Why you’re lonely when you're alone…
Updated: Mar 7, 2023
A few years ago, I'd have chosen to be alone because I didn't have the energy to socialise, but I hated being on my own. I felt lonely, but it felt easier than socialising. I'd have negative thoughts that no one wanted to spend time with me anyway. These feelings were exacerbated by social media. I'd watch Snapchat and Instagram stories, convincing myself I was the only person staying in on my own on a Friday night.
During this time, I even felt lonely when I was with friends. I never felt that people were 'my people'. I didn't feel connected to anyone, and couldn't be my 'true self' around any of my friends because I thought I needed to be more than what I was. I had low self-esteem, spoke to myself negatively, and didn't feel that I had anything to offer.
I read a research paper that said loneliness is "when our
need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met" and it really clicked with how I used to feel. I longed for friends that made me feel whole and happy. But feeling negatively makes you distance yourself from others, reinforcing your loneliness.
It's always said 'you can be lonely in a room full of people', and it got me thinking about what loneliness is. If it's not dependent upon the external environment, or social situation, it must be an internal feeling. It's what happens when you need external validation, or social interaction, to understand yourself in the world and, when you don't have that external validation, your self-worth is compromised. It's the fact that you can't give yourself approval, or acceptance, so you need it from someone else. And to correct this takes work on yourself.
Work I've been doing for the last few years. Work on my mental health, my anxiety, talking to myself positively, and reminding myself who I am and why I'm important. Reminding myself what makes me a good person, what values I have, and aligning my actions and my values. Now I enjoy my own presence and being alone. I don't feel lonely, or disconnected, or have negative thoughts about my worth.
I don't need to prove to anyone that I'm going out or having fun. I don't see my worth defined by how many friends I've got, or how busy I am on the weekend, or how many messages I get day to day. I choose to be on my own now. I have friends, I have family, and I have things I could do. But sometimes I want to be alone. My job requires me to speak to people ALL DAY and sometimes I just like to have a day at the weekend to spend time by myself, check in with how I am, and do something for myself.
And let's be honest. Sometimes I spend the weekend doing housework and food shopping. Sometimes I don't have the money to go out. Because that's life.
But this is something I now know. I know I have friends who like me. I know I have family I can spend time with. And so being on my own doesn't change that. It doesn't mean my friends and family don't care if I'm there or not. But I know that now. And me being comfortable with who I am is what allows me to be alone, and not lonely.
I'd suggest taking some planned alone time. Not a time where you feel like everyone else is having fun and you're stuck by yourself. But plan an alone coffee date. Make it a choice. 'I'm choosing to spend some time with myself for half an hour today for my wellbeing', to help take away the feeling that you're alone because no one wants to spend time with you.
And you'll find out what you like and what you don't. Try 10 minutes with a coffee. Sit in the garden if it's nice. Watch the bees, listen to the birds. Then try 20 minutes on a walk. Looking at your surroundings. You might notice something you don't usually notice when you're listening to music, or on your phone. Take that time to listen to your body, correct any negative thoughts, feel the weather, observe your surroundings.
Doing things alone has really helped me to find gratitude in the small things too. There's so much you notice when you're alone. Is it a nice day? Can I hear the birds? The wind? The sensory aspects of it are really good for grounding and appreciating what you have.