We don’t have to be physically alone to feel lonely.
The number of people who feel lonely (even when in the company of others) is epidemic. Feelings of loneliness can affect anyone from children, to teens, to us fifty-somethings, straight on through to the elderly.
Loneliness can be at the root of other emotions that keep us from moving forward and living life fully, like sadness, depression, self-doubt, and unworthiness.
Loneliness can make us feel disconnected from others and sometimes even from ourselves.
Lonely on the outside
Some people are physically alone for many hours of the day due to various circumstances and a sense of loneliness can come from that aloneness.
This is an easier form of loneliness to resolve because it can be alleviated by finding ways to get physically and socially closer to others. Finding and creating opportunities to be with friends, family or in a work or social group environment- i.e. seeking out shared offices, parent groups, clubs, hobbies, girls’ night out, book clubs, concerts, etc. can often do the trick to break up longer periods of alone time.
Lonely on the inside
This one is trickier and more critical to our well-being.
How can you feel lonely even when you’re not alone?
Loneliness on the inside is an emotion rather than a physical state of being. Emotional loneliness is much more challenging to resolve and requires our own effort to improve.
We can be surrounded by people much of our day and yet still feel lonely, deeply isolated and alone.
Alone in our head. Alone in our heart.
That aloneness – the emotional loneliness – can grow from feeling like we’re not really being seen for who we are or heard for how we feel.
It can arise from feeling like we’ve not been given the opportunity (or have been too afraid) to express our truth, our authenticity. Our fear of judgment and rejection for the expression of the qualities and thoughts that make us unique and perhaps different from those around us.
Our increasing reliance on social media has added to our feelings of isolation instead of making us feel more connected.
“Nowadays, we are more connected to people than at any other time in history, thanks to technology. And yet many Americans report feeling lonelier and more isolated than ever before. Social isolation and loneliness have been shown to pose a growing threat to health, having the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” – nbcnews.com, July 2019
Even more so for our teens who seek a sense of community and belonging through superficial digital “friendships” instead of through a smaller, closer group of in-person friends with whom they may be more likely to share their authentic selves with.
As midlifers – are we doing this too?
Are we substituting the quick and safe option of social media in place of putting in the extra energy and risk that comes with fostering potentially deeper and longer-lasting person-to-person connections?
Feeling deeply and honestly connected to other human beings is so important and critical to our happiness. At all points of life, but especially as we get older.
Having and making real friends after fifty is crucial to our well-being and can prevent us from feeling lonely and emotionally isolated as our life situations evolve. Our parents are aging, our children are growing up and moving into their own lives, we may have friends or ourselves coping with serious illnesses, or dealing with a painful divorce, or mounting financial pressure.
It’s overwhelming to cope with everything without the support of true and authentic connections to others.
Get on the path to deeper personal connections
Start by being more… you.
If you haven’t already been your most balls-to-the-wall authentic self – it’s time you come fully into embracing the inner feisty heroine of your own story that you were born to be!
The more honest and truthful (but still kind!) you can be with the people you love, with your old and new friends, with the significant people in your life, the better and the less emotionally isolated you will feel along your journey.
Starting from a place of authenticity and truth means you’re allowing others to know you, the real you. (Which, by the way, changes from time to time along with the evolution of you.)
Share your true thoughts and feelings and needs. And share what you are honestly and genuinely able to give of yourself on any given day.
Some days it’s a lot, some days – it’s nada.
Feeling seen is so important to feeling connected to others.
But you can’t possible feel seen if you aren’t sharing who you truly are. And sharing is scary. Because being real with people opens us up to possible rejection. Although possible, being rejected is unlikely.
And if it happens, rejection is far better than faking who you are and what you need just to be in the company of others (which, we’ve established will never resolve emotional loneliness anyway!)
There is no true connection, reward or satisfaction in fake connections.
Fake connections lead to emotional loneliness. And yes, you can be in long-term friendships, courtships, marriages, partnerships, etc. and still not be in touch with and sharing your most authentic self.
Connection, not company, is the antidote to feeling lonely
“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.” – Robin Williams
Encourage yourself, your kids and the people you love to be honest and authentic. Sharing and connecting from our truth is a dynamic and effective way to overcome feeling lonely, isolated and not understood in our relationships. It’s also a powerful way to reconnect with the company we always have – ourselves.
The rewards of connecting through authenticity are deep, profound and continually nourishing.
Cheers to understanding ourselves better, to living a positive life, and to learning how to not feel lonely by making more authentic connections!
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