Letting people in on our struggles is how we show compassion for us. Instead of hiding out in judgment, we share in our humanness and recognise it in others tooDespite the fact that so many of us are more visible to each other and more ‘connected’ than we have ever been, more of us feel lonely. One of the most common misconceptions about loneliness is that it’s about the number of friends you have or having people around you when actually, loneliness is about feeling alone and emotionally adrift with your innermost feelings and thoughts. You can still feel lonely in a room full of people who love and care about you if at the end of the day, you’re hiding how you feel, what you think, what you’re going through or who you are, because you’re afraid of being judged in some way or disappointing people by not living up to the image you think that they have of you or the standards that they’re living by. This is why when people struggle with depression or go so far as to do the unthinkable and take their lives, you often hear people say, “But they looked so happy when I saw them…. They were always the life and soul”.

People who are lonely or unhappy don’t look a certain way or have have a specific type of life or experience. We must be careful of getting too caught up in how things look or what we think we need to be in order to keep people comfortable.

It’s as if we think that the people who like and love us can only do so as long as we’re not inconveniencing them with the truth of who we are or what we’re going through. It’s as if we no longer believe that people want to know how we really are and that ‘everyone’ is uncomfortable with emotions.

Several months ago I got off the train one evening after a night out in London and got straight into a taxi. I asked the driver how he was doing. “Not too good but you probably don’t want to hear that, do you? Nobody wants to know….. People don’t mean it when they ask how you are these days”. He sounded as if he’d given up. His anger and sadness were palpable and yet it didn’t feel ‘bad’ or that he was trying to make me feel bad. He was in pain. “Well, I do [mean it] – how are you doing?” He told me that he’d lost one of his twin newborn grandchildren a couple of days before and how devastated they all were. It was just awful and we talked for the several minutes back to my house. When he turned to take the fare, his face was wet with tears and he thanked me for hearing him– there was no need, I think he just needed some compassion in that moment and it didn’t matter that I didn’t know him or that I hadn’t been through that specific loss. He was seen and he was heard.

It’s even more vital in a time when it’s all too easy to send a light text with, “Hope you’re keeping well”, or to click ‘like’ or write, “(((HUGS)))” or whatever, and for it all to be taken as keeping in touch and knowing people, that we actually take the time to not only notice and truly connect with our nearest and dearest but that we also take the time to remain connected to who we are and to share ourselves. I’m not talking about sharing our innermost feelings and thoughts with unsafe people– it’s about trusting someone enough to be who we truly are, to say how we truly feel, to express our thoughts and at the same time, taking the time to check in with ourselves and ask, “How am I doing today? What do I need?”. 

We have to check in with us because sometimes we don’t realise where we’ve just gone into autopilot, rushing through life and not having time to re-calibrate, to really feel emotions that are coming up and support us. We get so busy that we lose track of our stresses and then feel down, frustrated, overwhelmed and lost. We look around and see what we think are signs that we ‘should’ be OK – career, money, house, friends, family, relationship, kids etc – and yet we might be running on empty or grappling with pain from past experiences and a pattern of thinking about ourselves in a certain way and not know where it’s coming from, how to explain it or what to do about it.

This causes loneliness feelings and it becomes a vicious cycle because in recognising that we’re emotionally adrift, we can end up judging us for feeling this way. We then judge us for not being Teflon-coated, for needing to ask for help, for not being able to “put on a brave face” and act as if everything is OK, because we think that everyone is having the time of their lives and that what they broadcast with snippets of text and photos online, or disclose in light texts and conversations, is the full picture. It’s not. We really have to stop comparing our lives to what we see online or what we imagine everyone else is doing.

If we don’t catch ourselves before the loneliness really takes hold, we consciously and unconsciously slip into loneliness habits that keep us even further away from those we could do with being closer to or from taking actions that will help to mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually support us through this time. We focus on being “perfect”, on holding ourselves to excessively high standards, and on comparing ourselves to others. We think that we’re only allowed to have socially approved feelings and lives. We hold ourselves away from love, care, trust and respect.

There is no point in silencing and distancing us emotionally because while it can appear to keep the peace with others, it comes at the cost of our inner peace and can actually create chaos in our outer world too as it impacts on our actions and choices. As we try to get relief from the feelings or escape them, we use habits that feed into silencing and distancing us.

The funny thing is that, if we’re not letting ourselves be seen in the deep way that comes with the vulnerability of letting people into our pain, we may not be letting ourselves into other people’s pain. We might be keeping things light and not asking ‘too much’ for fear of what we might hear back. Or, sometimes we are aware to some degree of the difficulties that others are going through and make the mistake of comparing and deciding that our struggle isn’t important or fearing that we will be a burden. We jump to an inaccurate conclusion.

It’s not fair to judge us for finding something difficult or painful. It’s not fair to decide that we’re “not good enough” because we need to ask for help or we need to be honest about what we’re going through in order to get the support that we need. It’s not fair to regard us as a “failure” because we haven’t been able to erase the past out of our head or because we trusted someone with our heart and it didn’t work out.

We have to speak up even though it can be scary to admit what we’re feeling or thinking at that time. It takes us out of our heads and the inner narrative that may be blinding and limiting us, and reconnects us with the possibility of perspective and compassion. We stop shutting down. We re-open.

Letting people in on our struggles and letting people see us, is how we show compassion for us. Instead of hiding out in judgment, we share in our humanness and recognise it in others too.

Sharing my own experiences and observations here on BR over the last ten years has been a way of showing compassion for me. Sure, I open myself up to being judged but I also open me up. In doing so, I’ve stopped judging me by virtue of my background, appearance, experiences etc., and have invited others to do the same. I’ve also learned that I’m not alone in what I have been through and I could only have discovered this by trusting enough to share.

Your thoughts?


FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites