On Finding Solace in Your Own Solitude
In this open column submission, Bella Ferina highlights the importance of how normal it is to feel lonely, and the best thing we can do is nurture our inner selves and make it a decent safe space to live in.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always considered myself as one of those misfits. Getting along with people has always been a pain since I have to make sure that I’m able to work in sync and be on the same wavelength in order to feel included.
Thus, it was easy to say that growing up, solitude gave me more comfort than being together with a bunch of people. Some of my schoolmates were curious why I even managed to go to places alone and hang out when I could easily call them for the sake of companionship. While I tried to convince myself that there was nothing wrong with it, I did not realize that the idea would later contribute to forming my personal anxiety and self-doubt. I was so immersed in my own world that I couldn’t be careless and took their concern for granted.
By the time I pursued my education and career further, I did not expect anything to change. Sure, meeting strangers was wonderful, as I got to explore and do many things that I did not know I was capable of. But when you had been accustomed to solitude for years and suddenly forced yourself to adapt, it was only a matter of time before you would eventually revert to your true color.
As my circle of friends decreased and became busy with their lives, I began to notice differences in my surroundings. I was aware of the fact that I wasn’t anyone’s favorite, and somehow that led me to the desire to fit in. I spent my earlier years trying to figure out what could be the best way to be a part of the crowd, only to realize it was all too late. Everyone around me had already gotten closer to other peers, and there I was, without any place to return to, struggling to sustain my life away from home.
There were times when I felt so alone. I tried to do everything to keep my mind busy and distracted. But instead of coping with that loneliness, I just remained even more futile in the process. The worst part was that I couldn’t even bring up the slightest possible idea about the situation I was in; I was afraid of being found out, yet at the same time, I was desperately looking for help.
Ironically, I used to think how pointless it was for those people who follow and embrace their part of the masses, deliberately put an effort so as to appear more significant than those who don’t. And yet, at that point, I found myself feeling intimidated by the thought of solitude itself.
As Maslow has stated, belonging is one of the most fundamental aspects of human survival. Out of the five progressions in the hierarchy of needs, it is placed on the third, right after self-actualization and self-esteem. The need to belong is important since that’s how we identify ourselves clearly with the people around us. Humans are social creatures, and it’s our strong, inevitable desire to be seen and to receive attention. Without belonging, we wouldn’t be able to communicate or relate ourselves to our own surroundings.
In this highly collective society, the slightest tendency to withdraw from our environment is prone to be perceived as weird. The majority of us are mainly fixated on the fact that one can only feel whole in the company of others. While this is true to some extent, we frequently overlook the fact that it also applies the other way around. In this matter, introverts are differently wired in a way that they require endless contemplation most of the time. This subsequently results in them being particularly selective in their attempts at social pursuits and, thus, needing more alone time to function on a day-to-day basis—in contrast to those extroverts.
However, solitary-seeking traits should actually be applied to both personalities. It’s essential to maintain our health and psychological well-being by keeping in contact with our inner voices. We would be able to figure out whether the views that we got from continual exposure to the outer world could truly align with our own values and personal experiences. Oftentimes, we’re constantly seeking refuge from these surrounding presences, yet somehow fail to recognize that authenticity isn’t generated outside our outermost shell. What’s the point of being surrounded by people yet still unable to find a connection?
As I’ve gotten older, I learned that there are many things beyond my control. Everyone’s different, and not all of them have the same background, life, traits, or even interests. Hence, indulging myself in self-pity wouldn’t result in anything. Nothing’s really wrong with enjoying solitude every once in a while. Being alone is a choice, while loneliness is a state of mind. People get lonely sometimes, and that’s normal.
Then again, conditioning our heads to always be in a mindful state is not an easy task to do. But to gradually acknowledge this entire thing is already an achievement by itself; at least it’s perceptible that I’m slowly going there. It took me years of a long, lonely journey. And yet, it was worth all the trouble.
I still have some bad habits that can’t be easily fixed; my self-loathing is still as strong as ever; I still compare myself to others, and even at times question my own worth. Nevertheless, I make an effort to transform these noticeable patterns by being more aware of how my Christmas Tree Brain works. Turning all those negative thoughts into a more positive output sure does wonders. Being more compassionate also helps me cope on my own because I don’t have to force myself to be someone I’m not, and instead, gradually learn to accept my human flaws.
In the end, I guess the saying that we should start everything from within is kind of true. It’s important to nurture our inner selves, regardless of how many flaws and limitations it may contain. Since that’s the very first place where we feel like we belong and are truly seen, that’s the place we’re going to reside our entire life. So the last thing we could do is to make it a decent safe space to live in, whether with a solitary disposition or not.
After all, our thoughts and emotions are indeed abstract, yet they can still be controlled. Being continuously ignorant of this fact can be fatal and won’t lead us anywhere. Knowing there are still some rooms to improve and learning to accept the dissonance within is certainly necessary in order to survive the chaos.