Successful on the Outside, Lonely on the Inside: Our Hidden Epidemic
I say "Loneliness. Isolation. Invisibility."
You ask "Eleanor Rigby?"
I say "No. Your co-worker. The person next to you in the grocery store. The new CEO they just hired. The person who just repaired your washing machine. It's all around you."
It is one of the least recognized and most wide-spread social epidemics of our time. I've been hearing this issue come up among clients for several years now. It's time we started to talk about this publicly.
Here's what I am hearing:
"I feel like my life purpose is to just make money for my family...I'm a huge wallet to them. I don't really matter."
"I've been there for everyone and everything else...I give myself to my job, my spouse, my kids, my extended family, the bills. Honestly, when you ask me what I want, I don't even have enough of a relationship with myself to be able to know. I keep thinking 'if I only had time for myself', but I wouldn't know what to do with it if I did."
"People keep telling me I should be grateful. I have so much. I feel guilty because I know they are right in a way but I can't help thinking that there has to be more than this. It seems like all I do is work, watch TV, crash, and start all over again. I'm not passionate about my life or what I do. This can't be all there is."
"I'm really lonely. The truth is, I don't REALLY have friends that understand me and get where I'm coming from. Sure, we go out and have dinner, and see people socially, but it isn't like I can confide in them. They don't seem to think about the same things I do. I yearn for those conversations that used to happen in the wee hours when I was in college but now we just seem to end up talking about movies, and the kids and what we are thinking of buying next for the house."
I'm hearing comments like these from every corner...doctors, business executives, stay-at-home parents, coaches (yes, I said coaches), IT professionals, service professionals, entrepreneurs, those out of the workforce due to illness or retirement...men and women, adults of all ages.
Six folks gathered in a group I conducted recently who, despite being spread across the country and having very diverse backgrounds, kept coming back to the same issue:
Is it me? Is this really all there is? Surely there has to be more? I just can't sit here anymore and let my life go by!
One astute member recognized that what the folks in the group are seeking is "self-actualization".
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it was introduced by Abraham Maslow who postulated that we have a Hierarchy of Needs.
Basically, the first needs are food, clothes, shelter...security...later we want to be individuals, break away from our parents...then we keep moving up and start thinking about being productive and creating and generating and up at the top of the list we have Self-Actualization.
We don't all get there. Arguably very few may even try.
This is the stuff of "Why I am here?" "What does it mean to be ME in this life?" Big questions. Hairy questions. Deathbed questions for some. Too scary to ever consider for others. And for others a compelling quest.
Well, if any of this resonates with you I want you to consider why the journey is particularly hard.
In the U.S. (can't speak for elsewhere) we have a culture that actively discourages self actualization. As a culture, we are stuck in the basic food, clothing, shelter level (and let's not forget all those ads for 'physical enhancement' in our e-mail boxes). After 9/11 we were told that the most patriotic and brave thing we could do was go shopping. For God's sake, don't let them think they can keep us out of the malls that easy! Our economy NEEDS you!
The message is: Our economy needs you to be focused on the most basic needs...keep feathering your nest. We are encouraged to be addicted to material possessions. Yes, addicted...have you ever bought something you really didn't need because it was such a great price? I'll admit it. I have. It's very seductive, all this "stuff".
And it is FEAR that perpetuates this pattern.
Can you be a CEO and drive a 10 year old Ford?
Can you wear that 5 year old dress to the office party or interview?
Can your kids wear non-name brand sneakers to the t-ball game?
We get tempted to buck the system ('next Christmas I am not going to buy all this crap...the kids don't even appreciate it...I don't even remember what I got last year!') but then the questions come:
What will people think?
What will they assume about me?
What will it cost me if I don't play this game anymore?
Can I afford to pay that price?
Is my family willing to pay that price even if I am?
Why can't I just be happy?
What is wrong with me? Is this a mid-life crisis?
What WOULD happen to the economy if we all decided to simplify???
So, you see, loneliness, isolation, alienation, confusion. It's built right in to the mix. If you are feeling this yourself, please know you are not alone. FAR from it. It's all around you.
So, what do you do?
Stop being afraid to talk about it. That's a start. Find a safe place to talk.
Find the right place for you.
I hear the pain every day (and the joy that comes with living more authentically in accordance with one's values). This is a hard path. I've been on it for a long time. Every day I am heartened to see more and more people daring to challenge the status quo of their lives.
If you've been feeling it, just know you aren't the only one going through this.
Laura Young is a personal development and business coach. She is a contributing author to A Guide to Getting It: Purpose and Passion and Become Your Own Great and Powerful: A Woman's Guide to Leading a Real, Big Life. She has recently been featured on By, For and About Women and Artists First Radio. To learn more about her, visit http://www.wellspringcoaching.com
To visit Laura's blog, visit http://antwatching.blogspot.com
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Do you remember when, as a small child at a birthday party, you sat wide-eyed and gaping as a magician pulled out a rabbit with a flourish from a seemingly empty top hat? At the time, the wonder of it all left you speechless and full of awe, but like all healthy children, you grew a little wiser as you grew a little older. The next time you were present at such a performance, the "magician" might have turned into a "conjurer.
Great Relationship Advice: Declaration or Demonstration
Q: Could you help us settle a growing conflict in our marriage? I always tell my wife I love her and would do anything in the world for her. That doesn't seem to do it for her.
What Went Wrong? When Relationships Go From Hot To Cold
Everything was great.We had been dating for 6 months.
Relationship Tips to Grow Close and Stay Close
Relationship Tip 1My family loves movies. In the theater, on DVD and VCR at home, and now even in the van.
Why Doesnt She Leave Him?
It's very easy to look, from the outside, at another woman's unhappy relationship and ask: 'Why on earth does she stay with him?'It's especially easy if the man in question exhibits the subtle charm of Attila the Hun - or the social graces of Fat Bast*rd in Austin Powers. Some abusive men parade their hostility and prejudices as proudly as if they were merits.
How Can I Get My Partner To Change?
How much energy do you spend trying to get what you want from your partner? Think about it for a moment - how much of your thinking time is spent on what to say to your partner to get him or her to be the way you want him or her to be?Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about how to get what we want from our partner - how to get our partner to open up, be more caring, see us, love us, pay attention to us, spend time with us, have sex with us, and so on. We spend at lot of energy trying to get what we want from our partner because we believe that if only we do it right - behave right or say the right thing - we can have control over getting our partner to change.
Seduction Secrets For Men Part 3 - A Wonderful Idea To Spice Up Your Existing Relationships
There is a cool little game for spicing up your long-term or fuck-buddy relationships.Here is how:Both you and your girlfriend have to get 20 pieces of paper and make 20 different cards.
Great Relationship Advice: The Ability to Communicate
In my workshops with couples, I start with this question:"How many of you believe men and women are created differently?"Usually most everyone agrees, and I congratulate them on passing Anatomy 101. The next question is slightly different:"How many of you believe that men and women think, feel, perceive and experience the world in sometimes dramatically different ways?"Usually most of the women agree and the men just look confused.
Breaking Your Relationship Pattern, Part 1
When you were little, you looked up to your parents. You imitated their mannerisms, words, and actions as you learned about life by watching them.
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