It’s very possible to be both very independent, by conscious, intentional choice— and also be lonely.
When we’ve had complicated or painful experiences with other people throughout our lifetimes, we very often spend a LOT of time and energy trying to become as self-sufficient as possible.
It makes perfect sense that we’d highly value independence, given what a lot of us grew up with.
The more independent we are, the less opportunities there might be for others to disappoint or exploit us.
A lot of us learned early on that even well-intended others can very often let us down.
Many of the people reading this are quite proud of how far they’ve come in not NEEDING other people.
Cultivating independence, for a lot of people, has reduced their anxiety and enhanced their self-esteem.
And for a lot of people reading this, cultivating independence wasn’t easy, either— they had to fight, tooth and nail, to extract themselves from codependent or exploitative relationships, some of which they’d been trapped in for years.
I think there are a lot of great tings that can be said about becoming more and more confident about our ability to survive and thrive without depending on others.
The thing is: even if independence has been good for us in many ways…many of us still feel lonely.
In some ways, connecting with others is about survival and logistical support, and we can largely lean to survive and take care of ourselves on our own if we choose.
But in other ways, connecting with other people is about certain experiences that we CAN’T have solely on our own.
There is something special that happens when we are truly seen or understood by someone else.
There is something special that happens when we are held by someone we trust.
There is something special that happens when someone else emotionally invests in our life and journey.
These aren’t issues of survival, per se— at least, not physical survival.
Even if we’ve spent a GREAT DEAL of time, energy, and focus becoming as independent as we possibly can…we can still miss and yearn for those experiences of closeness and visibility that come from connecting with others.
Being lonely doesn’t mean you can’t survive or thrive on your own.
Craving safe, chosen physical touch from someone you trust doesn’t mean you’re longing for codependency.
We can make room for our emotional wants and needs. They are, as it turns out, as real and important as our physical wants and needs.
Wanting to be seen, understood, and cared about doesn’t make you any less strong or independent.
It means you’re human, with normal human wiring.
We don’t do ourselves any favors when we deny or disown what we want and need— even if it’s not entirely congruent with the life we’ve built.
We’re complex. We can let ourselves be complex. We can let ourselves have competing, even sometimes seemingly contradictory, wants.
Yup, you’re strong, independent, badass.
And, yup, you’re lonely sometimes. You want to be seen. Held.
Both can be true.
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