Loneliness. It’s an emotion that few people want to admit they’ve felt, but one that everyone has experience with. Because of the inborn vulnerability that it takes to admit when we’re lonely and the false belief that many have–that we are alone in this feeling–it is not discussed nearly as much as it should be.
As a result, the sense of isolation that so many of us feel persists without a healthy resolution. The most common ‘resolutions’ I have come across in response to loneliness involve the direction of blame–inward or outward.
The Inward Blame of Loneliness
When many of us feel lonely, our initial thoughts tend to revolve around blaming ourselves. That we are in someway inadequate and that this inadequacy is the reason we are lonely. If only we were simply more social, charismatic, kind, pretty, spiritual, funny, organized, etc. (the list can go on and on), then others would gravitate towards us more easily and we would not feel this depressing loneliness.
To add insult to injury, many of us often attempt to distract ourselves from loneliness in unproductive ways. Some gravitate towards social media–which often presents us with a skewed perception of reality that tends to increase our sense of isolation. Others throw themselves into their responsibilities–which tends to only provide a temporary sense of relief from loneliness that reappears in the pit of our stomachs the second we have a calm moment. While we can all be a little better, turning blame inward does not solve the problem of loneliness.It only increases loneliness and makes us feel more incapable of ever feeling more loved and connected.
The Outward Blame of Loneliness
Many of those who do not engage in inward blame, tend to focus the blame outward: blaming others. We become offended when we pass an acquaintance or friend who doesn’t say hi. A person who lets the door slam in front of us when we have five bags of groceries in hand, a person who cuts us off on the freeway. Or a member of our church congregation who doesn’t take one of the open seats next to us. In response to a real or perceived slight, we tend to label these individuals as inconsiderate, stuck up, rude, unaware, etc. (again, this list can go on and on).
Because it’s uncomfortable to feel this way and frustrating when others seem to have control over our emotions, we may decide that others are inadequate or unwilling to reach out to us in positive ways, and therefore not worth the pain/frustration/annoyance/emotion of seeking out relationships. We decide that we are simply going to be independent rather than be continually hurt by other’s rejection.
We listen to motivating songs, watch inspiring movies and read books about women who learned that they could not rely on others and therefore, independently, reached their goals. While this may sound desirable, the problem is that complete independence is often a denial of an innate human need: connection. Denying that you need connection or don’t feel loneliness, similarly, does not solve the problem of loneliness.
How to Solve the Problem of Loneliness
The first step to solving any problem is admitting it exists and understanding that you are not the only one struggling with it. That only adds another layer of loneliness! The second is to work on letting go of blame. Because blaming–inwardly or outwardly–does not solve the problem of loneliness. But rather it increases in conjunction with other negative emotions (are you seeing the pattern here?). Finally, you must determine to funnel your energy into taking action.
Yep. ACTION. Reach out to a old friend. Get involved in a club or organization and make some new friends. Take a moment to look around (work, church, school, etc.) and befriend someone. If you find yourself thinking, “been there done that” or “it’s not the quantity of relationships, but that quality” that you find yourself lacking, action is still the key. This action requires being vulnerable in your relationships; sharing genuine and real parts of yourself, while also being open to listening and learning about those parts of the people you surround yourself with.
Remember, that you are not alone in your feelings or loneliness or your desire to feel loved and connected. Overcoming loneliness and building deep and genuine relationships is not always easy and rarely happens without trial and error. But–in the end–it is always worth it.