“The only thing that separates lonely from alone is an emotion.”
What is the difference in alone and lonely? I always knew there was a difference but I never investigated to see what the true difference was. I just know lonely has a negative connotation whereas alone is somewhat neutral. Before writing this, I decided to go to Google and define these two words using Merriam-Webster. Here are the definitions…
alone: separated from others; isolated lonely: sad from being alone
The thing that interested me about the two was they only have one contrast. The only thing that separates lonely from alone is an emotion. So basically, how you respond to isolation can result in a feeling of contentment which means you’re alone, or a feeling of sadness which means you’re lonely. Which one would you choose?
I’ll take alone for 600. Most would choose the feeling of contentment but if we’re honest with ourselves, most of our isolations starts with the feeling of lonely rather than alone. If truth be told, it’s probably about 90% of the entire population who fears being by themselves. (Don’t quote me, I literally just threw that percentage out. I haven’t researched a thing.) That feeling of anxiety most people feel when they are isolated forces them to do strange things. These side effects can include but are not limited to, dating married men, staying in abusive relationships, settling for far less than what you desire, sharing a man just to avoid the anxiety of isolation, having sex to remedy the anxious feeling, etc. Lonely can make people do some strange things. So why do people choose lonely over alone? Why do they want to put themselves in these situations that cause so much emotional turmoil?
“…because I always had someone, even when I didn’t have anyone.”
Before I answer that question, I will reveal my struggles with loneliness. Since I was a teen, I always wanted to be in a relationship. I used to chase relationships with all my might. I would abandon all inhibitions and morality just to get that high from being in the presence of a man. That left me making very stupid decisions in dating. I have been the girl who chased the guy who already had a girl, the girl who had sex with the guy to get him to like her, and the girl who stayed in a toxic relationship just to avoid being lonely. My issue was the crazy emotions I felt when I was by myself. I would have unexplainable anxiety attacks when I was by myself. I would have mood swings, hot flashes, and headaches when I didn’t have a man around. I never really sat with that emotion long enough to understand that there was something VERY wrong with feeling that way just because I was isolated. I could never fully evaluate the situation because I always had someone, even when I didn’t have anyone. When I was “single”, I was still entertaining a guy or a few guys so I was never completely alone. It wasn’t until the end of my last relationship at age 27 that I decided, well I was actually forced, to be alone. I was forced because the relationship took so much out of me that I refused to allow that to happen again. I asked God to remove me from the situation and help me not repeat the same mistakes. Once I asked that, God began to completely isolate me. It was in the isolation that I discovered the “why” behind my anxious feelings toward loneliness.
So back to the question, why do people choose lonely or alone? Because whether you see it or not, how we feel is a choice. They choose it because of how they perceive their reality. If you perceive being alone as a negative feeling, then any time you’re by yourself you will feel extreme anxiety like I did. But where did this anxiety originate from? For me, I grew up pretty isolated. My dad left when I was 4 and my mom was emotionally unavailable. I had my brother but him and I weren’t really close although we lived in the same house. I used to think my brother was my mom’s favorite because they actually talked and hung out whereas I was in my room with the door closed most of the time. So my anxiety with loneliness started with me feeling unwanted and abandoned due to my childhood. My experience with being isolated was a negative experience that originated from childhood but I never dealt with it. So when I became an adult and could choose rather to be by myself or with someone, I chose to be with someone because I didn’t want to go back to the feelings of being that unwanted little girl who was in her room by herself all the time. The way I perceived isolation resulted in me feeling sad whenever there was no one around. Since our perception is our reality, it totally shaped how I saw myself and how I chose to date.
“Most people don’t want to be alone because they fear the dark places that will be revealed when they have to sit with themselves.”
So how did I find contentment and finally choose alone rather that lonely? Well I discovered the power in lonely. Lonely is just like any other perceived negative thing that can actually manifest positivity. Think about it. The power of being broke helps you discover hidden talents and intelligence so you won’t ever end up broke again. The power of failure helps you see how you can be successful. The power of sickness helps you change your behaviors so you can live a longer and healthier life. After hitting rock bottom with loneliness, I decided that I no longer wanted to feel that again so I faced it. Most people don’t want to be alone because they fear the dark places that will be revealed when they have to sit with themselves. I had to dig deep and figure out the “why” behind my sadness but I could only do that by isolating myself completely. I had to go on a man diet. No texts, no DMs, no innocent lunch dates, no “I’m just giving him my number as a friend”, NOTHING. I had to completely remove myself from dating to understand why I felt this way in order to fill whatever was empty inside of me so I could move to a place of contentment. That feeling of loneliness was so powerful that it led me to a deep relationship with God, a commitment to celibacy, and a level of focus I have never had before. All it took was for me to turn something perceived as negative and choose to make it a positive by using it to heal myself. Now I am 110% single. I have never been this single in my life. I don’t talk to anyone AT ALL. I’m like an endangered species but to tell you the truth, I have never felt as full as I feel now. I don’t depend on anyone but God to make me feel whole and complete. I don’t search for a high from the presence of a man. I am finally content with my isolation, rather than sad and anxious. And although I am waiting for my husband, I am not miserable or sad, I am filled with hope because I know I am not operating from the side effects of lonely.
So what about you? Are you alone or lonely? Which one would you rather be? What steps will you take to switch your perception so you can release the anxiety you feel towards isolation and embrace the possibilities and victory being alone can bring?
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