First, a message for anyone feeling lonely right now: You are not broken, you are not unlovable, and you are not incapable of being understood.
Isolation and loneliness feel bad enough already. There is no need to shame yourself, too!
Kids, teenagers, and adults feel lonely. Every profession has lonely people. And every person experiences loneliness at different times in their lives. There’s nothing shameful about a universal experience.
But understanding your experience of loneliness can help diffuse the shame you feel. The three main types of loneliness are:
Social loneliness is when you haven’t been able to build up a social network, or when your circumstances have caused you to lose your social network. You might not have friends to reach out to when you want to connect.
For example, workaholics put so much time and effort into their work, that they have little or no time to keep up with friends or family.
Emotional loneliness arises when you have a healthy social network, but lack connection on an emotional level. You have nobody to share your intimate thoughts and ideas with.
For example, you may have 500 “Facebook friends” but lack any true connection with them.
Physical loneliness strikes when you lack the physical connection that’s meant to complement close relationships.
Long distance relationships pose the challenge of not being in each other’s company for long periods of time, leaving sex and intimacy limited.
For people not in relationships, we may feel physical loneliness without hugs, cuddles, and other friendly forms of social contact. Even just being in close proximity can keep physical loneliness at bay.
Why don’t we talk about feeling lonely?
Loneliness can be uncomfortable to talk about since most don’t want to admit that they’re not well-connected.
Our society seems to value being admired, being popular, and having constant social commitments. If you’re not a weekend warrior, or if there aren’t fun pics on your Insta, are you even living?
Let’s take a second to address how abnormal society’s attitude towards loneliness is.
Society has stigmatized loneliness to basically imply it’s something wrong with you, like a disability that prevents you from being a normal, social being.
Media and news also portray lonely people in a negative light. In headlines, you can imagine seeing, “lonely man becomes homeless” or, “lonely lady eaten by her cats.” Really, nobody wants to be seen in this way.
Because being hyper-social is put on a pedestal, those who have more alone time feel inadequate. Because we’d feel pride in having lots of friends, we feel shame in the opposite.
Given all this, it makes sense we feel the need to hide our loneliness. But we need to work toward throwing off the shame associated with it.
Healing the shame of loneliness
There is no real shame in being lonely. Only the shame we construct for ourselves.
Here are some scenarios that might make you feel like you have to hide your loneliness.
Hopefully you can see how hiding your feelings works against the goal of connecting. And if you have a sudden realization about your experience with feeling lonely, we’d love to chat about what you’re thinking!
Why you might hide your struggle:
The prospect of starting a new relationship or friendship may seem daunting if you have been hurt in the past. So for the sake of companionship, you hide that you are lonely and the reasons for feeling this way. This blocks future connections, because you’re hiding your authentic self.
At work, colleagues only need to see the professional side of you, and friends need only see the outgoing side. Nobody gets to see the sadness and need for love. Hiding your loneliness may be keeping you emotionally lonely.
A hallmark of grief is feeling as though your memories, thoughts and emotions are not understood. Grief makes you feel you cannot share your inner world with anyone, so you hide this loneliness instead. While grieving, we want to show friends and family that we are okay. But in doing so, we fail to ask for the support and attention we need.
As an introvert, you may feel awkward reaching out, if you have neglected to maintain social connections. You might feel embarrassed to show up after having bailed so many times — broken, even! And that’s when the loneliness sets in. You start to feel that you deserve to be lonely – so why “complain” about it?
All of these thought process are understandable. But none of them reflect a real reason to feel ashamed. All of them show how we can sometimes keep ourselves trapped in the shame of loneliness.
The lesson seems to be that reaching out is always the solution. If you don’t have a trusted friend to share with in real life, there is always the Internet.
Supportiv chats are available 24/7, where you can freely express that you’re feeling lonely. Whatever your situation is, we will listen, not judge.