The Gift of Loneliness: Part 3


There’s a famous American photograph of the recently inaugurated President John F. Kennedy. He is stood—leaning—with his palms placed on a desk in the Oval Office. We see him from behind, against the light from the windows like a silhouette. The New York Times later published the image alongside the caption: “The loneliest job in the world”.

Leaders have, by the nature of their chosen path, less kindred spirits. A leader may be active in an environment full with people, but still feel a sense of deep loneliness. Whether we are alone in a wood, or alone in a crowd, loneliness can strike wherever we are. Having fewer people to relate to is a challenge, a leader’s disposition, but sooner or later it must be faced. For loneliness is an opening—an opportunity—you can get something from it.

The gift

Drawing from my personal experience, it was when I embraced these feelings, that I understood how important they were for my personal and professional development. I became aware of my loneliness in my early twenties, when I realised I did not belong to the worlds—universities, companies and social groups that I was part of. I had a tendency to withdraw—I was often a better companion to myself than others.

Through these times of solitude I forced myself to truly feel, and let in, the sensation and emotion of loneliness. At some point it was like passing through a doorway that would open up new worlds and offer new experiences. Over time I went through what seemed a multitude of doorways, revealing many degrees of loneliness, taking me deeper into myself.

The teacher

Loneliness was and still is a great teacher: it showed me who I was and why I am here. And, most importantly, my disconnect with the world, was a reflection of where I was still separate from myself. With each passage I was able to retrieve another part and become a little more complete. Only then could I fully and freely relate to others, whether personal or professional.

When you look loneliness in the eye, it can be benefitted for it’s pain and pleasure, as we arrive on the cusp of self-realisation. What I’m encouraging you to do is get to know yourself. The greatest relationship we have is the one with ourselves, and if it’s a success, we can go on to to form other successful relationships and achieve our full potential as leaders. We are all physically apart, but we’re never alone.