I’ve purposefully alienated myself from many people in my life.
Not by actively pushing people away, but by making very different choices.
At the same time, my choices have helped me on my continuous quest to find others I can relate to—people with a high level of like-mindedness (and like-choicedness).
In a previous edition I counted myself lucky to spend most of my time amongst a crowd of self-improvers and personal growth enthusiasts. I feel fortunate to walk shoulder to shoulder with people who are aiming up, working hard, and supporting each other in those aims.
I often warmly refer to these people (my people) as ‘radical’. Radical people are intentional about their choices, stand for their principles, and take responsibility for their lives. They are different from what I would call ‘mellow’ people, folks who just go with the ebbs and flows of life.
Not worse, just different…
The downsides of being radical
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” ― Jerzy Gregorek
Radical people understand that making hard choices actually makes your life easier. For example, I’m working hard on the daily habits and lifestyle choices that make my long-term health and wellbeing easier. More micro-suffering in the now, versus more macro-suffering later on. A net-benefit on the easy-to-hard spectrum I would say. Future Rik will thank me.
It might sound like it’s easy for people who are intentional and principled to make difficult choices. But that’s not the case. These choices are still hard. You still need to show up each day and step under the cold shower.
To boot, living life as a radical person comes with its own set of challenges. By definition, radical people set themselves apart from others because they’re making (very) different choices.
For example, a good friend of mine eats a paleo diet, doesn’t let her kids eat sugar, and on top of that she homeschools her children. And she gets a lot of shit from the people around her for making the choices she does.
When you’re doing something that no one around you is doing, chances are they will not like it, understand it, nor muster up any kind of tolerance for it. Many people (from total strangers to close family members) will scoff or laugh at me in my face. Like I’m doing what I’m doing as a big ‘fuck you’ to their (crappy, let’s be honest) lifestyle choices.
Because of this, radical people can end up being ‘partly lonely’. Meaning, in certain areas of their life—the areas they make the choices that differ the most from others—they can’t relate to the people around them.
This isn’t necessarily a problem when it’s only a small part of your life that makes you unrelatable. But if you encounter this in more than one, or even almost all areas, it starts to weigh heavy on your path through life. We all need each other, even when we’re choosing to make tough decisions.
Boo-hoo. It comes with the territory, you might say.
The upside to the downside
“Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships”.
This number is said to be around 150 people. Because of how we evolved (in reasonably small tribes), we’re not capable of holding infinite numbers of people in our minds at the same time and have a stable relationship with all of them.
Yet we need to find those 150 (like-minded) people, our quality of life depends on it.
Luckily nowadays people are finding their people more easily. Do you love [insert X]? There’s a group, community and website for that. Name your diet, sport, or interest. Today, you can easily find your tribe of people engaging in that exact, specific thing.
I say tribe, but modern tribes are compartmentalized. We’re connecting with each other on a certain aspect of life (but not our whole life) like it used to be when the tribe was location-based.
The main cause and the main solution comes from the all-powerful internet with its infinite possibilities and endless nooks and crannies.
Online, the differences between people and their choices are more clearly visible than ever so there’s a higher chance of polarization, inflammation, and loneliness.
Other people that are making the exact choices you’re making are more easily findable than ever. It has never been easier to find your tribe and connect with them directly.
The internet is the driving force behind the 'separation from your original tribe' (where you grew up, your highschool friend group) and 'finding the other members of your new tribe' (the people you share interests, passions, and opinions with).
It’s both the cause and the cure of radical loneliness.
"I’ve purposefully alienated myself from many people in my life." - that's a brilliant hook
You prompted me to reflect on my internet social life and IRL social life. I used to view the two as mutually exclusive--if I spend more time online, then I’m wasting time that can be spent with friends and loved ones in person.
But lately I’ve noticed my social spheres converging in some ways. The conversations I’m having online enrich my conversations offline, and vice versa.
Admittedly though, if I feel lonely in one of those spheres, I find myself pulled towards the other.