Feeling lonely vs being alone

By Kristen Finley
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Often times, I feel like people confuse feeling alone and feeling lonely. Feeling lonely usually stems from sadness that’s based on feeling like you’re missing out on emotional connections, or feeling sad from the lack of friends or company. Being alone is just that, being alone and away from social scenarios and left with yourself – but not necessarily being sad about it. For example, most people don’t feel sad about going to the bathroom by themselves.

Feeling lonely is normal, and no one’s exempt from feeling the grip of it at some point, especially as we see our friends and peers moving on to make these connections we feel we’re being left out of. However, being alone is a norm I feel is starting to take on an emotional definition.

People who feel lonely have a negative emotional reaction to being alone. For me, I felt vulnerable to my own thoughts and insecurities when I didn’t have people to distract me from them. Which, again, isn’t bad or abnormal – but it means there’s something hidden underneath the issue that’s causing the reaction – an indicator that something else is wrong.

Whether it’s feeling the absence of a romantic partner, not having any friends in a new environment or like functioning normally without people is a chore, there’s an insecurity clawing from below that needs attention. Often times, the underlying issue is pinned as just feeling down or as a rough patch – thus, being left to fester and continue to inflict harm.

This is where introspection is key. Where is this coming from? Self-doubt? Insecurity? Doubt of your abilities? Where did that come from? If being alone triggers a negative reaction, the only way to come out of that is to figure out why, and put it to rest.

The state of being alone is the best way to come to that. Being left to confront negative feelings is what you’ve heard from everyone, but it’s absolutely true. Until you’re able to sort through the sore spots, you won’t be able to know how to fix the cause of the affliction.

Through being alone and learning to be content with it, a certain kind of confidence is achieved. Learning to be alone and identify weaknesses in one self through being alone will show you that there’s more to life than worrying about why you’re not where you think you’re supposed to be. Instead, it’ll give you the space within yourself to haul yourself over the hurdles you impose on yourself by allowing loneliness into your psyche.

Being alone and not having anxiety and insecurity spill into every thought will render you capable of dealing with bigger issues, and allow you grow into who you’re meant to be. It’ll make you a better partner, friend and scholar.

To gain control over your mind, you must first be able to identify why those negative feelings are there in the first place, and take charge of what you can control and change, versus what you can’t. When you learn the difference, you learn control – and only then do you grow.

Don’t give power to a feeling that you can eradicate. Give yourself the chance to rest by investing in some alone time.

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