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Posted by Philip on 18 November 2016, 1:12 pm in , , , ,

Lonely? You're not alone

I've been thinking a lot about loneliness lately and, this week, have started talking with ​​others about it. I often feel lonely — yet, as I ​​age, I ​​am more choosey about who I ​spend time with. As an introvert I ​enjoy my own company as well so, often, I ​choose to be alone.

Teddy bear sitting on a pier, alone in the sunlight

It's a strange conundrum but, as I'​​ve talked to friends and colleagues about it, I realise I'​m not alone. Loneliness seems to be a thing of our time. Maybe it always has been. And it's not just single people. Those in relationships say they're lonely too.

It's hard to talk about loneliness — particularly as an own-company-enjoying introvert — because most people want to rescue me. They want to come over, or for me to visit, or, worse still, take me out somewhere! Please! No! That won't help! It'll make me feel worse!

And, if you're a friend reading, please don't take this as me subtly saying I ​never want to see you again! But if you've noticed you've seen me less often then, hopefully, this will provide an explanation. And it may be confusing. It confuses me.

What helps is avoiding self-talk that pathologises or stigmatises loneliness. It's easy to think there's something wrong with ​​me, that everyone else is out, together, having fun, enjoying themselves. Talking with ​people this week has allowed me to know that I'​​m not alone in my loneliness.

I've also remembered that loneliness can arise from being unique. If you're a bit unusual, if you don't fit in by sharing normative views of the world, then you may feel you don't belong. Belonging, as I'​ve written about before (click here), is different to fitting in :

Brené Brown has made an important distinction — in her work on shame, vulnerability and wholeheartedness — between fitting in and belonging. Fitting in, she says, is not belonging. Fitting in is changing yourself to be like the people with whom you want to feel a sense of belonging. True belonging, by contrast, is being accepted for who you are, fully and without exception, by that group of people.​

So I ​​don't want to fit in, but I ​do often crave a sense of belonging. Again though, please don't pity me — there are times I ​feel I ​​belong, I often enjoy myself and no, I'​​m not depressed.

I just feel lonely at times and it's just "a thing". It's not good or bad, right or wrong, nor do you or I ​need to fix it. It's like I'm coming out as a loner. It's different to what we think of as normal, but there are lots of us around. It's not a phase.

I thought this week about setting up a Lonely Hearts Club but, hah, after reading the post I ​referred to above — where I said I'​ve spent my life trying to find groups to belong to but haven't fit in — I'​ve changed my mind. I probably wouldn't fit into my own loneliness club — and that'd be a downer!

But if you want to come out as a loner, leave a comment below. Maybe if there are enough people I'​ll start a Facebook group or something (there's probably one already) — we can all sit alone in front of our screens posting, "I'm lonely but I'​m ok."

Do I ​feel a hashtag coming on?

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