project on your own, but you may be burned out at the end of it too! Help is all around you, it’s when we don’t allow others to give that goodness that we begin to feel isolated and lonely.
Think of a forest and all the flora and fauna within it. Every one of them has a purpose, co-existing in that space. Each creature has the space to win, to grow, but best of all, they see the big picture, and willing to focus their energy towards keeping their ecosystem flourishing. Value your vibe, choose your tribe.
Listening to understand builds empathy
Loneliness is a sense of disconnection, whereas solitude is appreciating the peace you feel from being away from it all. I’ve talk about being an extroverted introvert before (the best of both worlds really) - when I’m around people too long I can become drained and moody. Instead of spending a weekend sleeping it off, now I take walks in the bush and allow nature to build me up again. That means not being alone with my thoughts too long and over-thinking things, and it gives me a greater sense of balance. Plus, it makes my body feel good keeping active.
Head talk like ‘no-one understands me’ or ‘I don’t have anyone’ clings to you, and do it enough times, you actually start to believe it. What you believe is your reality after all. How we feel are just our thoughts, and the great thing is that we have the ability to change them. I used to be really lazy about making my bed in the morning, so I challenged myself to make every morning for 21 days (that’s how long they say takes for a new habit to form). You know what? I actually enjoy making my bed, not exactly military style, but it just feels like second nature now. Try it!
There are many reasons that causes us to isolate ourselves. Maybe it started by avoiding people because we don’t want to feel judged? Or to avoid conflict? They say that empathy increases when we listen with the intention of understanding - and it’s that understanding (you don’t even have to agree with their point of view) that sets the wheels in motion to build a genuine connection.
Value your vibe, choose your tribe
They say that the five people you spend the most time with is a great indicator of your priorities. In short, if you value your vibe, choose your tribe wisely. Are you connected to these people because you’ve become codependent in your loneliness? I had to let go of a lot of people because that’s how I saw our friendships - remember that you can’t change others, only yourself. It starts with the first step, and that is often the hardest part.