At our core, we’re terrified of being alone. We accept less than we deserve, we compromise on who we are, we settle for something not quite right, all to avoid being without another person.
I expect it’s evolutionary, as that gave you the highest chance of breeding and success. But we’ve outgrown the need to have simply something in our life to survive, so why do we still act like we need to be in a relationship to survive? In today’s world, we can exist pretty fine on our own, and yet we act like this would be the most awful thing.
We’re so terrified of being alone that we don’t realise that we already are, because staying with someone who isn’t right is far lonelier than being alone.
“I learnt that the loneliest place of all is lying in bed at night next to someone who makes you feel small, with your back to theirs, still hoping they will turn over and put their arms around you.” - Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn*
My last relationship was over long before we said the words. We had always been turbulent, and in the beginning, I mistook the arguments for passion. The lows were always followed by the brightest of highs, and so I told myself it was worth it. I thought that it was glamorous, to love so deeply and be loved so cruelly. But as I started getting older, I grew tired of the rollercoaster of this relationship. Our intimacy waned into a habit, and we were merely a comfort to the other.
So why didn’t I end it? When I spent another night in tears, asking Google, “Should I break up with my boyfriend?’, why didn’t I take its advice?
I was scared to be alone. I worried that this was my right path and I’d be straying from it, and never find someone who loved me again. He wasn’t right for me, and yet he was so familiar, he knew me so well.
It’s been a year and a half since the relationship ended, and I am more of a person without him than I ever was with him. I feel more complete now that I’ve gained back everything I used to give to him. I realise now how desperately lonely I was, begging for scraps of affection and trying to make a sinking boat float.
I am single, I am alone, and yet I am far from lonely.
Your life can be fulfilled on your own, whether that’s for a few years or the rest of it. You’ll never be lonely if you become your own person. If you give yourself everything you were begging previous partners to offer. If you cheer at your wins and mourn your own losses, if you practice self-love and treat yourself with the kindness you gladly give everyone else.
Being single doesn’t have to be a transient period, a quick pit-stop between relationships, it can be a choice. It’s a chance to ensure you’re everything you need, so friends and partners only add to that and never try to fill gaps. It’s a chance to be so comfortable alone that you’re sacrificing it for the right person, rather than settling for something that doesn’t fit.
Movies and TV shows will often make it seem like you have to surround yourself with friends. I’d watch scenes featuring surprise parties, and wonder how they could know so many people. On social media, I’ll look at posts of large friend groups and feel like I’m failing for having a small, core group of friends.
But having friends for the sake of it can make you feel lonely too. Having friends that aren’t right for you is an isolating experience, as you don’t feel loved unconditionally or even understood. It can be tempting to cling to people just to be able to fill a room. But having the right five people will fill any room for you.
Don’t stay with someone just to avoid being alone. Because if you’ve reached that point, you’re already alone. Then being single would be a welcome relief and a chance to stop squeezing yourself into a space that doesn’t fit. You deserve the space to breathe, so don’t fear being alone, welcome it.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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