Human beings are social creatures, and those who identify as introverted need human connection as much as the next person.
However, loneliness is often not the result of a lack of company, but a lack of quality company.
Loneliness frequently results from not being able to feel vulnerable and accepted by others, so it can affect both extroverts and introverts. But the different styles of connection between introverted and extroverted individuals can make it harder for introverts to get as much connection as they need.
For instance, while the typical extrovert will respond to a bad day with a night out, the typical introvert may find a quiet night in to be the best antidote to stress. That leaves the introvert in need of some other way to feel connected and included.
Some might assume that introverts have more defenses against loneliness due to their perceived affinity for solitude, but an in depth study on loneliness from UCLA reveals that long-term isolation does result in loneliness – even if you’re introverted to begin with.
Additionally, the study revealed familial trends in loneliness, indicating that without an example of how to engage with others, some may fall victim to an intergenerational cycle of loneliness.
As noted in the UCLA study, introverts are human and thus need company of some sort. This is why introverts commonly find themselves able to spend long amounts of time with animals, very close friends, or family members.
These situations are different from being with most people, because the expectation to perform is lowered. Fear of being judged or rejected can be one of the most draining aspects of social interaction.
If you identify as introverted and feel lonely, it is important to assess whether you have gotten into a ‘cycle of loneliness,’ as noted by Psychology Today writer Sophia Dembling. A self-identified introvert, Dembling explains that for her, the comfort of solitude developed into loneliness as she began rejecting invitations, choosing comfort over connection.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to become comfortable with patterns that do not serve our highest good. Compounded with shyness and/ or fear from inexperience in social settings, it’s easy to deny yourself opportunities to connect.
After all, for many introverts, the discomfort of socializing can often feel worse than just being lonely. However, the effects of remaining lonely may build up in the long term.
Many myths surround introversion, so we can all remember one thing: that introverts are not cold or rude. They simply recharge differently than extroverted people.
It’s totally ok to be introverted – but if you are, it’s important to be mindful of how much alone time you truly need, and how much interaction you require to feel connected.
Additionally, noting a concept from motivational coach Anthony Robbins, if you find yourself restricting your own ability to socialize, you may consider redefining how you see friendships. For example, if you have a rule that friends call you five days a week, then you will have a hard time believing you have friends.
On the other hand, it’s easier to feel connected when you think of friends as people you share mutual support with and feel good around, now matter how often you see them.
Ultimately the only person who truly knows how you feel is you. Thus, your best advocate against loneliness is also you. As an introvert, you should not feel guilty about needing a little more alone time to feel whole.
Everyone wants to feel included and some people simply have a hard time reaching out.
By remembering that loneliness is not exclusive to any one personality type, we can move towards greater empathy and create spaces for all of us to connect in meaningful and fulfilling ways with one another.