Not being ourselves hurts and makes us sick 9. August 2017 – Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Some diseases kill. Some diseases are chronic and weaken us, preventing us from living our lives to the full. If we’re lucky, we can get help and treatment. For those of us lucky enough to live where there is no famine, drought or war, with the chance to build a good life for ourselves, there is a disease no one talks much about.

A disease that few know we have, a disease that cannot be cured with pills or surgery, a disease which can make life both difficult and sad — because the disease sits deep inside our souls. The disease follows us like an invisible shadow constantly reminding us of what is missing. This disease is called loneliness.

It may not be immediately obvious. You may have friends, even a family. You have your work or study, you are social and may have people around you. You try to live your life well, both towards yourself and to others. You earn a good living, follow fashion, enjoy sport and hobbies, have the opportunity to travel. In fact, life is pretty good. Yet there is something that just doesn’t feel right.

You feel a constant emptiness, as if something is missing from your life. The feeling drains you. It’s like you’re driving at high speed and you step hard on the gas to get away from this unpleasant feeling, but no matter how fast you go, the brakes are still on, restricting your freedom.

People experience loneliness differently. Some people are aware of it; others are conscious of something that they then spend all their energy trying to get away from, while others may not even realise it.

My loneliness was about being out of balance: the conflict between what’s expected of me, what’s considered normal, and who I really am. I felt the loneliness when I doubted if I was worthy of being liked, being loved. Those around me tried to reassure me, “But we have always liked you and loved you.” But the question was; who have they loved? Who is it they have seen and heard? It was as if there was a devil and angel voice sitting on each of my shoulders. They talked a lot, they quarrelled and shouted, and they very rarely agreed. The devil voice reminded me that I was not good enough while the angel voice tried desperately to show me all the good things about myself.

Loneliness strikes when I forget to listen to the light voice and made the dark voice taking over. When I forgot to love myself for who I am – the ‘me’ I have never really learned to love – because I’ve always been so focused on trying to satisfy what I thought other people expected of me.

Through life, we learn that we need to be perfect – because there is only room for those who are perfect. You will only be loved if you do as those who set the agenda expect of you. Whether it’s your family, your friends, your work, your school or people on social media.

But that’s wrong. Perfection doesn’t exist if it is created on the basis of what others expect of us. Perfection exists only in relation to you – your dreams, your story. You must create the story you want to live – define who you are, not mould yourself to someone’s ideal version of you.

Too often, we start the opposite way round, based on a set of rules that we try to adapt to. The narrative we create is based on three things: who am I, how I behave and how others experience me. Loneliness comes because there is a clash and imbalance between the three. When we focus on how others perceive us, when we adapt our behaviour based on the expectations of others, while simultaneously trying to hold on to who we are and what we dream of being.

We are a messed up mix of who we truly are and what we think is expected of us – with the result that no one really knows us at all, not even ourselves. And while you think you are telling the ‘right’ story about yourself, other people may see something completely different, so you end up feeling lonely because you are not being understood and accepted for who you are and would like to be.

I know this all too well. Because I know I am different, that I don’t fit in. I don’t behave as people expect me to.

I want to be a positive, sincere and empathetic human being. I want to laugh, dance and have a good time but I am also ambitious and want to build a successful career. I want to be strong, a caring and loving partner, hang out with people I care about. Most of all, I want to be a free person making my own footprints – not following footprints made by others.

But when I have been myself, people don’t see the real me. They see a strange man, a man who dresses differently, a man in high heels. And it has held me back at work and in my relationships.

I need people around me. I need their support and I need people to care about me when I’m down. And because I was afraid of not getting that, afraid of scaring people away, afraid of people leaving me, I had a tendency to hide my true personality – my way of dressing – because I knew it would create questions, stigma and a feeling of not belonging.

So instead of being honest about myself, I subconsciously created a strong self-image to hide behind, mastering the art of being funny to mask my insecurities, fitting in with the crowd, being the shoulder for everyone to cry on, and promising myself that tomorrow I would do things differently. But for far too long, tomorrow never came.

The result. People who didn’t know me thought I was arrogant, aloof and probably gay. They saw an egotist and a loner. And those who knew me saw someone in control of my life, just doing my own thing.

You can only stop the loneliness by being honest with yourself and with the world you live in. You need to create coherence between who you are, how you behave and how other people see you. Talk about your feelings, show people who you truly are. Those who cannot accept you for being true to yourself should probably not be part of your life. Because in the end, they will never thank you for fulfilling their expectations of you and you’ll end up hating yourself for it. In my experience, most people will actually support you. For me, friends and family didn’t actually think that much about me being different after all… but just like me for who I am.