Coping with Loneliness
Loneliness is a common problem. It comes from not having enough people in your life—people to talk to, people who love you and take an interest in your welfare. Loneliness can be boring. Lonely people often have nothing to do in the evening or the weekends, when they are not working. It is unfulfilling. Lonely people have unused talents that they want to share with other people, but, for whatever reason, other people are not there to receive the talents the lonely person has. If you are lonely, you have to try to troubleshoot. Here is quick, blog-suitable guide I have on loneliness. I will first go over what I think the causes of loneliness are. If we know the causes, then we are one step on the way to solving the problem, since removing the causes of loneliness might relieve one of loneliness itself.
Before I begin, though, I want to make an important point. This is that loneliness is not quantifiable. By this I mean that there is no number that serves as a threshold by which one can demarcate whether one is or is not lonely. It is not as though, if one has three friends and a significant other, one is not lonely. Someone might be happy with being part of a group of friends without having a significant other. On the other hand, someone may have a significant other but few friends and be lonely.
Causes of Loneliness
Why are some people lonely, and other people have lovers and friends? I am going to provide a list of possible reasons for loneliness.
Alienating Behavior: Perhaps you are lonely because you behave in way that alienate other people from you. Of course, if you are someone who commits heinous crimes, then you will most likely be lonely, and justifiably so. But, pathological criminals are the exception, and I assume most readers of this blog don’t have this problem. Even so, there could be smaller things you are doing that drive other people away. Monitor your body language. If your head is down, you fail to make eye contact, and you do not smile, other people tend to pass you by. Crossing your arms over your chest is another signal to other people of tension and guardedness. Maybe your ability to make small talk is limited. It’s tough to make friends if you’re constantly serious and goal-directed and don’t have time to talk about the weather or sports. Another bad habit you might have is getting impatient with a certain group of people. Let’s say there is some kind of social group you have discovered—a church group or a board game group, whatever. You go twice, and don’t get the results you wanted. So, you stop going. But, you probably should have stuck with it. New people might come to the group, and people might start to grow on you. It is possible that you might have negative thoughts about a certain person at first, or think other people are more attractive, but over time this changes. You need to strike a balance between being impulsive and being rigid. Being rigid is the opposite extreme here. Being rigid means that you are unwilling to change. You stick with one group. But the group may not be growing and the people in it may not be right for you. They may be sapping your confidence or leading you to take on cynical views you don’t really share. You just may not be having fun with them. So, there are times when you need to move on from certain friendships or relationships.
The tricky thing about social isolation is that there is no direct way to solve it. If you need a gallon of milk, you go to the grocery store and buy one. It’s an uncomplicated process, resolved by a simple act of volition. But, forming social connections is a much more delicate process. You can alienate people by being too abrupt in your requests for intimacy.
So, there are things you can do, that fall under the category of alienating behavior, that cause loneliness. There are also things you can omit that lead to loneliness.
Sins of Omission: What you don’t do can affect you just as much as what you do do. So, there are omissions that lead to loneliness. You may lack assertiveness. You are unwilling or unable to engage with other people and initiate conversation. If you are not signaling to other people that you want to interact with them, then they may assume that you don’t want to, and pass you by. In other words, you might be a shy person. Shyness is a paradoxical thing sometimes. Shy people want to connect with other people, but at the same time, they flee exposure to other people. To overcome shyness, I think you need to begin a process of building yourself up. Unwillingness to engage with other people comes from a lack of self-knowledge and self-esteem. There is something about yourself of which you are uncertain and which you want to hide from others. If you are shy, you should spend some time getting to know yourself. What do you have to offer other people? What are your positive qualities? Establishing your identity will make it clear how you fit into other people’s lives. You also need to affirm yourself and build up your self-esteem. If you feel good about yourself, you will want to engage with other people. Desire to engage with other people begins with the belief that you are a good person who can enrich the lives of others. So, build up yourself and you will find yourself reaching out to other people more. A simple hello can form the beginning of a friendship or dating relationship. You don’t have to start a lengthy conversation right away.
So far, I have focused on the lonely individual in determining the causes of loneliness. Even so, I believe that loneliness is caused in part by the outside world. There are factors beyond the control of the lonely individual that can cause loneliness. You need some lucky breaks to get out of your lonely situation. For example, it is a fact that you are not going to befriend everyone you meet. You are able to form friendships with only a small percentage of people on the planet, and dating relationships with an even smaller percentage. So, you may be doing everything right—smiling, having self-confidence—but remain lonely because you are just not crossing paths with the right people. If you think this is happening, I suggest changing up your routine. Maybe you live in a certain area where you just don’t feel comfortable. Then, you might want to move. Maybe you frequent a certain bar and you’ve been going there for a few months and have never talked with anyone. Then, go to a different bar. If you continue with good social habits and self-confidence, it is only a matter of time before the ongoing flux of people coming into and out of your life yields you some quality connections.
I also think it is important to recognize other people’s responsibility for your loneliness. To solve loneliness, there needs to be cooperation between yourself and other people. So, loneliness can be a difficult problem because solving it is not totally within your control. And, I think in some cases there are lonely people and their loneliness is in large part the fault of other people.
I think many social groups are exclusive. I have had the experience of knowing someone and being friendly with them but they never reach out to you to invite them to hang out with their group of friends. If you are lonely, sometimes you hope you can meet just one person, latch on to them, and they can introduce you to other people and in this way you can expand your social circle. But, if your friend is part of an exclusive social group, you won’t be getting any invitations. I suspect that there are many people trapped in these exclusive social groups. They have to work to maintain their standing in this social group, and so they will neglect you so that they can be with their social group. And, they don’t feel comfortable introducing you to their social group because they are afraid of rocking the boat with their clique and jeopardizing their position in it. There is nothing you can do about this. My recommendation is to move on from these people. They are self-centered in their personal lives. They invest time in their exclusive social group, and neglect you, the lonely person, because they are clinging to the connections they have and crave the sense of belonging they are getting. In sum, their attitude is a me-first one: their refusal to spend time with you comes from their desire to protect their own social standing. They are social climbers, and it’s probably best to avoid these people.