“Being alone never felt right. Sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.”
— Charles Bukowski
“This morning I felt lost and alone as I was driving home after a brutal breakup with my boyfriend. I turned on the radio and the Michael Jackson song ‘You Are Not Alone’ was playing. A few seconds later, at the exact moment the chorus began, I passed a huge billboard sign with big black letters that read, ‘YOU ARE NOT ALONE!’”
That’s the opening paragraph of an email I received today from a reader named Ella. It made me smile because I love when life delivers seemingly coincidental, positive messages like that, right when we need them most.
However, the rest of Ella’s email further described her ongoing struggle with feeling “lost and alone” in life. Which got me thinking…
Why do people have to feel this way? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them craving connection, and looking for specific experiences and people to satisfy them, yet inadvertently isolating themselves in the process. Why? Was the planet put here just to nourish our loneliness?
The more I’ve experienced and explored my own feelings of uncertainty and loneliness, the more I’ve realized how necessary these feelings are. It’s good for us to spend time exploring unknowns, alone. It gives us an opportunity to discover who we really are and what life is all about.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you feel lost and alone:
1. You are not alone in being alone.
So many of us are fighting the same exact battle alongside you. We are all in this together. So no matter how embarrassed or pathetic you feel about your own situation, know that there are others out there experiencing the same emotions. When you hear yourself say, “I am all alone,” it’s just your worried mind trying to sell you a lie. There’s always someone who can relate to you. Perhaps you can’t immediately talk to them, but they are out there, and that’s all you need to know right now.
2. Sometimes when you’re lonely, you need to be alone.
Sometimes you need to be alone, not to be lonely, but to enjoy a little free time just being yourself and finding your way. In other words, the moments you feel lonely are the moments you may most need to be by yourself. This is one of life’s cruelest ironies.
We need solitude, because when we’re alone we’re detached from obligations, we don’t need to put on a show, and we can hear our own thoughts and feel what our intuition is telling us. And the truth is, throughout your life there will be times when the world gets real quiet and the only thing left is the beat of your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it, otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s telling you. (Read Quiet: The Power of Introverts.)
3. You have to be a little lost first to find what you’re looking for.
Not until you are lost in this world can you begin to find your best path. Realizing you are lost is the first step to living the life you want. The second step is leaving the life you don’t want. Making a big life change is pretty scary. But you know what’s even scarier? Regret.
I can tell you from my own life experience that I’ve found love, lost it, found it, lost it and then I found it once again. But each time what I found was more incredible than the last. So remember that everyone suffers in life at some point. Everyone feels lost sometimes. The key is using your experiences to grow. When you apply what you’re learning to your future choices and actions, you move forward not backward. You become stronger and wiser. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it in the end.
4. It’s all about accepting the reality of what is.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life. Life spins with unexpected changes; so instead of avoiding it, take every change and experience as a challenge for growth. Either it will give you what you want or it will teach you what the next step is. And remember, finding peace in life does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, no challenges, and no hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things while remaining calm in your heart.
Honestly, life is too short to spend at war with yourself. The biggest disappointments in our lives are often the result of misplaced expectations. Letting go of needless expectations is your first step to happiness. Come from a mindset of peace and acceptance, and you can deal with almost anything and grow beyond it.
5. In every situation, YOU choose your attitude.
Be determined to be positive. Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude. A happy person is not a person who’s always in a good situation, but rather a person who always has a good attitude in every situation. So smile at those who often try to begrudge or hurt you; show them what’s missing in their life and what they can’t take away from you. Doing so doesn’t mean forgetting or giving in, it means you choose happiness over hurt. (Read Buddha’s Brain.)
6. Being alone does not mean you are lonely, and being lonely does not mean you are alone.
The trouble is not always in being alone; it’s being lonely in the presence of others. One can be lonely in the midst of a crowd. Wouldn’t you agree? So keep this in mind and choose your relationships wisely. It’s always better to be alone than to be in bad company. And when you do decide to come back for someone, do so because you’re truly better off with this person. Don’t do it just for the sake not being alone.
7. Everyone you care about does NOT need to support your decisions.
Friends and family won’t always support your goals, but you must pursue them anyway. Follow your intuition. Following your intuition means doing what feels right, even if it doesn’t look or sound right to others. Only time will tell, but our human instincts are rarely wrong. Even if things don’t turn out as you anticipated, at least you won’t have to spend the rest of your life wondering what could have been. So don’t worry about what everyone else thinks; just keep living and speaking your truth.
Ultimately, you know you’re on the right track in life when you become uninterested in looking back, and eager to take the next step, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
8. You are not who you used to be, and that’s OK.
You’ve been hurt; you’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today. Over the years, so many things have happened – things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit to grow. As time passes, nobody stays the same, but some people will still tell you that you have changed. Respond to them by saying, “Of course I’ve changed. That’s what life is all about. I’m still the same human being, just a little stronger now than I ever was before.”
9. The best you can do changes from day to day.
Always do your best. And realize that “your best” is going to change repeatedly. For instance, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.
Under any circumstance, simply do your best in the present moment and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. And remember that no matter what’s happening, you can efficiently fight the battles of just today. It’s only when you add the battles of those two abysmal eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly complicated. It’s necessary, therefore, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now. And do the best you can in it. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self_love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
10. It all matters in the end – every step, every regret, every smile, and every struggle.
The seemingly useless happenings add up to something. The minimum wage job you had in high school. The evenings you spent socializing with colleagues you never see anymore. The hours you spent writing thoughts on a personal blog that no one reads. Contemplations about elaborate future plans that never came to be. All those lonely nights spent reading novels and news columns and comics strips and fashion magazines and questioning your own principles on life and sex and religion and whether or not you’re good enough just the way you are. All of this has strengthened you. All of this has led you to every success you’ve ever had. All of this has made you who you are today.
The floor is yours…
What helps you stay positive when you feel lost and alone? What’s something encouraging you try to keep in mind when you’re up against lots of uncertainty? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Little Zoker