The ooh and aahs of Yuletide spirit captured in TV commercials as people take off to exotic destinations.
Cute as a button kids running around with Mummies and Daddies as they scurry with shopping bags from high street retailers loaded with expensive gifts for the holidays.
Of 6-course meals with Turkeys and Hog roasts, laughter, perfect lives and happy families.
Couples kissing in an expensive rooftop restaurant or boat by the Thames at the stroke of midnight on New Year ’s Eve.
The magical bright lights dotting the streets.
…And yet some of us find ourselves lost, alone and terribly lonely – lonely in London.
The fast-paced life and daily grind can make London a very lonely place for many of us especially during this time of the year.
Maybe we are going through a relationship breakdown.
Maybe we lost a loved one.
Maybe we are dealing with setbacks in business, jobs or having financial difficulties.
Maybe we live away from our family.
Maybe our circle of friends dwindled as we aged.
Maybe we are introverts or suffer from social anxiety and just don’t seem to fit in.
Maybe we are battling depression or have other health issues.
…..And a lot of us suffer in silence every Xmas, New Year, and Valentine’s Day.
But wait, is it really us? Why do we stick out like a sore thumb? Are we that different? Isn’t this everyone’s story at some point in time? Why then do we feel so vulnerable, especially around this time of the year? Why are we left with feelings of inadequacy as we begin to question our self-worth? So is this only a London problem? a bane of urban existence? After all it’s in a big city such as London that commercialisation and consumerism thrives leading people to aspire a lifestyle oftentimes disproportionate to their income while making others feel left out in the race.
Commercialisation is a reality and it’s here to stay. Let’s face it commercialisation is responsible for creating employment opportunities during holidays. It is what it is. Then there is this depiction of perfection and happiness in television adverts, shows and on other forms of modern mass media including social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram etc., which are again diktats of how things ought to be. However, it is well documented through numerous research studies that people who project fabulous lifestyles on social media are not necessarily displaying a true picture. There is an excessive need for validation from virtual friends in the form of likes and comments on everything from their relationship status, holidays and achievements down to the very minutia of their lives.
It’s a hopeful juxtaposition of the commercial urban grind that London is filled with the spirit of kindness, tolerance and acceptance.
So pause right there with your feelings of despair. Look around you. Haven’t we all witnessed that pretty girl on the Tube applying make-up to hide her tears, possibly over a heartbreak, and being comforted by someone seated next to her or that big moose of a man helping that frail old woman to cross the road or that bunch of hippies on a nocturnal mission to provide blankets for the homeless?
There are people around fighting battles we know nothing of but there’s also kindness we’ve seen, experienced and do know of. It’s a hopeful juxtaposition of the commercial urban grind that London is filled with the spirit of kindness, tolerance and acceptance. So let’s not be engulfed with loneliness or give in to cynicism about London being a big bad city. Let’s also not succumb to low self-esteem with all the media hype and peer pressure, which feels painfully more pronounced during holidays.
Whether it is the spirit of Christmas, hope of new beginnings on New Year’s Eve or the celebration of love during Valentine’s Day, let’s be guided by our spiritual significance and what each of these events means to us. After all shouldn’t our life, experiences and choices be dictated by our personal circumstances?
So if we want to express our gratitude without expensive gifts this Xmas or go to bed at 9 pm on 31st December or if single, pamper ourselves with some self-love on Valentine’s Day, let that be OK. It’s OK not to follow the herd or be sucked into consumerism or peer pressure.
That relationship, that success, that life we dream of and are working towards will all come to us at the right time. When the student is ready the master appears.
And if the long dark winter months pull you down, remember help is always around; you just have to reach out. Medication and therapy can greatly alleviate symptoms of depression. Group therapies and online consultations can be just as helpful. Reach out, speak up. Don’t suffer in silence.
Here’s wishing us in all our glorious disparity, non-conformity a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.
This article was first published in the December 2017 print edition of What’s Hot London?