You've realised that you’re lonely.
What do you do next?
I want you to know how proud I am of you for accepting – or at least exploring – your loneliness. This is a tough realisation for us gay men – and humans generally – and it takes a lot of courage to even sit with the concept.
I see you. I respect you. Well done.
If you’re new to my work and haven’t read my post ‘The stigma of loneliness’, I suggest you click here to read it before coming back to this post. I’ll wait.
OK. From here I’m presuming that you’ve read that post, so let’s continue the discussion.
There’s good news and there’s bad news.
Let’s have the good news first
For as much as loneliness sucks and can lead us to thinking some dark thoughts, indulging in behaviours that don’t serve us and feeling pretty awful about ourselves and other people, I firmly believe that great things can happen once we accept that we’re lonely.
We get to stop and review where we are in life. We get to make changes. We get to work towards putting ourselves into the world.
In short, allowing ourselves to admit that we’re lonely to ourselves becomes our ‘one day’: that day that we’ve been waiting for whenever we’ve said or thought ‘One day, I’ll do…’
The bad news
We gay men – as do all other humans – find loneliness repellent. It takes huge reserves of courage to say that we’re lonely aloud.
But, we must. We must tell someone who has earned the right to hear our stories that we’re lonely.
And the irony is that the thoughts and feelings that are part of the feeling of loneliness convince us that we are alone and that there’s no one in our lives who’s able to listen to our story. We convince ourselves that by opening up we will become a burden on others as they live their lives.
These thoughts and feelings can lead us down some very dark paths. We need to do something to stop ourselves before we do something that is irreversible.
Sharing your story
Someone, somewhere has earned the right to hear your story.
Perhaps it’s your husband, partner, a trusted friend or a family member. Or, if the discussion and opening up to them makes you feel really uncomfortable, you can speak with a trained counsellor or join a support group – like my group on Facebook for premium subscribers – to get some ideas and support of how to make the announcement that you’re lonely.
Does this need for preparation and speaking your truth aloud remind you of something you’ve already done? It’s been my experience that there’s many similarities between admitting that I was/am lonely and coming out. Both involved considerable strength to do and to overcome what I thought people would think of me.
I’m sorry that there’s no other way around this step. It will make you feel as uncomfortable as fuck, but every important conversation makes us feel uncomfortable. You simply must speak up. You must speak your truth to someone who you know will listen and respond with empathy and not seek to diminish your thoughts and feelings by telling you to get over it or comparing it to their own or someone else’s experience with loneliness. Remember: You’re allowed to feel exactly how you feel.
I’m going to be honest with you again: I’m fine with this part being uncomfortable. It’s time to embrace the discomfort. Has choosing the comfortable option and avoiding difficult conversations with those around you contributed to getting you to this point?
Let that question sink in before reading further. I can wait.
Put yourself out there
It’s time to do. My blog is all about supporting you and letting you know that you’re not alone. But reading my words and liking my posts on social media isn’t enough to lift you out of your loneliness and lead you back to authentic connection as a gay man. That requires you doing something different.
I know that this doing can be terrifying. It’s OK, I’m here to help and support you.
The advice for moving past loneliness is often to ‘put yourself out there’ by doing something you love to do, or used to love doing, with other people with the same interests.
This is great advice, but please; be careful. You have an opportunity to put your authentic self out into the world with people who you may not know. You may need to do some work within yourself and with a therapist or a coach to identify, and then remove, any masks that you’re wearing.
I’ve written previously that there are three pillars to connection:
1. To self
2. To others close to us; and
3. To our communities.
We can rush to connect to others close to us and to our communities without doing the work needed within ourselves to ensure that we’re putting our real, authentic selves into the world.
We must, therefore, work on connection to our selves first, or at least at the same time. This is the only way I know to put our authentic selves into the world and get the real, authentic connection we crave [for more on this, read this post].
We don’t need to hustle for acceptance. We are enough.
In our desperation to connect, we who are lonely can overshare and tell our stories to anyone who will listen, be that on social media or in real life. Or we can slip into Mr. Nice Guy mode and be the first to volunteer our services when someone we barely know needs help.
When I find myself slipping in to this mode, it's a clear indication that I’m hustling for the acceptance of others. I’m doing the equivalent of giving all my best friendship material away for free hoping that those around me will see me, be impressed and then accept me. Do you do this too?
I have two answers to this situation.
The first is reciprocity. Dr. Vivek Murthy in his book ‘Together’ explains that reciprocity is important for genuine connection. In our rush to connect, we lonely gay men need to be mindful that our attempts to connect are genuinely reciprocated. Friends want to connect with us as much as we do them. Friends share their thoughts, ideas and frustrations with each other. They include us just like we do them.
Genuine connection can't happen without reciprocity.
The second? We must have the knowledge – the absolute, rock-solid belief – that we are enough. This belief comes from being truly, authentically connected to our selves. When we know that we are enough, we can allow people to evolve and grow – sometimes out of our social circles – just like we’re evolving and growing. When we know and feel that we’re enough, we aren’t crushed and question our worthiness as a human when a friendship or a relationship evolves or, indeed, ends.
Here’s the thing: you are enough, right now, just as you are. Believing that you are enough is the key to authentic confidence, rather than ego or false bravado. There’s no more ‘fake it ‘til we make it’ when we believe we’re enough in this moment.
There's no need to fake it, as we’ve already made it.
Isn’t there a lot of stuff to think about in this post? Rest assured that we’ll be coming back to many of the concepts I’ve touched on in future posts.
For now, do you have someone in your life who has earned the right to hear your story of loneliness?
Remember, you don’t need to process this question alone. I have created a private space on Facebook where we can go deeper in a safe space online in a chat with me and others. It’s a space where you can give and get support as you work to connect authentically with yourself, those in your life and your communities. This space is available for premium subscribers only. You can become a premium subscriber by hitting the 'subscribe and stay connected' link below. A basic subscription is free and is also available through the link below.
Also, I have a list of organisations here with whom you can talk to trained mental health professionals if you feel you need that.
Where to now?
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Subscribe to my website through either a basic subscription (free) or premium subscription (monthly charge) and let’s stay connected as we work to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men.
Thank you for reading this post. I hope that you’ve found it helpful.
I’m now asking for YOUR help.
Sharing my work really helps it reach more gay men and helps us all to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men globally.
You may not feel lonely and have just the right amount of authentic connection in your life, but sharing this article could really help a friend or relative who may be quietly struggling with the thoughts and feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
Please share this post by email, a message in a chat app or by sharing my post on social media (hit a social media icon below to share).
~ Thank you ~
Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.