I find myself feeling like nobody in the world really knows me or understands me. I get worried that even my best friends only get to see the parts of me that I want them to see. I sometimes wonder if the idea of completely getting to know anyone is possible. How can it be? I’ve often remembered Shakespeare’s famous line, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” and been convinced that no one has ever spoken anything more true. I can’t help but feel that I am just playing a part, and I fear that an honest and genuine connection with another human might not be possible.
I’ve tried to ignore my loneliness through a variety of distractions and means, but they have all proven unsuccessful. I’ve tried surrounding myself with friends all the time, as well as attempting to find that special someone in hopes that they would make me feel complete for the first time in my life. Both seemed to work for a time, yet ultimately loneliness has always found its way back into my life. I am not saying that I am against having friends or significant others, what I am saying is that you can’t expect these people to be the way that you escape the loneliness inside of yourself; you will only feel let down, because loneliness can’t be fixed when you see people as tools instead of as people.
Truly being alone is something that scares me, and that is why I find myself checking my phone every five minutes, especially when I arrive early somewhere and am forced to sit at a table by myself until the others come. I think people get it wrong when they say our need to check our phones all the time is a reflection on vanity and narcissism, because, for me, it has much more to do with the fact that the phone allows me to feel connected to others at all times, even if the connections are as shallow as scrolling through my instagram feed over and over. I would rather sit bored on facebook for hours than actually have to sit by myself. Because really being alone means I have to really look inside myself. It is amazing the means I will go to in order to keep myself from engaging in any self-reflection. Being alone is the enemy.
Yet never being alone does not mean never being lonely. I have found that out the hard way. Sometimes the most terrible feelings come when I am sitting in a room with all my friends, smiling and laughing. And I am still lonely. No amount of friends will fix it, no amount of “likes” on a photo will fix it, and, no matter how hard I try, no amount of suppressing my feelings will ever make it go away.
Often times I have wanted to reach out and tell people about all of this, but I’ve never been able to gather up enough courage to actually do it. I’ve thought about what would happen if the next time someone asked me how I was, I answered honestly: “Terrible. I have a crippling sense of loneliness and have no clue how to fix it. How are you?” There are so many times where I wish I would’ve just told someone, but that would involve letting my guard down. And that is not something that has ever come easy for me. Unfortunately, I tend to see vulnerability as weakness, and so I have trouble allowing people to see who I really am and what I am going through. Because I don’t want anyone to know I’m lonely, as that would be admitting that I struggle. I hurt.
I am not saying this because I want anyone to pity me or try to “fix my problem.” I am not asking for anyone to make me feel better. The last things in the world I want right now are fake compliments or forced attention. I am not saying this to you, the internet world, for any of those reasons. Because the truth is it is that kind of mindset that has lead me to feeling this way. This idea that others are the solution to making this emptiness go away seems so obvious and appealing at first, but it has only left me feeling more alone and confused than I was before.
The reason I am saying this right now is because I realize I have never actually told any of this to anyone before in my entire life, and I think that might be part of the problem. I am saying this because I think most of you get pretty lonely too. And you probably keep it bottled up inside because you’re probably as scared of legitimate vulnerability as I am. I am telling you all I am lonely because I know I am never going to be able to deal with this problem until I acknowledge it is a problem. I don’t yet know how to fix this, but I think keeping it to myself while acting like there is no problem to anyone who asks is only going to drive me crazy.
So here is my confession for everyone to see: I’m lonely. And I’m scared. And I’m not going to ignore that any longer. So let’s talk about it.