It could be argued that you could feel alone in a crowded room… or if you’re married. Some people are single and living alone, but never feel loneliness. So let’s not try to rationalize the feeling, let’s just deal with it–regardless of how logical it may or may not seem to you. You have the feeling and it’s keeping you from having peace. It can also apparently lead to poor eating habits, depression and long-term isolation. Let’s not get there. And if you’re there, let’s dig out…
So whatever your situation, let’s deal with the FEELING. ”Loneliness” is the feeling that you are alone, physically or emotionally. So either nobody is physically around to give you companionship, or the people you are surrounded with are not actually GIVING you companionship. It is the feeling of not being understood… or maybe not “mattering” to anyone. It’s feeling like you don’t really belong anywhere.
Why DO you feel this way. Remember, I’m going to make you uncomfortable by writing about the things that we just take for granted as “just the way it is” and investigate it more deeply–picking it apart to it’s mechanics. Here we go…
ARE you physically alone? At work? At home? At school? All the time? Physically alone is often easier to deal with than the other versions of loneliness because it really just means making the effort to get to places that are more populated. My husband works from home in a room upstairs behind a closed door from 8am-4pm except for lunch. Even then, he eats with me and two people under 7 years old. :/ If we didn’t genuinely like each other, it would be pretty lonely. Even so, those are long stretches. He CAN go into the office if he wants to, but it’s a pretty grueling haul. None-the-less, he does it at least once each month. Interacting with other people stimulates him in a way he can’t manage to simulate with videoconferencing, intercompany chat, conference calls and e-mails. It’s the human connection. And it’s just different.
If you live in a rural area, have you considered your options? Could you (and would you) move to a more densely populated place?
What are you interested in? Join a club. Offer up some volunteer time (see here for more reasons why this is a good option so you can compound the benefits ). If you’re sitting home and reading, why not go do that at the local coffee shop or book store where you might strike up a conversation with someone about what they’re reading or eating. If you’re shy, a smile in the direction of someone you’ve met eyes with might just prompt THEM to start the conversation. Reach out. This isn’t going to fix itself, ya know… If you feel like your problem is that you don’t know how to speak to people, then practice. Join some kind of social group based around some aspect of your job (I belong to a group for project managers that is backed by the certifying organization, but you don’t have to be certified to join and attend meetings), or something you love. Using Yahoo Groups or MSN Groups, or Meetup.com, you can find other people in the area with interests like yours and what they’re doing. Join ToastMasters International to help develop your public speaking skills. There are things you can do.
But what if you’re actually surrounded by people and still feel lonely…? That’s rough. And that’s really more about what’s going on inside of you than everyone else. Look at your thoughts: what is it you feel is separating you from these people?
Ultimately, this is going to come to a very strong, necessary first step: you need to be sure you love yourself. I mean REALLY love yourself. The kind that makes it easy for you to sit down and write at least 10 reasons why you’d make an awesome friend and/or partner to someone. The kind of love that looks in the mirror and sees way more good than bad going on. Do you? Because if you don’t, that’s what you’re projecting. If you’re looking in the mirror and wondering why anyone would want to hang out with you, then why WOULD they want to hang out with you? Now we’re into a whole ‘nother ball of string here…
And if you look in the mirror and like what you see, and can rattle off 15 reasons why you’d be a great friend or partner to someone, and are surrounded by people… what’s going on? Either you need to open your mouth and reach out to show these people what they’re missing, or you need to take a vow of silence and really observe what’s going on because you’re missing it with your blabbering (as is usually MY issue :/ ). If you’re the silent type, refer back to the first paragraph about how to open up and reach out to people. And if you are reaching out, are you reaching out with negativity? Are you opening the conversation by trying to build some sort of camaraderie based on what you think is a mutual disgust for something you have in common with this person/these people? Turn it around: open with something you have in common that you’ll all like. Be the positive one even if everyone else is sour. If the culture is sour, open up with “at least we…” kind of positivity so you don’t look like a complete moron. Those old adages are true and you WILL ALWAYS catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. Nobody needs to be brought any further down. Don’t go there.
What if you’re dating or married to someone or living with someone (in a romantic relationship) and STILL alone…? Ummm… let’s revisit “loving ourselves”, shall we? Because “loving ourselves” means that you believe you are worth more than sharing your life with someone that doesn’t add to it in some meaningful way. And look at what you’re putting into that relationship. For multiple years, I was alone in my marriage. It started with a true problem–no doubt–and spiraled downward. When I hit rock bottom in my despair at the whole thing (which at that point included more than just my marriage), I heard a sermon that SO infuriated me. It ate at me through the afternoon and into the evening. It was by Joel Osteen and it was sermon #417 – “Redeeming the Time”. It enraged me because it made me feel accountable for the suffering I had endured for years, and that was just unacceptable. But it was true. And although our troubles certainly started with things I had absolutely no control over and were truly the victim of, there were many more years where my hurt and upset about it inhibited our ability to heal and move forward. I felt unloved and so I wasn’t loving enough to my husband. I felt hurt and so I wasn’t kind enough to him. I felt abandoned and so I wasn’t the best companion for him–certainly not the confidante he needed. And through all of this, my husband was left to fend for himself, uncertain of how to get past our past–alone. Thus the spiral downward. If not for that sermon driving me out of my mind, I don’t know where we’d be today. It was the beginning of the rest of our lives together. So I ask you: what are you putting out there? Because if you’re treating that person the way you would want to be treated, then you need to take a long, hard look at why you are there.
This post is already way too long. But hopefully it has scratched the surface for you. We will obviously revisit this again in some other way, shape or form. Until then, love yourself.