If you often experience a feeling of loneliness, even when you are not alone, it could be that you are in the wrong company.
Sometimes we can experience a feeling of loneliness even when we are in company. Ultimately, loneliness is not about how many people you are with, but how connected you feel to those around you.
Loneliness doesn’t just look like sitting in an empty room on a Saturday night with no one to talk to. It is possible to be at a crowded party and still feel alone. If we are on the outside looking in but not actually feeling involved and connected, this can actually make us feel more lonely than when we are alone. Even in our most intimate relationships, we can often feel lonely, especially if the relationship is going through a rough patch.
In fact, The Psychology Department at the University of Chicago has a useful definition for loneliness that shows it is not just about being physically alone. They define the term as “the distress that results from discrepancies between ideal and perceived social relationships.” This means you can have plenty of people in your life but still feel lonely if those people don’t provide the emotional connection you crave.
You may have plenty of friends, a long-term partner, a great family and lots of online connections but still feel desperately lonely. Ultimately, we have a need to feel valued and understood and if that is missing we can experience a feeling of loneliness whatever our outside circumstances.
Here are six signs your feeling of loneliness is not lack of friends and connections but the wrong kind of connections for you.
1. The people in your life don’t spend quality time with you
We seem to be in an attention crisis in society at present. We are so busy with work and responsibilities that it is hard to find the time and energy to spend quality time with others.
In addition, even when we do spend time with people, they often don’t give us their full attention. People may spend their time together but also be checking their phones or watching TV and never engaging in a proper conversation. This can lead to a sense of disconnection and create a feeling of loneliness.
Setting some boundaries around technology use can really help overcome this problem. It can also help to make plans for regular dates, family days and meet-ups with friends.
2. You don’t have anyone to encourage your hopes and dreams
The opposite of loneliness is feeling connected. When we are truly connected to someone, we can share our hopes and dreams with them. Most of us can remember a time when we have sat up half the night talking to someone who really ‘got us’.
When we don’t have people in our lives who make supporting and encouraging our dreams a priority, we can feel isolated and alone. Making time for this type of connection is crucial if we want our relationships to remain healthy.
If no one in your life really gets you, then perhaps you can find a class, group or club where people share similar dreams to you.
3. You don’t have anyone you could call in a crisis
When we experience difficult situations, we often need to talk through our feelings with someone else. In addition, during a crisis, we might need practical help. If you feel that you have no one in life that you can 100% rely on in times of need, this can lead to a sense of isolation, fear and chronic loneliness.
In the short term, you might like to consider getting a counsellor or life coach until you can find someone who is truly there for you when the chips are down.
4. You don’t have anyone in your life who shares your interests
Even if you are surrounded by a loving family and friends, you can still feel alone if you don’t have anyone to share your interests with. For example, you may have a sports-mad family, but you would love to spend time watching films or visiting a gallery.
Luckily, finding someone who shares your interests is usually pretty easy. There is bound to be a group or club you could join to find people who share your passions.
5. The people in your life undermine or criticise you a lot
Many relationship misunderstandings are simply about lack of thought and communication. However, sometimes, the other person is just not able to meet your needs or give you the encouragement and support you deserve. If you are in a personal relationship with someone who undermines or criticises you a lot, then this is a damaging relationship and something urgently needs to be done.
Don’t put up with people who do not see how wonderful you are. Get support to find people who recognize all the good in you. If you have a critical boss or colleague, it is harder to avoid them. However, try to remember that their criticism probably comes from their own lack of self-belief.
Talk to someone within the company about what you are experiencing. Then do your work to the best of your ability and blow them away with your achievements and success. Soon you could be their boss and show them the right way to get things done.
6. The people in your life stonewall you
Another symptom of a dysfunctional relationship is when a person refuses to talk to you for some reason. This may occur after an argument or when they believe you have done something wrong. Again, this is a evidence of a damaging relationship and not a behaviour you should put up with.
Calmly ask them to talk about the situation as you would like to understand how they feel. If this doesn’t work you might want to consider couples counselling. If they refuse to work on the problem, it might be time for the relationship to end.
One of the best ways to begin to overcome a feeling of loneliness is to be your own best friend. Do what you love and spend time taking good care of yourself.
Bear in mind that we often have expectations of relationships that don’t match with those we want to be with. For example, you might come from a family who think it is important to talk every day when they are apart. But perhaps your partner’s family talk less frequently. This may make you feel rejected when your partner doesn’t phone every day when he or she is away from home. Talking about your expectations of a relationship can really help clear up these kinds of misunderstandings.
Be aware of your own assumptions, too. You may assume that a friend who doesn’t contact you in a while no longer wants to be your friend when actually they might just be crazy busy or dealing with a crisis of their own.
Of course, you should never stay in a relationship where you are being emotionally or physically abused. If you suspect that you are in this kind of relationship, you should seek support and advice as soon as possible.