When you’re feeling lonely, it’s easy to believe you are the only one. But, you are not alone.
We all go through periods of feeling lonely. Even when we’re surrounded by people, or in crowded spaces, we can still feel alone.
The pandemic has highlighted and accentuated feelings of isolation. We can’t be with our families and friends the way we used to. Going to work or school won’t be the same. We have to keep our distance. And, if we travel or get sick, we have to isolate ourselves. And, sadly, there are now many more people dying alone.
Of course, we’re all feeling lonely.
But, even when things were “normal,” loneliness was not rare. Nearly every week (pre and post-COVID-19), I have told at least one client, “You are not alone.” Some are convinced that everyone else has lots of friends. Others believe that everyone else has an easier time making decisions, is having fun, has orderly homes, or enjoys their work.
Simply being a parent can often make you feel lonely:
- Single parents
- New parents with no close relatives living nearby
- New moms who are first (or last) among their friends to become a parent
- Dads at school functions
- Parents whose children are, in some way, not “typical”
- Parents whose children are struggling emotionally
- First-time middle school parents whose children don’t think the world of them anymore
- Parents whose children are applying to college, sensing secrecy among peers
Isn’t funny how easy it is to believe that more people have it better and harder to notice that perhaps more people have it far worse? (We can thank negativity bias for that.)
Feeling lonely vs. solitude
Of course, solitude is important. Cal Newport defines solitude as “being alone with one’s thoughts.” (Check out my book note on Digital Minimalism.) Having time to contemplate and reflect on your own feelings and ideas without input from others is grounding and restorative.
For parents, it is critical to make time to shut out all other voices. Each parent has his/her own set of values, attitudes, beliefs, resources, skills, and circumstances. Each child is different, placing a unique set of demands on his/her parent. Therefore, every parent has to reinvent the wheel to figure out what is the right parenting choice in a particular situation.
But, having solitude and feeling lonely are two different things. Having solitude is nourishing and uplifting while feeling lonely can be depleting or demoralizing.
It’s hard to admit we are feeling lonely
One of the reasons why we don’t realize we are not alone feeling lonely is because we don’t talk about it. It’s embarassing. It’s shameful.
Yet, does it have to be that way?
As a coach, I have the honor of listening to smart and caring women who share their feelings and opinions. They are articulate and often have deep insights and profound observations. (As I’ve said many times, I have benefited from what I’ve learned from my clients.)
Perhaps, my clients can share more intimate thoughts because they know it’s safe. They trust I’m on their side. I won’t judge them, and I don’t have any other agenda but theirs. (In fact, my goal is for my clients to no longer need my services.)
So, if we are all capable of feeling lonely, and more likely to feel isolated right now, imagine the missed opportunities we have to connect if we don’t take a chance and open up a bit more.
Where to start
Brené Brown has written extensively about how revealing vulnerabilities make way for authentic connections. But, even she will argue that doesn’t mean we have to unleash our deepest fears and insecurities to anyone passing by.
Moreover, complaining how bad things are is not being vulnerable lead and won’t lead to deeper conversation.
The first step is to simply accept that you’re ok. You’re not perfect and that is just fine.
The second step is to make time to talk to someone you care about, have an interest in, or are curious about. Don’t take it personally if that person can’t make time for you; it is likely that it has nothing to do with you. Just think of someone else you might like to talk to.
Then, talk. Listen. Repeat.
Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes more effort.
Most of the time, it’s totally worth it.