After 15 months filled with several lockdowns, many more of us will have experienced loneliness than ever before. There is still a huge stigma and sense of shame surrounding loneliness,
and this can prevent us from addressing it and seeking help. When left unchecked, it can manifest in a variety of ways such as social withdrawal and anxiety. This is why it is important if you feel a sense of loneliness, to reach out and talk to someone. Loneliness, just like many other experiences and emotions that we feel, can be a signal pointing us towards something that needs to change.
Loneliness can affect anyone and everyone, and it isn’t always as simple as ‘I’m alone, therefore I’m lonely.’
The desire for connection is part of being human, and it’s something we all need to live a fulfilled and satisfying life. If you have come to the conclusion that you are lacking connection within your life, identify what kind of connection you need. Perhaps you are seeking a friendship connection, or an intimate connection?
Really put some thought into this. If you feel like you want a romantic connection for example, it’s important you are hoping for this as a healthy addition to your life, not as something that you will rely on to make you happy.
The films we watched during the 90’s and early 2000’s taught us that we won’t feel whole until we have a romantic partner. Having a romantic partner will not ‘complete you’ as we were once all made to believe. Hoping for connection is absolutely normal, but it’s important that we don’t place our happiness or our worth on such external sources.
Feeling lonely around others can be confusing
We can be surrounded by friend groups, crowds, or our partners and still feel immensely lonely. This is when choosing quality over quantity comes to mind. If there is a lack of shared connectedness and an emotional and cognitive separation with these people, we feel like we can't be ourselves. Perhaps the friendship doesn't align with your values or beliefs, but to remain friends, you deny your values and act differently. In a superficial relationship like this, you will naturally feel lonely. It’s not that you aren’t surrounding yourself with people, but perhaps they aren't the right kind of people.
We can still feel lonely even when we are around those we truly love and hold a quality connection with. Again, can you recognise your feelings of loneliness as a signal that’s trying to tell you something? For example, if you suffer from maladaptive social cognition, where you have negative thoughts about your self worth and how others perceive you, you may end up creating a separation from those you love, which can in turn make you feel incredibly lonely.
Of course, it isn’t just as simple as this, the feelings of loneliness you are experiencing can be due to a variety of reasons that are individual to you, but recognising that it is a signal trying to tell you something, is the first step in feeling better.
Loneliness vs Being Alone
Being alone is different to being lonely and is usually a choice. It is a positive, healthy option that allows us to work on the relationship we have with ourselves. Without this connection to our authentic selves, all external relationships can feel like a battle. This relationship can be referred to as self-awareness. Getting to know yourself on this level goes beyond your likes and dislikes, and is more about uncovering who you really are, understanding why you think and act the way that you do and finding out how you can learn to cope and self soothe in healthy ways. With this, we can have a deeper understanding of our own behaviours and patterns, and identify how they may have been playing out in all of our relationships. When we learn to help ourselves, we can remove the unrealistic expectations of what we believe a relationship will do for us. If we can understand ourselves and find happiness within, then we won’t solely rely on others to do this for us. We can move our outdated views we have on relationships to knowing that a connection with someone can be a healthy positive addition to our lives, but one in which we would still be ‘whole’ and ‘complete’ without.
We all need connection, but I hope this will be a reminder to you that any relationship you seek really does start with yourself.
If you would like support with loneliness, the connection with others, or the connection you have with yourself, I would love to help you through it.