In a revealing Q&A with Vox’s Brian Resnick, Maike Luhmann, a psychologist at the University of Cologne in Germany, explains how loneliness works and propagates itself.

“We depend on others to feel secure. When we feel lonely, we feel like there’s a permanent threat. It might not be a real threat, but we perceive things as threatening.

So what this amounts to when we’re in a normal, neutral social situation, we’re more likely to interpret the other person as being threatening. Someone might look at us in a neutral way, and the lonely person will think, "This person doesn’t like me.”

And so begins that cycle of self doubt. As author Olivia Laing writes:

“Loneliness feels like such a shameful experience, so counter to the lives we are supposed to lead, that it becomes increasingly inadmissible, a taboo state whose confession seems destined to cause others to turn and flee.”

It is this exact rationale that stops many from breaking out of loneliness. Luhmann argues loneliness can actually be a good thing because it “signals that we need to do something about our social connections. This is a sign from our psychological systems that there’s something off.”

The solution? Find other humans. This doesn’t mean you throw yourself into networking sessions of suits and fancy hors d'oeuvres. Start small. Head to a fairly crowded place - a coffee shop, a library or a bookstore, and set up work. Then, if you can afford it and bear it, transition to a co-working space or rent an office desk in your town. Sometimes, just seeing other humans around is reason enough to feel like a world beyond you exists. If not, then find others like yourself to work together like a group of writers who rent a hotel room and work around a common table. Shared space, but isolated work output.

‍‍‍You’ve done all the research needed to move into the glorious world of autonomy. You scour the Internet for advice because Google is your original best friend. You speak to others in the field, plan a budget, pick a workspace and maybe line up a few gigs. A couple jobs in, you start realizing you’re the only one around. Isolation begins to creep in. All those perks of freelancing - being your own boss, working at your own pace, not having to leave home - start fueling a new kind of loneliness.

You might decide to take on more work to stay busy and justify going against the regular 9-5 lifestyle. That sneakily leads to constant guilt of feeling like you are never doing enough and skipping too many social appointments to remember. Those long, fluctuating hours it takes to complete one job eventually brings you back to your lonesome self, working at three in the morning.

This isn’t a revelation, really. Anyone who has ever decided to start out on their own will deal with loneliness. It’s common enough that it is an expected part of the creative process. That it was customary as a freelance writer to become such steadfast friends with your laptop, so actual human contact would feel novel.

The Choice

You made the choice. The choice to go down that literal and figurative road less taken. The possibility of traveling that road catapulted you into a cloud of such optimism that you overpacked your suitcase with determination, filled your being with unbridled confidence, and marched onwards.

Then the bumps started showing up. You were only a few steps in. Nothing you couldn’t take, just the usual mandates of logistical nightmares when you start something new. A while after, the puddles in your path began revealing themselves. Indecision, public opinion, self doubt and performance. Still, nothing deep enough to curb your enthusiasm. Having jumped over the bumps and past the puddles, you then begin coasting on a high. That high you experience when you overpower obstacles. Then, you unknowingly step into a swamp where the leftover fear, unfinished bookkeeping and latent self doubt begin coalescing into a vortex of spectacular cynicism.

And, you’re stuck. The crumbling begins and you find yourself wondering why you ever considered this lonely road.

The loneliness

‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍Not too long ago, I wrote about all it would take to move from a desk job to the mystical world of freelancing. If you had the opportunity and privilege to turn independent, I implored you to challenge yourself and unearth your true potential.

I do not take any of it back. In fact, I turn to the article to remind myself of how it all began. But I would also include the truths I’ve learned so far. This is a list of realities you might experience when you choose the independent life.

There is quiet power in existing along side your negative emotions. You can’t wish negativity away. That would be a dream. But, when you move along with it, it might disappear. Slowly dis‍‍‍appear.

Th‍‍‍is is work

The flexibility of freelancing, of working from bed or dialing into a Skype meeting with a blazer and boxers is attractive enough to lure the skeptics. But, freelancing is still work. Often, even more work. From the outside, you have the easiest gig in the world. Wake up whenever, work whenever, set your own deadlines and still make money. On the inside, however, you struggle daily to find a little more motivation to continue, staring hopefully at your dwindling bank account and remain exhausted from conversations on possible job opportunities. Freelancing is work. Period.

The setback days

Just like you’ll have those who encourage you, you’ll have those who encourage you but with reservation. These are not the folks who don’t believe in you. These might be loved ones - family and friends - genuinely concerned for your well being. Masked with a regular barrage of “How are you getting paid?” “How much are you getting paid?” “Is this worth it?”, their concern could transform into a source of frustrating negativity.

Now, negativity isn’t necessarily bad for you. You can take it and turn it into motivation to succeed. Negative emotions are also an essential part of your mental health, helping us evaluate our states of being. But, you can’t deny the terrifying power of negative thoughts and energy to bring you down.

In such instances, you have to ask yourself how determined you are to reach your goals and how you prefer to deal with negativity. You might choose to ignore, or listen and counter, or smile and nod your way through the conversation. But, whatever you do, you need to do it while remembering why you went down the freelance route in the first place. Listening and countering, or smiling and nodding drains you after a while. Instead, surround yourself with positivity - positive people, positive energy and positive thoughts. The slightest change makes a difference.


So, you made the choice. The road less traveled. That damn road less traveled. You heard enough stories to confirm that success isn’t for the weak ones and suffering is inevitable.Till you get there. There?

“There” is elusive and keeps morphing into different versions at different points of your journey. The bumps and puddles tend to be different at every junction. That swamp that has you deep to your knees, questioning everything you’ve known will also make repeated appearances. It doesn’t help to have drowned yourself in unreasonable expectations, worked closely with frustration and begrudgingly realize struggle might be your only constant for a while.

There is no way to skip over this part. Some might never experience it, but most will. But that does not mean you don’t go for it. The chance to recognizing the greatest version of yourself is still possible.

For that reason only, keep marching onwards.

A lot of the freelancer’s journey is stippled with realizations about the self. You discover what is acceptable, your own work ethic and how much you really need to live for a comfortable day. Some of these discoveries might confirm what you’ve always known. Some might show up out of nowhere like those unexpected puddles. No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to suppress these sides of you. It’s like that journey you go on to creating your identity - there are different versions of you, yet they all belong to you.

For instance, the most common advice to recover from a setback is to power through. Ruchi Sanghvi, Dropbox’ VP of operation confirms the theory:

“Most barriers I face are internal, like the fear of failure, the fear of being ridiculed, or the fear of just not knowing how. But I’ve learned to power through them by working hard and remembering to ask for help when I need it.”

How you power through is unique to you. Regardless of all the notes you get from others, you know yourself best and know exactly what gets you going. Be honest about it. Sometimes, it could be keeping an eye on the larger goal. Sometimes, it could be a belligerent night out, which, as it appears, is not as philosophical‍‍‍.

When you start becomi‍‍‍ng ok with all the things you are ok with (the good and the bad), you’ll start being kinder to yourself. Being kinder to yourself always works well.

Even the wisest have let us in on that little secret called perspective. When you freelance, you’ll need loads of it and different kinds of it. A Harvard Business Review study tells us how “even a small step forward occurs on many of the days people report being in a good mood.” A setback day, however, drastically affects our motivation leading one to “feel generally apathetic and disinclined to do the work at all.”

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking suggests a way out of the trenches.

“When you’re mired in negative emotions about work, resist the urge to try to stamp them out. Instead, get a little distance — step away from your desk, focus on your breath for a few seconds — and then just feel the negativity, without trying to banish it. Then take action alongside the emotion. Usually, the negative feelings will soon dissipate. Even if they don’t, you’ll be a step closer to a meaningful achievement.”

Credit: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Credit: Ryan McGuire

Credit: David Marcu

observe. write. express.


Copyright 2016

Wandering Local. Design by Imagyne.


Copyright 2016

Wandering Local. Design by Imagyne.





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“Loneliness feels like such a shameful experience, so counter to the lives we are supposed to lead, that it becomes increasingly inadmissible, a taboo state whose confession seems destined to cause others to turn and flee.”

Being ok with being ok

Shun the non-believer







origin street