From Loneliness to Belonging

By Bethany Theulen

I used to believe true friendship and love came from being with someone who helped you feel better. Someone who saw the good in you and didn’t have trouble expressing it. Looking back, I realize just how much I needed validating in order to believe I was truly someone’s friend. I also see how that line of thinking, feeling and BEING leaves me powerless and is what had created the dark loneliness I had felt for the majority of my life.

Sure, true friends DO see the good in you and acknowledge it. They laugh with you, cry with you, attend your wedding – all the “normal” friend stuff. However, the last two years have taught me an entirely different understanding of love and friendship, and it’s messy. It’s consistent vulnerability on both sides.

Friendship is allowing yourself to be seen in your mess and not just your strength. It’s not hiding in the darkness but acknowledging the darkness and asking for someone to share their light when your own is dim or extinguished. It’s being willing to accept and receive the compliments when they come, rather than swatting them away. It’s also about accepting and receiving constructive feedback, even when it may sting.

I have spent the majority of my life hiding in the darkness. I have lived in fear of being seen and in doing so, I was the one responsible for the loneliness that consumed me. I had no idea when I (unknowingly) began my journey to self-discovery that I would actually be creating the space needed to make room for a tribe of friends that would span not only across the United States, but into other parts of the world as well. Nature abhors vacuums and will immediately set about filling voided space when it appears. As I cleaned out the junk inside my head – releasing my old programs of unworthiness, self-loathing, and the idea that joy comes from outer circumstances, the result was a large amount of “voided space”. 

I can look back now and see how perfectly aligned the pattern is between my inner “clean sweep” and the filling up of my sense of love and belonging. Do I still struggle with showing up and being seen? Yes. Finding the right balance of vulnerability is still a work in progress. Some days the old fears and darkness try to creep their way back into my thoughts, but I now have emotional tools, strategies, and an army of friends that are always willing to offer comfort, love, support, and sometimes a much-needed kick in the pants to push me out of the darkness and back into the light.


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