Unlearning the negatives of loneliness to overcome fear of failure

Graphic by Isabella Kneeshaw.

Graphic by Isabella Kneeshaw.

Isabella Kneeshaw, Fold/Graphics Editor

As humans we were built for connection with other humans, and it’s easy to constantly be surrounded by people or always partaking in activities with others. These interactions are quite literally essential, but so is the act of being content with sitting exclusively in our own presence. There’s a level of discomfort that comes with this because of our reliance on others, but while that discomfort may feel, well, uncomfortable, it’s actually the most valuable place to be when it comes to establishing the most indispensable relationship in your life: your relationship with yourself.  

The world often gives loneliness a negative connotation, but changing your perspective on the concept might change your life.

Senior Lily Bennett has utilized new-found free time to try a new form of exercise. She initially started kickboxing with a friend but has continued attending the classes the majority of the time on her own. The start of any new activity brings some sort of nerves, but Bennett grew to appreciate the inclusive, non-judgmental environment. 

“We cheer each other on, and I just think it’s really fun because you get to meet different people who are inspiring. I know that the people there will be really supportive, and I think that with other competitive sports, it’s just a way different atmosphere. [At kickboxing,] everybody is there to improve themselves and to help you,” Bennett said. “And they’re all older than me, so the pressure is completely taken off. They don’t care. I’m like a quarter of their age, and they’re just trying to get their workout in, and I love that.”

When asked what inspired her to start, Bennett explained the ease that comes with not always having to rely on others to accompany you and the desire to have the freedom to participate in something almost entirely independently. 

“I think sometimes people forget that there’s a lot that you can do on your own, that you don’t need someone to come and meet you. That’s something that’s really attractive…. I just think that it’s fun to grow yourself and work on little things that other people don’t do,” Bennett explained. 

So then, once we become content with our aloneness, why is it so difficult to begin new habits? First are the easily-accessible, mindless activities that deter us from partaking in new tasks. When we find ourselves alone and bored, we also find ourselves with a choice, and the more difficult choice is to try something new.

Bennett expressed her own interest in diving back into the creative side of her brain, with things like art or playing instruments. She acknowledges that while it’s not something that she feels she is exceptionally good at, it is something that would be beneficial to her. This idea is the main thing that holds people back from starting something new: the fear of knowing that you may not be conventionally talented at something. 

“I think sometimes I have a greater mental capacity than just going on Netflix. I could be more productive or creative during that down time…. I’m kind of in the mindset that, if I start something and I don’t feel like I’m good at it, then I’m going to be frustrated with myself. I’m going to feel down or I’m going to be like, ‘Oh, why did I even start this project? Why didn’t I just do Netflix instead?’ That’s not a good way of viewing things, obviously, but it’s the fear of starting that I think is the hardest part,” Bennett said. “Like picking up the instrument and starting to play it again – I haven’t played the ukulele in four years, and I think part of it is because I’m scared to pick it up and try it again, but it’s like [for example,] no one will know if the art you made was ugly. It’s the starting thing that is so big for me.”

The first step in the unlearning process is being content with the worst case scenario: being alone. And the stakes don’t always have to be as high as your mind makes them up to be, which is why the second step is changing your mind about the risks of doing something alone.

At the end of the day you have yourself, and being able to thrive in what can sometimes feel like the negative implications of loneliness is the most transformative life skill to have, and one that can always be improved upon.