Are you lonely? Does it ever feel almost like you’re living outside your own life? According to a fairly recent school of thought, you might be doing just that. Robin Williams once famously said: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”
At first glance it looks very much like Robin was suggesting that he often found himself surrounded by friends who made him feel like he was simply alone in a room full of people. Well, I feel like that all the time – and it has absolutely nothing to do with the people around me: often, they’re very close friends. In order to really look at the meaning of this, we’re going to have to step away from our idea of Robin Williams who I am quite sure was a deeply beautiful and troubled soul who just didn’t feel that he fitted in the world.
I would venture to suggest that what the quote is really about is finding – or failing to find – your tribe. I don’t mean a group of people who put up with you because you’ve known them for years or even people you have to talk into things you want to do and they’ll inevitably do it because they care about you or owe you a favour. I’m talking about people who love the very same things you love and are there for the thrill of sharing that experience with other people just like them.
A few years ago, the whole idea of ‘finding your tribe’ became ridiculously popular, spawning books, study groups, at least two television shows and a whole variety of other media contributions. The fundamental basis of the idea seems to be that finding your tribe is entirely different to making new friends. Finding your tribe is all about looking for yourself in other people and not simply joining a group of people and trying to mould yourself to fit in with them.
There’s an awful lot of sense in this: I’d argue that the more you think about it and apply it to your own life, the more it becomes very apparent that it’s true. We tell ourselves that we need something to make us happy: a faster car, an amazing house, a better job or even a new partner. Invariably, we don’t need ANY of those things – what we need more than anything is a place to really be ‘ourselves’ in….and that place can often be found among people who walk the same roads as us in the same way.
So don’t suffer in the same way that Robin Williams did. Don’t wait for the next opportunity to ‘shine’ or for the next chance to impress people with some version of yourself you’re hoping will be liked or accepted. Find your TRIBE, whoever they turn out to be: footballers, war-gamers, spiritualists, gurus, jocks, ravers, nerds, base-jumpers, trainspotters, skaters or geeks!
The best thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel understood.
Are You Lonely was originally written by Davey Stone on Saturday 16th March, 2019.