To be alone is to truly feel unimportant and unloved. To be alone, is to have no one beside you.
One of my biggest fears, one of the worst feelings I have ever felt, is that loneliness. For some, it may very well break them. Speaking from personal experience, and on behalf of millions around the world, I can say this; we will all feel lonely at some point. Most likely in those vulnerable moments when we have no one by our side, will that poison spread.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company.”
I know that, while life can be harsh, and while we often want to make ourselves seem like the “good guy” in many situations, these words ring true. When we are alone, whether it be riding the train to work, sitting in silence in the back of a cab, or crying in some deep corner no one can find us, many of us become our own worst enemy.
It takes work to understand the puzzle that forms each and every one of us. As years pass by humanity strives to discover or even catalogue the intricate workings of the heart and mind. These bodies that are controlled by the brain, so simple in theory, yet astoundingly complex in reality.
But what I do know is this: the worst kind of company to keep is yourself when you hold no love for the brilliant enigma you are.
Anyone, from a five-year-old to their own grandmother or father has torn themselves down at some point or other. What we do not often realise is that, with each blow, with each hit our hearts take, the more damage inflicted – the harder it is to build yourself up the next time. Cracks will start to show, the bricks of your foundation crumbling at their edges. As our bodies turn to a house and no longer a home. Suffocating ourselves with the smoke of a fire that dances and flickers with self-hatred.
The meaning to be found in Jean-Paul’s words is two-fold.
When we are alone we should not feel lonely. What better company should there be than yourself? Many will argue friends, loved ones and sometimes even kind strangers. Many will argue that it is true for them, and unfortunately, I cannot help but agree. That is what’s scary. What is so utterly heart breaking and will shattering; is that for most, that is their reality. The absence of love for themselves must be filled with something, and so swirls of malice and self-loathing often creep in. When no one else is around, when they are truly alone; they are also lonely.
We are our own worst enemy. We put ourselves down, merciless and cruel to the one that matters most. We. Become. The Bad Guy.
And that is the worst company possible.
A villain in our own right. The evil that battles our stories protagonist. As the demons dance in our head and fog clouds our eyes over to the way things ought to be.
But it is important to take that into stride. To accept that for once, you are the bad guy. If you saw a child being bullied on the street, its body a canvas for the myriad of bruises and emotional trauma, would you not do something? Could you truly stand by and watch, thinking it was the right thing? No. You would not.
Yet when you are alone, and no one else comes to save you, you take on both roles in the situation. Helplessly allowing the self-inflicted pain.
But that is where Jean-Paul’s words come to light a second time. We have all been our own worst enemy, all been bad company. Yet, one of the most beautiful traits of humanity is: the capacity for change.
Learning to love yourself is nowhere near easy. It starts off slow and gradual. Don’t be fooled, some days you will be the bad guy again. But each time, you will notice that the taunts are a little less cruel, the loneliness a little less deep. It will cease to engulf you any longer. The touch may linger in traces here and there, yank at you in the times there is no one, but it will no longer beat you.
There is a process, and a long one at that. Do not fall into the trap of “self-care” as many call it.
Self-care is not procrastinating work or a big project by coming up with ways to treat yourself.
Self-care is writing lists, so you stay organised. Self-care is changing your bedsheets because they’ve been on longer than is healthy. Self-care is brushing your hair and not letting it get knotty. It’s moisturising and taking care of your body. Or exercising, and finding music that helps motivate you to get the job done. Even starting early on a project.
It is hard.
I found, that when trying to learn to love myself, I had to think outside of the box: Every day, I would practice self-improvement. I would be kinder to others, I would help more, do things to make different people happy. I don’t mean putting others before myself; that can be dangerous! Rather, if I could see that I was improving, that I was doing something truly good, then I was giving myself a reason to love myself.
The second most important thing? Being kind to your future self. When being kind to others, it is often easier to think of them before you. So, if you have trouble; if you ever feel selfish for trying to treat yourself well, do it for the person you will be later. Think objectively, think of the future you as a different person.
When you want to start early on a project, energy and motivation can be hard to find. A well-known fact is that people with little love for themselves would travel to the moon and back for others. Just trying to make them happy: so do that for the person you will be later. They aren’t who you are now. They are not you just yet. It is someone else, and that can make it easier. So do it for them. Whether an hour, one day, or a year away.
By giving yourself reasons, you cannot deny you are worthy of good company. By showing your future self some love, it means that when the time comes, you will feel all that emotion hit home. You will not feel an absence of love. You will not feel as if you have no one.
Eventually, when you are alone: you will not feel lonely.