Tips to Overcome Gay Loneliness
This article is all about loneliness within the gay community and my tips on how we can work through our loneliness and overcome it.
The inspiration for this article came from a Huffington Post article called, Together Alone - The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness, by Michael Hobbes. To summarise this article's very in-depth discussion on lonliness within the gay community, Hobbes talks about how gay loneliness essentially stems from a variety of factors: from the feeling of not being understood at the start of when we're figuring out how gender, not really being able to connect With people within the gay community when we come out, and the frustration that comes with that because we think that we've found our tribe when we come out, but really, there's a lot more work to it than that. So as part of the process of when we come out, we're also working through a lot of other challenges, too. There's the addiction of sex, there's the drugs, there's the clubbing, there's a whole myriad of things. And these activities act as a coping mechanism for lonliness; a lot of guys do not want to be alone with their thoughts. The problem with loneliness within our community is that it does cause a higher amount of health issues: depression and suicide compared to other gender groups.
What is lonliness?
My definition of loneliness is not you're just physically alone with no one around. My definition of loneliness is: it is the absence of companionship, and also the lack of emotional validation. So, what I mean by this is that, within us as social creatures, as human beings, we do need to have people around us to interact with. However, often at times combined with the expectation that we should be in these harmonious beautiful relationships that are loving, and have the happily ever after styled conclusions, we tend to confuse that narrative with curing loneliness, which is not the case at all.
So in terms of my strategies for how we can work through loneliness, I'll share them below:
1. Have good friends
In my opinion, a friend is someone who's there to support you understand you and also be there for you when you need them. I'm not talking about someone who sees you every day. What I mean is that if you're having a hard time, that person, who you regard as a friend, is there and available to you to listen and hear what you're going through and to validate your emotions within reason.
And to complement this, Tony Robbins has said that we are the sum of the four or five closest people around us. Now that can include friends, lovers and family. But as we tend to have an abundance of friends over family or lovers, it's important to recognize that the people we spend the most amount of time with are the ones who define a lot of our behaviour, what our interests are, what we're supposed to enjoy,, what we want to achieve in our world and the kind of support we receive. Friends are a great group that we can cultivate continuously, which is really important.
2. Emotional validation
Emotional validation, in an example, would be: you've just come home from work and you've had a bad day, your boss has been really difficult and your partner, parent or friend tells you, "well that's clearly got something to do with you. You're not working hard enough, you aren't doing right by your boss." You've probably heard that before from people in your life or a variation of that kind of invalidation. And personally, I don't really like being told that I deserve to feel bad.
What I prefer is being told, "I'm sorry, that sounds really difficult. I may not understand what you're going through, but I can imagine that it's quite challenging for you." This kind of language of recognising our pain is so important to a lot of us. if we're in a state, where we're quite emotional, having that validation of our emotional feelings helps us feel recognised as well as feeling like we can shift our focus back to our day without being clouded by the weight of those heavy emotions.
And it also helps the loneliness aspect too. If we're alone, physically and no one else is with us, and we're going through challenges, we want people to understand or at the very least, recognize the pain that we're going through, because that helps us move beyond it.
3. Don't date when you're lonely
Please do not date when you're lonely. Being lonely has caused so many dating challenges and problems between people. The reason this is so problematic is because our loneliness attracts the wrong people into our lives especially when we're not feeling as strong and we don't have a foundation of close friends in our lives who are constantly able to help us out. Loneliness causes us to seek out companionship with another person because we think it will make us feel better. This could not be further from the truth. If we are lonely we are likely to feel even more alone within a relationship.
One of the classic examples of people getting into bad situations, out of loneliness would definitely when you've moved to a foreign location and you don't know anyone, you don't have any friends, you're going through some struggles, and someone comes into your life shines a light upon you. And next minute, you find yourself in a very challenging relationship because you feel like you need them in order to not be by yourself, but they're also not able to give you the validation you require which would cure your loneliness.
4. Learn to treat yourself, like the lover of your dreams
In order to really appreciate another you need to learn to appreciate yourself. Take the time to be phyiscally alone. Become comfortable with yourself and your thoughts. Ask yourself things, find out what you like and address what you don't like about yourself. When you start to address that, you then begin to unravel some of the things that you thought were true that you no longer need to hold on to. And recognize that you do not need to paint this beautiful painting this picture of who you'd like the world to see. Recognize that you are fine, just as you are. You do not need to have anything else to make you great or loveable.
A great way to dig deeper is to think about what you've currently achieved in life. Whether it be a great body, a great car, a high earning job with a phenomenal title, ask, "Who would I be if I did not have these things in my life," and then start to work through that to figure out who you are.
5. You are not going to die alone
This whole concept of dying alone, is fear. You're not going to die alone. You've got yourself for life. I know it's cliche, but when you start coming to yourself to work through your own internal challenges, that's when the magic starts to happen and you feel sustainably happier on a regular basis. The value of spending that alone time is that it not only addresses the fear of being alone, but it also makes you realize, too, that you don't need to have someone in your life in order to make you happy. You figure out things that you actually want to do for yourself that make you happy on a regular basis.
I think that loneliness is a very insidious thing that a lot of us go through and it's something that we all need to work through so we don't end up in situations where we feel even more alone within a relationship or have friends or a family who simply can't emotionally validate us and give us that companionship we need for ourselves.
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