We often assume that loneliness or a sense of social disconnection is for those people. We picture some angry, hurt, unfriendly, socially awkward and un-lovable woman sitting in a dark house, with the curtains closed, alone. Maybe a dozen cats. We usually don't picture ourselves since we know how friendly and fun we are, how much we have to offer someone (we mistakenly equate loneliness with likability). And we certainly don't picture the beautiful, networked, popular, powerful and inspiring women that we admire as the lonely ones. And yet that doesn't make it not true.
It's Lonely at the Top
One of the most poignant lines in the Oscar-winning movie, The King's Speech, came from
Colin Firth, playing King George VI, when he muttered "I wouldn't know" in response to his speech therapists nonchalant statement "That's what friends are for."
As king, everyone is forced to be friendly and adoring and respectful to him, but that doesn't mean he feels known, supported, liked or seen for who he is beyond his title.
On an obviously much smaller scale, many of us know what it feels like to be looked up to, but not seen. Some of it is the fault of those who simply want to be near the popular andpowerful for what it does for them: making them feel more important, giving them greater access and using the friendship to their own gains.
But some of it is also the fault of those who are the adored. The desire to reveal the best image, to stay liked, to be a role model puts an inane amount of pressure to not really share honestly, be seen with our faults or risk getting hurt.
There's a reason they say it's lonely at the top. Whether the person at the top starts to feel too amazing to connect with those beneath them, or those beneath them begin to treat the top as though they are on a pedestal; a painful dynamic seems to isolate those who excel in other areas. In my work as a life coach and pastor, I have seen first-hand the loneliness of those who are too beautiful, too talented, too powerful, too famous and too wealthy.
Befriending the Women at the Top
Since so many of my readers are business owners, amazing mothers, inspirational speakers, authors and change-makers, I want to remind you that even if difficult and awkward, you can create friendships around you that truly matter. Some of your best friends may be women who can keep you grounded and remind you that they love you beyond the image everyone else sees.
And I want to challenge those of you who dismiss potential friends because they intimidate you (too beautiful, too successful, too much money) to give yourself the gift of getting to know them without jealousy. (Jealousy shows up in two forms- we either devalue the other in order to make ourselves feel better about what we don't have or we ogle over them making them feel guilty for what they do have.)
The numbers of loneliness are staggering. And it's not because we have a world filled with little old ladies sitting in dark houses. It's because we're intimidated by each other, scared of being used, fearful of feeling inadequate next to others. As we love ourselves, holding our value and worth securely, we will be able to receive that from others.
In the movie The King's Speech, Lionel Logue, the speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush, lacked credentials, fame, a posh office, success in his own acting ambitions and a home that was sufficient for hosting royalty. What he had was the ability to both believe more in the King than the King did himself, while also creating an equal relationship, insisting on calling him Bertie and setting ground rules that he chose.
Rush's character held his own, believing in his own worth and what he could offer (even in the midst of vast inequality). He also never lost sight of how human the King really was, seeing him with his imperfections and wounds. He saw him--his amazingness and his insecurities. Isn't that what we all crave?
And the final line of The King's Speech came onto a black screen before the credits rolled, attesting that it can work: "Bertie and Lionel remained friends through out their entire life."
Have you forged friendships with women in different economic, power, beauty statuses? What was difficult about it? What did you gain from it? Was it easier or harder to hold those differences if the relationship started on equal footing and then changed?