If you’re a self-reliant loner, someone who chases after freedom and independence, simply glimpsing your own capacity for loneliness can be a startling revelation. The need to belong seems to be a human universal. So even if you prefer to keep people at arm’s length, chances are that you still have some desire to connect with others. And when your need to belong isn’t met, you feel the ache of loneliness just like everyone else–even though you might be doing your best to ignore it or cover it up. Still, even if it makes you feel worse in the short term, you’ll be better off if you can admit it: You’re feeling lonely. It’s OK. So is everyone else on the planet, at least some of the time. Welcome to the human race.
If seeking a quick fix, think it through. Loneliness can be so agonizing that it often presses us to seek a quick remedy, something to numb the pain. The good news is that we can often take the edge off in simple, cost-free ways: a call to a family member, some light small talk with a stranger, or a heart-to-heart with a trusted friend. But depending on the need and the types of contact available, this desire to escape from loneliness can get us into trouble, too. Feelings of yearning can take on a desperate edge, drowning out the voice of wisdom. If loneliness is driving our decisions, we might jump impulsively into a high-risk sexual encounter or a soon-to-be-regretted relationship. An urgent need to connect might also push us to reopen a friendship or romantic bond that really wasn’t that great for either of us. We can incur more subtle costs as well, such as not allowing ourselves to grieve major losses, to forgive those who have hurt us, or to learn more about ourselves. There’s no time or emotional space for any of this, because we’re too busy trying to smooth things over with new connections.
Sometimes loneliness can take such a vague, foggy form that you might not be clear on what’s really bugging you. Try to identify the longings, the unmet needs. Are you looking for simple companionship? Guidance? Reassuring words? Physical touch? Sex? Are your thoughts focused on a certain person, or are you just looking for someone—anyone—to be with you at this time? Are you leaning too much on one person to try to meet all of your needs, then ending up disappointed and frustrated when this person can’t be there for you at all times? Have you faced a recent loss or rejection that is eating you up inside?
Sometimes loneliness is about running toward someone else; but it can also mean running away from ourselves. Deep down, how do you feel about being on your own? Many of us don’t like it in certain situations: The house seems too quiet and spooky; we feel self-conscious going to parties solo or eating by ourselves in restaurants. But in some cases being alone brings up deeper issues: Without a partner (or a child or a best friend), we feel incomplete. We wonder what’s wrong with us. We feel insecure and inferior. We may even discover that we do not especially like ourselves, which will make it pretty hard to enjoy our own company.
So step out of your comfort zone, are make some friends…they really help.
Check out my related post: How to overcome the fear of studying abroad?