In the midst of bad days and hard times, it’s easy to look around and see a bunch of people who seem to be doing perfectly fine. But I assure you they’re not. We’re all struggling in our own unique way, every single day. And if we could just be brave enough to open up about it, and talk to each other more often, we’d realize that we are not alone in feeling lost and alone with our issues.
So many of us are fighting a similar battle right now. Try to remember this. No matter how embarrassed or pathetic you feel about your own situation, there are others out there experiencing the same emotions. When you hear yourself say, “I am all alone,” it’s just your troubled subconscious mind trying to sell you a lie.
There’s always someone who can relate to you.
There’s always someone who understands.
Perhaps you can’t immediately talk to them, but they are out there.
I am out there.
The whole reason I wrote these words is because I often feel and think and struggle much like you do. I care about many of the things you care about, just in my own way. And although some people do not understand us, we understand each other.
YOU are definitely not alone!
WE are not alone!
And to further assure you of this, let me tell you a quick story about a strong and beautiful woman I know who has recently felt alone, too…
What She Desires Most
She notices the people sitting in a small sports bar across the street. They’re cheering and chatting. They look so alive. She wants to cross the street and join these people just to connect with them – to be a part of something. But a subtle voice that comes from within, that whispers from the open wounds in her heart, holds her back from doing so. So she keeps walking. Alone.
She walks to the end of the city center where she sees a dirt path that leads up a grassy hill. The hill, she knows, overlooks a spiritual sanctuary. But it isn’t the sanctuary she wants to visit tonight – not yet anyway. It’s a warm, breezy Saturday night and she wants to find a place outdoors with sufficient light so she can sit and read the book she’s grasping in her right hand.
But reading isn’t what she really wants. Not deep down. What she really wants is for someone – anyone at all – to tap her on the shoulder and invite her into their world. To ask her questions and tell her stories. To be interested. To understand her. To laugh with her. To want her to be a part of their life.
But it isn’t even this connection with someone new that she wants most. At least not at the deepest level. At the deepest level, in the core of her soul, even fleeting connections with others seem to interfere with what she desires most. Which is to know that she’s not alone in the world. That she truly belongs. And that whatever she was put here to do, in time, will be done and shared with others who deeply care.
An Unsustainable Past
This young woman left a substantial segment of her life behind to be in this small city tonight. A few months ago, she was engaged to a strapping young businessman, managing a fast-growing start-up company, working long, hard days and enjoying the fruits of her labor together with a deepening community of friendships in Manhattan.
In a period of just a few months, her fiancé and her split and decided that it was easiest to shutdown the company and divide the monetary remains rather than attempt co-ownership. As they began the process of shutting down the company, she learned that most of the seemingly deep friendships she had made in Manhattan were tied directly to her old business affairs or her business-socialite of an ex-fiancé.
While this young woman didn’t consciously expect such a rapid, tragic series of events, it also wasn’t totally unexpected. Subconsciously she knew that she had created a life for herself that was unsustainable. It was a life revolving around her social status in which all of her relationships brought with them a mounting and revolving set of expectations. This life left no time for spiritual growth or deep connection or love.
Yet, this young woman is drawn to spirituality, connection and love. She has been drawn to all three all her life. And the only thing that steered her off course into this unsustainable lifestyle was the careless belief that if she did certain things and acted in certain ways she would be worthy in the eyes of others. That her social status would procure lasting admiration from these people. And that she would never feel alone.
She realizes, now, how wrong she was.
The young woman walks up a steep paved road on the outskirts of the city center. She feels the burn in her calf muscles as she marches higher and higher. The road is, at first, filled with quaint boutique shops and young couples and friends, but as it advances uphill they give way to small cottage homes and kids playing with flashlights in the street. She keeps marching higher and higher until she reaches a clearing where there is a small public park.
In this park, a group of teenagers are huddled around two guitarists who are strumming and singing an acoustic melody. “Is it a popular song?” she thinks to herself. She isn’t sure because she hasn’t had time lately to listen to music. She wants to join the group. She wants to tell the guitarists that their music is incredible. But she hesitates. She just can’t find the nerve to walk over to them.
Instead, she sits on a park bench a few hundred feet away. The bench overlooks the cityscape below. She stares off into the distance and up into the night sky for several minutes, thinking and breathing. And she begins to smile, because she can see the spiritual sanctuary. It’s dark outside, but the sanctuary shines bright. She can see it clearly. She can feel its warmth surrounding her. And although she knows the sanctuary has existed for an eternity, her heart tells her something that stretches a smile across her cheeks: “This sanctuary is all yours tonight.”
Not in the sense that she owns it. Nor in the sense that it isn’t also a sanctuary for millions of other people around the world. But rather in the sense that it belongs to all of us as part of our heritage, exclusively tailored for every human being and our unique needs and beliefs. It’s a quiet refuge that, when we choose to pay attention, exists all around us and within us. We can escape to it at any time. It’s a place where we can dwell with the good spirits and guardian angels that love us unconditionally and guide us even when we feel lost and alone.
Especially when we feel lost and alone.
Reminders for When YOU Feel Lost & Alone with Your Issues
I hope the short story above makes you feel less alone. I hope it gives you hope. But, assuming you need a little extra perspective right now – because sometimes we all do – I want to shift gears and cover a few practical reminders we often examine with our course students…
1. Every passing face on the street represents a story every bit as captivating, complicated and crazy as yours.
When you look at a person, any person, remember that everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through something that’s inadvertently changed them and forced them to grow. Everyone you meet has struggled, and continues to struggle in some way, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through. Yes, every passing face on the street represents a story every bit as captivating, complicated and crazy as yours.
I was lucky enough to have a very wise grandmother who coached me through this reality when I was just a teenager. And I was smart enough to write a journal entry about the conversation I had with her, so I could remember her wisdom decades later. Let me give you a little taste of that conversation…
I sat there in her living room staring at her through teary eyes. “I feel lost and alone and completely out of my mind,” I said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Why do you feel that way?” she delicately asked.
“Because I’m neurotic and self-conscious and regretful, and so much more all at once,” I said.
“And you don’t think everyone feels the way you do sometimes?” she asked.
“Not like this!” I proclaimed.
“Well, honey, you’re wrong,” she said. “If you think you know someone who never feels the way you do right now – who never feels a bit lost and alone, and downright confused and crazy – you just don’t know enough about them. Every one of us contains a measure of ‘crazy’ that moves us in strange, often perplexing ways. This side of us is necessary; it’s part of our human ability to think, adapt and grow. It’s part of being intelligent,” she said. “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of this kind of madness.”
I sat silently for a moment. My eyes gazed from her eyes to the ground and back to her eyes again. “So you’re saying I should want to feel like this?”
“To an extent,” she said. “Let me put it this way: Taking all your feelings seriously all the time, and letting them drive you into misery, is a waste of your incredible spirit. You alone get to choose what matters and what doesn’t. The meaning of everything in your life is the meaning you give it…”
“I guess,” I replied under my breath.
She continued, “And sometimes how you feel simply won’t align with how you want to feel – it’s mostly just your subconscious mind’s way of helping you look at things from a different perspective. These feelings will come and go quickly as long as you let them go…as long as you consciously acknowledge them, and then push through them. At least that’s what I’ve learned to do for myself, out of necessity, on a very regular basis. So you and I are actually struggling through this one together, honey. And I’m also pretty certain we’re not the only ones.”
We shared another moment of silence, then my lips curled up slightly and I cracked a smile, “Thank you, Grandma,” I said. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
2. You are far more than that one broken piece of you.
When times are tough, and some piece of you is chipped and broken, it’s easy to feel like everything – ALL of you – is broken along with it. But that’s not true.
We all have this picture in our minds of ourselves – this idea of what kind of person we are. When this idea gets even slightly harmed or threatened, we react defensively and oftentimes irrationally. People may question whether we did a good job, and this threatens our idea of being a competent person, so we become angry or hurt by the criticism. Someone falsely accuses us of something and this damages our idea that we’re a good person, and so we get angry and attack the other person, or we cower and cry. And the list goes on.
But, the craziest thing is, oftentimes we are actually the ones harming and threatening ourselves with negativity and false-accusations…
Just this morning I was struggling to motivate myself to work on a new creative project I’ve been procrastinating on, so my identity of myself as someone who’s always productive and motivated and has great ideas suddenly came under attack. When I realized I wasn’t getting things done, it made me feel terribly self-conscious and uncertain because I began subconsciously worrying that I wasn’t who I thought I was. And this in turn made me feel very alone inside.
My solution was to realize that I’m not just one thing. I’m not always productive – sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m unproductive too. I’m not always motivated – sometimes I am, but other times I’m a bit lazy. And obviously I don’t always have great ideas either – because that’s impossible.
The truth is, I can be many things, and remembering this helps me stretch my identity so it’s not so fragile – so it doesn’t completely shatter when a small piece of it gets chipped. Then it doesn’t matter if someone occasionally thinks I didn’t do a good job, or if I sometimes catch myself not doing a good job – because I don’t always do a good job.
I make mistakes.
I am less than perfect.
Just like YOU.
And that’s perfectly OK.
3. There are people in this world who desperately need your support right now.
I think we all have the tendency to put ourselves at the center of the universe, and see everything from the viewpoint of how it affects us. But this can have all kinds of adverse effects, from feeling sorry for ourselves when things aren’t going exactly as planned, to doubting ourselves when we aren’t perfect, to feeling lost and alone with our issues when we’re having a bad day or going through hard times.
So whenever I catch myself lingering at the center in an adverse state of mind, I do my best to briefly shift my focus, away from my own issues, and onto other people around me that I might be able to help. Finding little ways to help others gets me out of my self-centered thinking, and then I’m not wallowing alone in self-pity anymore – I’m starting to think about what others need. I’m not doubting myself, because the question of whether I’m good enough or not is no longer the central question. The central question now is about what others need.
Thus, thinking about others instead of oneself helps solve feelings self-consciousness and inadequacy, which in turn makes you feel a lot less broken and alone when you’re struggling.
It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: when we serve others we end up benefiting as much if not more than those we serve. So whenever you feel a bit lost and alone with your own issues, try to shift your focus from your circumstances to the circumstances of those around you. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” ask, “How can I help you?” Find someone who could use an extra hand and make a small, reasonable offer they can’t refuse. The perspective you gain from doing so will guide you forward.
Closing Thoughts… On Being Alone
I’d like to end this post by directly addressing my fellow souls out there who are tired and weary and struggling to find happiness at this very moment, seemingly alone.
I know you’re reading this. And I want you to know I’m writing this for YOU. Others will be confused. They will think I’m writing this for them. But I’m not.
This one’s for YOU.
I want you to know that I understand. Life is not always easy. Every day can be an unpredictable challenge. Some days it can be difficult just to get out of bed in the morning, to face reality and put on that smile. But I want you to know that your smile has kept Angel and I going on more days than I can count. Never forget that, even when times get tough, as they sometimes will, you are incredible, you really are.
So please try to smile more often. Even when times are hard, you have so many reasons to. Time and time again, our reason is you.
You won’t always be perfect and neither will we. Because nobody is perfect, and nobody deserves to be perfect. Everybody has issues. Nobody has it easy. You will never know exactly what we’re going through, and we will never know exactly what you’re going through. We are all fighting our own unique war.
But we are fighting through it simultaneously, together.
If someone discredits you and tells you that you can’t do something, keep in mind that they are speaking from within the boundaries of their own limitations. In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to keep being your awesome self. And when they laugh at you for being different, go ahead and laugh back at them for being the same.
Remember, our courage doesn’t always roar aloud. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering, “I will try again tomorrow.” So stand strong. Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.
And Angel and I are committed to making the best of it along with YOU.
One day at a time, one tiny step at a time, for the rest of our lives. (Angel and I build tiny, daily, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point (or part of the story) mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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