Loneliness - The Paradox, The Lifestyle & The Fitting In

8.6.19


'Feeling disconnected' - that's probably the best way I can describe how loneliness feels to me. It's a sense of isolation, a sense of separation, a sense of protection - something which I've normally just plagued upon myself, the thoughts in my head convincing me so. However, it can also be down to so many other factors too - there's no perfect reason as to why we all feel lonely.

I think the irony with loneliness is that, we all feel like we're the only ones going through that emotion, when in reality, everyone feels loneliness from time to time. It's a paradox of feeling completely by yourself, yet we're not really by ourselves in that specific emotion because so many other people out there can feel the exact same way at that exact same time. I guess there's some comfort in knowing we're not all alone in those feelings.

I believe loneliness is pretty complex. I mean, I can feel lonely for simply a day when I've stayed in on a friday evening, or I could be in a room full of people and still feel like I'm secluded from whatever is going on, or I could even have had that empty feeling of loneliness hanging over me for months on end - I suppose it's coherent to whatever is happening in our lives at the time.



JACKET - MONKI // HEADBAND - PRIMARK

Back in 2015/2016, loneliness was a very big constant in my life. It was something that no matter the day, no matter the occasion, no matter the circumstances, I felt perpetually alone. This was all relevant to my mental health at the time, of course. At this point, I was in a low place with my eating disorders and depression, and those have huge factors on your emotions, especially those related to other people. I was also dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which, looking back, was probably the biggest factor in my actions at the time.

When it comes to things like eating disorders and OCD, there's a lot of secrecy intertwined in everything a person can do. As I've discussed before here on my blog, it's almost a sense of embarrassment and shame that surrounds the irrational thoughts and behaviors we partake in.

With that being said, it's hard to want to be, or even feel like you can be, around other people. It's hard to allow yourself out of the comfort zone (or 'grasp' for want of a better word) that you feel safe in. Consequently, we then begin to isolate ourselves from all other parts of everyday life. We begin to say no to hanging out with friends, we refuse to eat in front of others, we can even refuse to leave the house. It's a domino effect - we begin to shut out everything but our secure routines, we begin to force this loneliness upon ourselves. Well, that's what happened for me anyway.

I was consumed by my obsessive routine. Everything revolved around timings, especially when it came to food, and if anything would disrupt that, it would feel like my brain was imploding. I couldn't handle anything coming between me and my own structured way of living. It was me, and only me, who was allowed to be in my life, in my own little irrational bubble.

Loneliness - It's an odd emotion to feel when you're in a situation like that, because no one else has actually made you feel lonely. It's not like people would leave me out of things, it was me. I was leaving myself out of things. My loneliness was a consequence of my own actions. However, that's not to say it's not a valid way to feel. I suppose this kind of thing that I'm talking about here is a broader feeling. It's a sense of seclusion that saturates your entire existence. It's a huge factor of low mental health and coincides with the concept of 'hopelessness' you feel when you're suffering from depression.

"I'm not much but I'm all I have."

It's a known fact that we tend to cut people off when we're feeling low, no matter the scale of it, and it can be a hard way to feel when, in the bigger picture of things, you're in control (or your mind is anyway) of how lonely you're making yourself, but, things change with time - remember that - we only move out those situations by challenging ourselves and doing the things that scare us. Try and fit in a little coffee date around something, or even get someone to come round for a chat for an hour or so. We all need human interaction at the end of the day and even if there's an initial feeling of panic, you'll feel better for having seen someone in the long run.



TROUSERS - THRIFTED // BAG - SMITH & CANOVA

Looking at this from another angle, one a little less mental health orientated, loneliness can simply be perpetuated by things like work, school, money and social life.

I know for me, as someone who's been blogging for 5 years, loneliness can rear it's head quite often when you're working for yourself. After all, sitting at home, just you and your laptop, with only the occasional momentary trip outside to collect the essentials (*cough*more coffee and digestive biscuits*cough*), can become somewhat of an isolating routine.

Don't get me wrong, I love the freedom I have to sit here, typing away or setting up my tripod to shoot a quick few self-portraits, but it doesn't half get a bit quiet sometimes. Some days you just draw a blank - there's no words to type out with your fingers and there's no photos to be shot and you grow to miss the feeling of communication with other people.

I think it goes for a lot of things in the creative world, but writing can't be rushed, neither can a good photo. Everything has to be thought out, or inspired, and when there's no inspiration left and no planning to do, all I'm left to do is sit here, alone, twiddling my thumbs until its finally a reasonable time to go back to sleep. And, time moves slow on days like that. It's like minutes turn into hours and I'm asking myself: how many cups of tea can I actually drink to pass the time?

It can be great to be independent and in control of your own time, but it's definitely a component of being self employed that can leave you feeling a little on the outskirts of everything and everybody else sometimes. That's why I always think it's good to take yourself outside when ever the opportunity shows itself. Get yourself to a cafe to write, or organise a shoot day with someone - it's those little things that help minimize that time spent in constant solitude.


There are factors like University which can really eat into the time you would spend socializing too. I can't speak from experience, but after seeing friends of mine stuck in front of their laptops typing out dissertations until 4am, I can't imagine how remote you must come to feel from the norm of partying and seeing friends.

I suppose it's again that idea of something consuming your time and your thoughts, obviously not in the same sense as bad mental health of course, but it still becomes something that can leave you feeling pretty lonely.

Even regardless of dissertations and lectures, I know that University can become a lonely time for a lot of people. I guess people are told that it will be 'the time of their lives', which obviously, it is for a lot of people, but it can also be a difficult time if you're in a situation involving flat-mates you don't get a long with, a course you don't *really* love or just the simple thing of having found no other hobbies or interest to keep you going through your University course.

I think it goes without saying, this applies to any other education too. You could be at high school or college and feel the exact same way. Even a job you've applied for could have the exact same factors.

"When you're surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you're by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don't feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you're really alone."

If you're without friendship, hobbies, social life (which I will come on to in a moment), then it's hard to feel like you're not alone, especially in a ginormous campus full of people. I can understand that University is tough - it's not all partying and making life long friends - it can be an isolating situation away from everything you once knew.

I think the thing with any education or work is, you have to have people around you that you 'click' with, or else you're left with that feeling of separation. The idea that you're not fitting in, or not finding your group. It's an understandable emotion, especially when you're far from home. Without that connection with other people, it's hard to feel complete with everything - to not feel like you're separate from everyone else who seem to be having the time of their lives, or getting on with it, at least.




But, I know for some people, things like 'social life' don't come particularly easy. For me, a lot of my social life revolves around me being able to get into Manchester. You see, I don't live in the city center, I actually live in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere - sure it's not 'nowhere' to me, it's home, but my home and my social life don't coincide.

Often I'll find myself back home on a Friday night, nothing to do but stare blankly at my laptop in hopes some inspiration will strike or at least some Netflix show will draw me in and actually excite me for once. Usually though, that doesn't happen. I'm left scrolling through Instagram, watching people on their jolly's, tasting divine Italian food, drinking cocktails on the beach; people out drinking with their friends, giggling, laughing, having fun; or even people on date nights with their other halves, getting all romantic and enjoying the love.

It feels sad. I feel sad. I feel alone.

I think especially as someone who's used to being around people a lot of the time. The minute I'm alone, with nothing to occupy myself with, it dwells on me - I'm pretty lonely. I mean, I'm often an introvert anyway - I tend to enjoy the occasional time alone where I can just get on with own thing, but I guess it's a gotten to the point nowadays where, since I tend to keep myself busy, always out and about doing something, that there comes those times where I'm home alone, in the middle of nowhere outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, and there's no one around to hang out with, and I feel isolated. I feel completely on the outside of everything.

All of my friends from home are scattered across the country at University, so coming back home leaves me with no one but myself. Not that I particularly want to be going out for a drink round the village where I live (I mean, who wants to bump into every Tom, Dick and Harry from high school and have some beige conversation about the fact they're working in Halfords, right?!), but often on a evening where I'm feeling a little bit lonesome, I kind of wish I had the option.

I guess this is the most common and regular feeling of loneliness - that lack of social life that makes us feel like we're 'missing out'. It's really not helped by social media, you know? the constant posting of amazing events, coffee dates and night outs... it's difficult not to feel like you're alone when you're not out there doing all this 'amazing', 'fun' stuff that everyone else seems to be doing with their friends.

"The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself."

The reality is though, we all feel like that. It's that paradox that I mentioned earlier that I think we can all find comfort in. Even those people who we're obsessive over on social media will have similar moments where they feel lonely. That's what I try to remember now, especially when it's an occasional one off occurrence for me - I just ensure I've got some plans lined up to look forward to - I try not to let the loneliness swallow me up.



I get that the concept of social life can be difficult however, especially when that feeling of 'not fitting in' is involved.

I've spent a lot of my life feeling like I don't fit in. I was bullied in Primary School and High School - for reasons which I will never comprehend (seriously, just be nice, okay?) and was left feeling like I had to mold and change myself in order to be liked and not end up an outsider.

I got the 'trendy' haircuts (I'm talking sweeping fringes and those weird flowers we used to clip into our hair... what was that about?), I begged my Mum to buy me a Paul's Boutique hoodie for Christmas and by the point I'd reached Year 11, I'd taken to starving myself because I thought being thinner would make me more like-able. The whole High School saga played on my mind for a very long time, even once I'd left school.

As an 17 year old girl, I was beginning to try and find myself - that self I'd been suppressing for about 11 years - and it felt so unusual. The idea of 'fitting in' still haunted me, yet I wanted to become someone other than this weird version of myself that I'd created. I think that's the thing - we all just want to be ourselves and be accepted, but life doesn't always make it easy for us to just do that. We grow up in an abyss of 'having to look a certain way' or 'having to like certain things' and it leaves us a bit clueless. What are we meant to do?

At this point, I was so influenced by social media - I just wanted to be like all these other cool girls I was seeing on my feed. I wanted to dress like them, look like them, have the same interests, so I continued to try and mirror what I thought was 'right', what I thought would make me 'cool'.

Now, don't get me wrong, every outfit I've ever posted on here or wherever it may be, I've liked. I love clothes with a passion and it takes every fiber of my being to not add everything from the Zara website to my basket when the new collections come out, but for the longest time I wasn't dressing specifically for me. I had found myself in this whirlpool of dressing how I thought other people would want me to or what I thought people would like to see. I had this mishmash-ed wardrobe full of pieces which I slowly grew to resent, and as I got older I realised I'd never taken the time to figure out what I'd actually like to wear, or even how I'd like to do my own make up. I'd not thrown my own self into the clothes I was wearing, I was just pulling pieces of other people's outfits and trying to make them 'me'.

I know that seems a little off-topic to be talking about clothes, but for me, fashion plays a big part in how I express my personality, the same way music taste might play a big part in someone else's. With 'not fitting in' comes a sense of loneliness that simply lies in the fact we're not able to express ourselves properly. We're compressing ourselves into small niches just to be liked or be included.

"If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them."

I think the idea of 'fitting in' is difficult because obviously, everyone wants to be liked to some degree and the isolation you can feel by not 'slotting in' to a certain group can be horrible. When we're lonely, it's difficult not to conjure up schemes and ideas of what we can do to 'fit in', or how we can change in order to be liked. Sometimes it's our interests, sometimes it's our clothes, sometimes it's the food we eat - everything comes into play. Even as an 18 year old, I thought if I wasn't dressing like everyone else then I wouldn't fit in and I'd be left on the outside of everything. We feel this urgency to change in order to not be secluded, but I've learnt that that's really not important.

Sure, loneliness can be consuming - everyone wants to be liked, and everyone wants to have friends and fit in, but compromising who you are to do so isn't worth it. I've often felt like people don't 'get me' or people have pushed me out because of the way I act or the way I look, but those are the things which make me, 'me'. It's my quirks, my style and my personality that set me apart from people, and not in a bad way. If you think about it, if I stuck to conforming to the 'norms' life threw at me, I wouldn't be here typing this blog post now, I would never have made some of the friends I have made or have modelled for amazing brands in campaigns I could never dreamed of. All the things I've done are down to the fact that I was myself and did what I wanted to do, regardless if I was going to fit in or not. Okay, there may have been some slips along the way, but I know for a fact that nothing would make me feel lonelier than not being able to express exactly who I am.

Being alone isn't always a bad thing - despite how loneliness can make you feel. It's not mandatory that every single person has to 'click' with everyone else and I think it's important to stay true to yourself if you're in a situation where you feel like you're conforming just to make life easier (at Uni, at work, wherever that may be). Get to know yourself, stay in touch with the people who you do 'click' with, make some friends online, find something to throw your passion into. It's better to be alone than to be changing yourself and not expressing who you are.

"Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."



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