There is nothing that can make you feel lonely like a lockdown. However, for some it seems even once restrictions have lifted, loneliness lingers. It is not just because of a lack of social support; many well loved individuals struggle with the feeling of being in their own empty world; feeling somehow like they are always isolated, even in a crowd.
What lonely people wish everyone knew about loneliness is that loneliness isn't so much about being alone, but feeling unknown.
Comedian Robin Williams said it like this, ‘I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone, it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.’
There are many reasons we can feel unknown. Often, lonely people lack depth in their relationships. This could be due to an unwillingness to be open about how they feel or what they really think. Alternatively, feeling unknown can be the result of enduring an isolating incident; pain has a unique way of making us feel misunderstood, silenced and unseen. However, these emotions can also steam from the simple fact that there are few people you ‘gel’ with; personality clashes are a real thing.
And so we see, the answer to ‘how can I feel less lonely, is hidden in the question ‘how can I deepen my relationships.’
We have a few suggestions.
I know what you're thinking. What does self awareness have to do with deepening relationships?Simply, how can others know who you are if you do not know yourself?
The first step to deepening your relationships with others is deepening your relationship with yourself. According to the Oxford dictionary, self awareness is defined as ‘conscious knowledge of one's own character and feelings.’
It's important to know your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, how you receive love, what makes you angry, what recharges you, what fascinates you, what are your goals, dreams, boundaries, strong values and intentions.
Overcoming loneliness is never possible while practicing self neglect, so make time to get to know yourself and you will see your relationships with others deepen and flourish.
Ok, this is where we talk about the ‘V’ word. That's right, vulnerability. Although seemingly terrifying, according to Brene Brown, ‘vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change’ and without it, deep relationships are just not possible.
You don't have to strip off and bear all at once, you can take baby steps and gradually reveal more of who you are to others. Seeing your true colours is always something that people must earn, trust is paramount, so ease into a new level of connection slowly and know that in doing so, you are doing brave work.
Everybody loves a little attention. Being curious about others is a great way to discover and deepen real friendship. Asking questions and genuinely taking an interest in the thoughts and experiences of others will make conversation feel fluid.
It is also good to remember that there is nothing that connects two lives together like empathy; most people are looking to be appreciated, consoled and understood. Practicing care and compassion, being aware of the circumstances that surround the lives of others and exercising carefully listening skills can not be overemphasised.
And so, dear one, if you are lonely, take heart and put one or all of these things into action. Your best and dearest friends may be in the near future or they may already be in your life and only need a little nurturing.
Featured photo by Zack Minor on Unsplash