[Note: I am not a mental health professional. This blog post is not intended as expert advice, just me sharing my personal experiences and thoughts on loneliness.]
Let’s talk about loneliness.
Lately I’m seeing heaps of articles, blog posts and positive-message memes aimed at helping us with the impact of social media bringing a constant flow of other people’s thoughts, opinions and lifestyles into our awareness.
But I don’t know when I last saw anything on loneliness. It’s like it’s OK to complain about feeling you have too much “other people” in your life, but still taboo to admit you crave more human connection.
Probably the most important message I want to share on this subject is that, no matter how anyone seems on the outside, every single human being on this planet experiences loneliness. So if you feel lonely right now, you’re far from alone in that.
I’ve felt loneliness in all kinds of situations. Sometimes in the type of scenarios you might typically expect, like moving to a new city where I didn’t have even one friend, or working full-time from home with very little contact with other people. Other times I’ve felt lonely when it might have seemed the last thing I’d feel – like having a crazy busy social life yet still feeling alone inside, or despite having tens of thousands of social media followers and a backlog of messages to reply to.
Loneliness can happen when we’re literally physically alone, or it can be more of an internal thing. No matter how many people are around, if we see ourselves as weird or different or just somehow can’t connect with others, we can be deeply lonely inside.
Even when surrounded by people who care about us, who make efforts to understand and engage meaningfully with us, it can happen.
I believe this is because loneliness has a lot do with how we feel about ourselves.
As I said above, I’m not an expert, this is just me speaking from my own experience, but I’ve found that the more I’ve come to love myself, the less isolation I’ve felt.
Loneliness hasn’t vanished from life always and forever, I still get twinges at times, but despite spending more time alone than ever it’s now quite rare that I actually feel lonely in a negative sense. In fact, I have come to very much enjoy spending time alone.
Of course, this is far from a quick fix for loneliness. For many of us, loving ourselves is about the biggest challenge anyone could suggest. But I think at least becoming aware that this is what we need, rather than looking for solutions outside of ourselves, can be an important turning point.
To ease loneliness it seems to me that most of us need to feel understood, accepted, listened to and loved. If you’re not providing those things for yourself, from my experience, no matter how much you get them from other people, loneliness will persist.
When you do begin giving them to yourself you gain a connection with yourself and then you no longer feel so disconnected from others. The best way I can describe it is feeling whole, or maybe feeling at home in yourself.
Learning to understand, accept, listen to and love yourself requires a journey and there’s far too much to it to go into here, plus it’s very individual. But if I’ve triggered someone reading this to seek advice and resources to help them get started, or even just reassured anyone that feeling lonely is normal and then I’ve done my job well today.
You’re truly not alone. Hit me up on social media and let me know your thoughts on this post and loneliness in general.
For professional support with mental health issues visit Mind.