You start the journey with personal development full of excitement, maybe it all began when you picked up a book like The Secret, took up meditation, or started to travel and connect with new people and experiences, or perhaps by reading some classics like Tony Robbin’s work or the likes.
Then things begin to unfold, you become more dedicated to self-improvement, cut off unhealthy habits and channel more and more time and energy to better yourself. And that’s when you first realize that this journey can be quite lonely: many people around you no longer relate to your new interests and likewise you notice how they’re hopelessly suckered into low-consciousness sources such as mainstream media, mindless partying and so on.
Perhaps that’s when you become desperate about finding your ‘tribe’ and there’s so many self-help circles out there that market themselves as your ‘tribe’. But that’s also short-lived, eventually if you want to keep progressing in this work, you realize there’s no actual tribe. There’s no ‘group salvation’, only individual salvation.
The deeper you go, the more self-actualization becomes wonderful, but also lonely. And learning to deal with that loneliness is a very important task in your development as you reach higher and higher stages of inner (and outer) growth.
Here’s 6 reasons why at the deepest stages, the journey can be both extremely rewarding, but ultimately lonesome as well:
#1 People can’t believe you
As you develop yourself internally and hone your outer skills in perfect alignment, you start to accomplish seemingly impossible things. And more than that, after a few years, you appear to do that almost effortlessly. Your senses are more subtle and your skills are so fine-tuned, that for an untrained mind it’s impossible to perceive, you almost can see an invisible world (like in the Matrix) that others don’t. As you bend the Matrix to your will, others just think you’re lucky, or worse, lying or exaggerating things.
Truly incredible things can come into your life; so incredible that most people wouldn’t believe it. Hence, it’s been both my experience and that of others I’ve spoken to, that some of the best moments and biggest accomplishments, you end up keeping to yourself. It’s a bit like owning an invaluable painting and keeping it hidden in a safe. And that can feel a bit lonely.
#2 You achieve new heights which can’t be communicated
As your senses becomes subtler, you start to experience magic-like moments during your adventures in life. A smile, a perfectly timed laughter, a song that comes at the right moment, a beautiful sunset with the right people. Your life gets more and more filled with instants of pure magic that you and only you can capture in that moment, through your heightened awareness. At the higher stages of consciousness, you can often have those glimpses where every-day waken reality feels dreamlike.
But none of these peak moments can be captured by a camera and put on Instagram, nor appropriately described in words. There’s unfortunately no sharing them. Neither you can cling on them, but only savor them as they pass and accept their impermanence. Your friend who’s all about showing on Instragram how amazing her life is, has little clue of how much deeper things can go. Ironically, the more you grow, the more your heights becomes subtle things, which – unlike a new designer bag or a selfie in front of the Pyramids – cannot be properly communicated or shown.
#3 Your wisdom makes you more tight-lipped
As Rumi said: silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.
As you go deeper and deeper you start to realize that most of the wisdom that is being shared around the world is nothing more than intellectual entertainment. The deepest level of wisdom you reach cannot be communicated in words at all. You’d like to help others, but also clearly see that they can only reach the same place, experientially, on their own, not through anything you say. You see how any word would ultimately be misleading.
Your deepest wisdom is expressed in silences and… I guess there’s nothing else to say.
#4 Life becomes more about intangible aspects
You still enjoy material things, but become increasingly more aware of subtle planes of life. Your biggest rewards tend to be immaterial and very personal. This makes it harder for others to relate. You savor your inner journey more than anything visible out of life, while everyone else celebrates the same ‘outward’ successes, things everyone does: getting married, having a baby, getting a promotion, buying a car, taking a cool trip. Ironically those things are very average things to accomplish, and yet the ones that get most social reinforcement (notice how the artificial faces you see in wedding pics, baby showers, new cars get the most likes on social media). Mainstream culture is a cult-like conspiracy to reinforce each other averageness. As you go deeper you may still do those things, doesn’t mean you don’t get married or buy a car, but you don’t get your deepest sense of reward from these moments, you get it from a much more intangible inner place and that’s so hard for others to see.
#5 You transcend so many things that others value
Paradoxically, the more you are well-developed, the more you may accomplish and the less you might ultimately care. All external success is something to reach, just to be transcended. Like a scaffolding that takes you to new heights, before being destroyed. As your understanding of impermanence deepens, you are constantly called to neglect the old, no matter how important and cherished it once was, to make room for the new. In a constant dance of death and rebirth, where every external achievement ultimately has to be transcended. And in a world where everyone’s constantly fixated on achievement, clinging and craving, that makes you a lonesome black swan.
#6 You outgrow many of your friends along the journey
Finally, as you keep growing you’re bound to drop many friends along the way. Not because you’re nasty and selfish, but simply because if they’re unwilling to grow with you. And if they’re not on the same journey, eventually you’ll find yourself on a totally different vibration.
Just like a business either is growing or starts declining, all things in life never stay flat. You’re always either on an upward or downwards spiral and if you’re dedicated to constant self-improvement, eventually you’ll feel that those who aren’t on this journey end up sucking your energy and bring you down, even without wanting to.
That’s why it’s not surprising for self-actualizers to find themselves transcending not only places, circumstances and habit patterns through the years, but mostly people. And that’s perfectly okay, although it will make you lonely at times.
It is lonely, but so damn worth it!
Now that we’ve mentioned the reasons why the self-actualization road can be very lonely, let’s make it clear that it’s also extremely rewarding.
Every yin has a yang, so there will always be another side of the coin. If loneliness is a price to pay to get self-actualized, then be it. I’d never choose remaining stuck in the average, blindly trapped in the Matrix, with that sense of quiet desperation that comes with living that kind of life.
When loneliness comes, remind yourself why you’re on this path. And most importantly make it a great opportunity to give yourself some love and self-acceptance. The deepest moments of loneliness are those when you develop the crucial ability to console yourself, without relying on anyone else’s approval. And since being liked and approved of is a huge craving of our ego, this is spiritual work at its finest.
Realize that as you become more capable to console yourself, you tap into an inner source of power that will literally make you unstoppable.
Riccardo Caselli is a psychologist with MSc in Industrial Psychology and an MBA from NYU. He is a published author and has worked for 13 years in senior HR roles in large corporations, living in Europe, North America and Asia, training and coaching thousands of professionals. He has practiced meditation, and different styles of yoga and Qi Gong for over 15 years. His biggest passion is personal development and he has created Zen @ Wall Street to share his thoughts and inspire more people to live a balanced and fulfill