Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

“I am lonely” rang in my head, again. It is a lifelong story I have told myself. This is very different from being alone. Alone, I can do. I can be alone for hours, even days at a time and feel quite fulfilled. Loneliness feels empty inside, like there is nowhere to be, nowhere to fit in, or worse, nowhere to belong.

Where do you fit in during a pandemic?

Let’s face it, none of us have been fitting in anywhere this past year, in terms of our old life. Everything has been turned upside down, inside out, and do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around, that’s where we all are at as we approach a full year of some variation of a lockdown. Loneliness has found its way in through the cracks of pandemic fatigue when there is still so much disorientation and confusion in figuring out how to fit into this new life and new world. Loneliness can accompany you when you are alone or when you are in a houseful of people who seemingly don’t get you because they are probably having a hard time just figuring themselves out. 

So here is a little secret, you don’t need to fit in anywhere.

With fitting in, you will always have a sense of loneliness because it requires external validation. The real secret is remembering how it feels to belong. Belonging is more of an internal experience. When there is a hole in your being that doesn’t feel it belongs, this requires inner work that can be hard to do for some people because it usually requires being alone in some way, which at first, can feel lonely. The payoff is huge though. When you finally feel you belong, you belong everywhere and you get to choose where you want to be, who you want to be with, and never ever again do you have to fit in anywhere ever again. 

The first step to belonging is knowing, or at least sensing, how you want that to feel. Take a little bit of time to sit with a moment in time or a period in your life that you felt really connected, where you felt you belonged. What did your body feel like? Did you feel at ease, relaxed, excited, warm, tingly? What were the smells, flavors, sounds, sights, textures you experienced with your surroundings where you felt you belonged? Now, dive in to create that sense of belonging for yourself again.

Here are four ways to feel you belong right now:

  • Be creative. Tap into your inner child again, do something creative without any expectations and just play! When we get lost in the joy of creating, we often forget that we are alone. When I feel lonely, I turn the lights down and dance with my shadows, literally and figuratively. I always find my shadow makes the most intuitive dance partner. How do you want to express your creativity while no one is watching?
  • Give yourself a hug & say “I love you.” You deserve it. If you can’t be around people, then learn how to receive a good hug and give a good hug by being your own giver & recipient. This should be a gift you give yourself every day, even post pandemic. How does it feel to receive your own hug?
  • Call on an acknowledgment partner. Those days you are especially feeling lonely, call on a friend to acknowledge how awesome you are. Let them know beforehand that you will reach out to them on your low days. Ask if you can reciprocate when they need it too. After a lonely woes me meltdown a few months ago, I decided to do this with a friend and he now sends me the most amazing texts just after I send, “I am having another day.” I can feel an immediate shift when I see his text come in. Who is that person you can reach out to that will allow you to feel seen/heard?
  • Learn a new skill or sharpen an old one. If there is somewhere you want to belong, try a new skill to connect more deeply to that part of you. For me, I want to be open to the possibility of living in a Spanish speaking country so I am committed to my next milestone of 125 days of Duolingo! What skill do you want to learn that will allow you to feel more connected?

In the end, it’s about getting to know yourself again and learning to see that you can fit in anywhere because you belong everywhere. 

I have put these practices to the test over the last several months. There are still days that the dreadful “I am lonely” mantra creeps in but it isn’t as loud, and doesn’t hang around very long because I put my music on to dance it out and I say out loud, “Ya no te necesito. ¡Pertenezco aquí!

Tags: Weekly Prompt. Loneliness. Belong. Pandemic Fatigue. Connection. Joy. Emotional Intelligence. Mental Health.