Loneliness: an introvert's perspective & reflections
2020 was one of the most lonely years in history, and for some of us, 2021 is not too different either. But, as an introvert, I'm used to loneliness already, and it doesn't have a negative connotation. For many people, though, loneliness is a cause of distress, and I am aware of the consequences that can have on mental health.
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What makes me different from many other people is that I don't really crave socializing or going out with groups of friends, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on much. I am lonely in the sense that I don't have too many friends and people who visit me or go places with me.
But that being said, I have my boyfriend who lives with me, and we do a lot of things together, so I am not "lonely" because I don't live by myself. I also have 7 needy cats and 3 loving dogs, so I never feel completely alone.
My perspective on loneliness is that it's a voluntary condition because I am aware that I isolate myself from the exterior social world. I am no hermit, though and I love going shopping, on short trips to the mountains, exploring, traveling, and so on.
But, I'm not particularly eager to go to parties, celebrations, and social gatherings. In that sense, I am a loner and prefer to spend time at home by myself or with my partner and pets.
These past couple of years have taught me that being lonely is okay. It's normal to feel like you are too alone in this world, but then there are moments when you embrace that loneliness.
My bottom line is that my relationship with loneliness is extremely complex, and that's fine because I can learn a lot on this journey of self-discovery.
How did you deal with staying at home so much?
Personally, I kept the negative thoughts at bay by doing the things I love.
One of these things is cooking. I've spent time perfecting my cooking skills and learned how to make really delicious recipes. I've found new ways of making the foods I love without all the hassle by reading cookbooks.
What is loneliness? A doctor's answer
According to Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D., loneliness is this:
It's important to point out before I go any further that loneliness is not the same thing as being a private person, or a "loner," because some of us actually both need and enjoy a lot of time to ourselves. Loneliness, instead, refers to the difference between the amount of social contact and intimacy you have and the amount you want. It's about feeling isolated, like an outcast.
So, is loneliness easier to deal with if you are an introvert?
If you enjoy being alone because you are an introvert, you might not feel that loneliness is making you an outcast. You may even love being lonely because you have that private space and time with yourself, and you can work on self-development.
We were isolated at home during the lockdowns. Many of us chose to remain safe from the virus even after the lockdowns ended. There is a general consensus that introverts cope with isolation better than extroverts.
But even the biggest introverts are suffering some loneliness during this time. This is a great time to confront and find a solution to loneliness if you need it. As I mentioned before, everyone experiences loneliness differently. But the real problem is that loneliness can have lasting negative effects on both physical and mental health.
There's so much information about loneliness, and it's best to sift through it and come to some basic generalizations.
You've probably heard about a certain myth. It's the myth that implies that being lonely means you are alone. This myth is completely false. You can spend long periods of time alone or even in deliberate solitude without feeling lonely. Many introverts have this experience of loneliness whereby they spend lots of time alone but don't feel a negative sensation.
It is obvious that all of us need emotional support. We all need to have a solid group of people who are there for us, even if we are small. But, during times when you physically can't be around others, the loneliness can grow into a feeling of desperation. Introverts are much better at dealing with this lack of support than many extroverts.
As an extrovert, being around people and having support is part of daily life, and being cut off is painful.
So the issue here is that you think other people can be the saviors. You might think that social distancing is the root cause of loneliness, and it's easily fixable once you go out in the world again. You see, the harsh reality is that loneliness can't be solved by other people. The "cure" for loneliness is to be with yourself. This is the first. After that, the support group and social world follow.
What is the consequence of fearing loneliness?
Did you know that fearing loneliness can have lasting impacts?
It can become debilitating and causes many people to lead a miserable life.
Many of us will accept abusive or toxic relationships for long periods of time because we fear being alone. This constant fear of loneliness is one of the most painful and distressful of all feelings.
I'm sure you've had people tell you at least once that if you don't get married and have kids, you'll "end up alone" in the end and die a lonely death. This is such a damaging thing to say to someone. It creates an irrational fear of a feeling that can be solved in other ways.
We are willing to do whatever it takes to feel supported by partners, friends, family members, and even co-workers. But, the sad truth is that if you are lonely, you can also feel lonely in the midst of company, even if you put on a fake smile in public.
The cure for toxic loneliness: your relationship with yourself
If you want to actually feel at ease with loneliness, you need to work on yourself first.
It is important to feel at home within our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our behaviors. Once you're comfortable with yourself, you can feel better about being alone. It's not going to erase all the negative emotions associated with loneliness, but you can feel better about it.
A strong sense of self is essential. It is not about what others expect or project on you, but rather what feels right to your deeper spirit, the deeper self.
I recommend a journey of self-reflection and self-discovery through therapy or self-help books. I've learned so much about myself through reading and researching.
Books like Finding Joy In Loneliness by Brittani Krebbs explore the difficult journey of dealing with a sense of loneliness and despair and learning to see the light and enjoy the small things in life.