~Tips for understanding and navigating the many aspects of loneliness~
Let’s dissect loneliness. There are aspects that have to do with others and aspects that have solely to do with ourselves. On the surface, loneliness seems only to do with being separated physically from others. Not having our needs for people interaction met.
But as we know, loneliness is so much more than the experience of physical distance from other people. Loneliness can also be emotional distance from other people. It can be a perception of emotional disconnect from others. We can be lonely in a room full of people. We can be lonely in the midst of family and friends.
Loneliness can also be an emotional disconnect from ourselves. Or a pervasive feeling that we are alone in this world untethered by many relationships that support and ground us.
Throughout my life I have experienced many aspects of loneliness. And I am certain someone reading this today has experienced even more painful and heartbreaking forms of loneliness than I can even imagine. And for those who are or have, please know that my heart goes out to you.
Loneliness has been by far one of the single most excruciating unbearable experiences of my life. It has been a guiding experience for many of my decisions, my life’s choices, my mistakes, my grief, my relationships, my beliefs about myself and others, my strength, my healing, my self-compassion, my compassion for others, my embracing of solitude, my opening up, my authentic self journey. Loneliness has been one of my greatest teachers.
There are aspects of loneliness that I am aware now were absolutely true, and not perceptions. I have experienced true aloneness. I understand that now. And have so much compassion for the child and adult in me who experienced that kind of aloneness.
It’s not easy being alone.
There are aspects of my experience with loneliness that I have come to realize were actually perceptions, relating to my beliefs, emotions.
I think a lot of my life has been an experiential dance with loneliness. Finding ways to navigate involuntary aloneness, emotional loneliness in crowds and with people I did not feel authentically connected to, and perspective shifting around loneliness. Leading me to embrace times of solitude with more and more grace and ease, and A LOT of self-compassion.
Here is what I’ve learned so far from my journey with loneliness:
There are various aspects of loneliness: involuntary physical aloneness, emotional loneliness, and a feeling of loneliness that stems from a perception or belief of disconnection.
We need people. We need the physical presence of people in our life. Our bodies need to be touched and hugged. We need to experience all the chemicals that get released as a result of a good deliberate hug. We need to express ourselves to others even if there are no words exchanged. We need to be deeply heard and listened to. We can’t escape these needs. We are human, and there are basic fundamental things we need in this life. Many of us aren’t always able to get this basic need met for various reasons and for some of us it can be a physically painful experience to experience aloneness. *If you experience involuntary aloneness, please know my heart goes out to you.
Some people experience physical aloneness voluntarily. They may choose to physically distance themselves from others due to a conscious decision and desire for less social interaction to honor themselves and give themselves personal space. This is perfectly normal and necessary. Don’t judge yourself for taking the time you need to process, connect with yourself, recharge. Be true to you.
Introversion is not about shyness or social anxiety, but rather about a true need for solitude to replenish and recharge.
Introverts have a desire to connect with others in meaningful authentic ways. And can experience emotional loneliness when the need to connect authentically is not met.
Most introverts experience emotional loneliness from being physically alone at times, or from a lack of authentic connection.
Most people, introvert or extrovert, experience physical aloneness involuntarily. They may have a deep desire to be in the physical presence of others and experience emotional intimacy, connection, friendship and relationships but are not able to for reasons they have no control over and reasons they do have control over. Including, neglect, rejection, ostracization, proximity, location, personality, relationships, behaviors, relational skills, communication skills, perceptions, and beliefs about themselves and others.
When a person experiences involuntary physical aloneness it does not always stem from a misperception or limiting belief.
Involuntary physical aloneness can lead to emotional loneliness.
Emotional loneliness arises when we have a desire to connect with others but are not able to for reasons both beyond our control, and reasons within our control.
The aspects of loneliness that are within our control are relational skill-building, communication skill building, and identifying and addressing perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. I have experienced for myself and witnessed for my coaching partners how addressing what is within our control can help to alleviate emotional loneliness and increase connection. I’ve experienced and witnessed first-hand how building and developing relational skills, with self and others, can bring about amazing and profound shifts in intimacy levels, connection, friendship, relationships, communication skills, shifts in perceptions and beliefs about themselves and others, about their communication, about their sense of belonging, greater connection with themselves, increased authenticity, increased joy, increased inner peace, a decrease in negative self talk.
At times, the feeling of loneliness can be a matter of perspective, emotional response, and reinforced belief systems. For some of us, loneliness has a lot of baggage attached to it. And many emotions, thoughts, and beliefs can come up when we feel lonely. For example, for some, loneliness may reinforce the beliefs or perceptions that they are all alone in this world and rejected “See I’m too weird” “No one likes me” “I don’t fit in” “I don’t deserve close relationships” “Here we go again, I’m being rejected” “I can’t get close to people” “Everything I say and do is wrong” “There’s something wrong with me” “Every time I’m left alone, it means I’m rejected”.
Whether a person experiences involuntary physical aloneness, a feeling of emotional loneliness even among others, or the feelings of loneliness stemming from a perception, it can trigger a stress response in the body. There can be fear that is associated with aloneness and loneliness. That feel of disconnect can manifest as anxiety, panic, depression, sadness, irritability, aggression, withdrawal. It makes sense. We have a basic human need to be and feel connected. Our bodies don’t know the difference. If we feel lonely, even if it is perception or belief-based, our bodies react with fear and stress. As humans beings the need to connect is not only emotional it is biological.
If you are experiencing emotional loneliness, it is my hope that the following exercises that I have offered myself and have offered my coaching partners will be of help.
Name the experience:
This is involuntary physical aloneness coupled with emotional loneliness.
This is emotional loneliness and feelings of disconnect even though I am surrounded by others, stemming from a desire to connect more authentically, more deeply, and in more meaningful ways.
This is emotional loneliness, stemming from my limiting behaviors, emotions, beliefs and thoughts about myself and others.
Give yourself compassion.
There are times in your life when you will experience involuntary physical aloneness and it can feel emotional lonely. Do what you can to navigate these times by deeply connecting with self. Offer yourself compassion and gentleness. Embrace your solitude with tender loving care.
Be true to you.
It makes so much sense to experience emotional loneliness even if you are surrounded by people all the time, if those relationships are only surface level and unsatisfying. A desire to connect authentically with others, and have deep and meaningful connection is so reasonable. There is nothing wrong with you. People have the tendency to believe, “it must be me”. But in reality, it actually might be “them”. They just might not be “your people”. Offer “them” compassion. Realize and accept the limitations of these relationships. They cannot be what they are not. Continue to be true to you. Continue to show up authentically in all of your relationships. Continue to put yourself out there and find your tribe. Your tribe may not look exactly as you imagined, but there are people who are also seeking you. Who also want to connect in deep and meaningful authentic ways.
*Resource: Each month I offer the Life as an Introvert online meeting to give people a chance to connect in deep and meaningful ways, and starting in February I will be offering online and in-person Authentic Connection meetings. These meetings will include a deeply relaxing guided meditation focused on Connecting with Your Authentic Self, and facilitated relational meditation focused on authentic connection with others. Learn more
Face the hard stuff.
Sometimes being a student of self is the hardest thing to do. This is where you get really really real with yourself. And ask yourself:
Do I feel lonely at this moment?
Is it involuntary physical aloneness? Is it emotional loneliness because I desire more authentic connections? Is it emotional loneliness stemming from limiting behaviors, emotions, beliefs?
What am I doing to contribute to my loneliness as it relates to other people?
What behaviors do I engage in that push people away?
What behaviors do I engage in that make the people in my life want to distance themselves from me?
What emotions cause me to push others away?
What emotions do I express outwardly that may make the people in my life want to distance themselves from me?
What beliefs do I hold about myself that are consciously or unconsciously being expressed in my interactions with others that contribute to people wanting to distance themselves from me?
What beliefs do I hold about others that are consciously or unconsciously being expressed in my interactions with others that contribute to people wanting to distance themselves from me?
What am I doing to contribute to my loneliness as it relates to my connection and relationship with myself?
What does loneliness mean to me?
Is being alone and loneliness the same thing for me?
What ideas, thoughts, beliefs do I have about my loneliness?
Is it true?
What emotions arise when I am alone, feel alone, or feel emotionally lonely?
What behaviors do I engage in when I am involuntarily alone, feel alone, or feel emotionally lonely?
What new behaviors do I want to experiment with the next time I feel lonely?
What new ideas, thoughts or beliefs do I want to experiment with the next time I feel lonely?
What new perceptions can I offer myself about the experience of loneliness?
How can I embrace my solitude in a way that feels self-connecting, self-compassionate, tender loving and caring?
Dear Wonderful Person,
I hope this message helps support you on your path of personal liberation, connection, and peace-filled compassion. Need more guidance on this topic or looking for a coach to partner with you on this part of your journey? Check out my private coaching programs.
Wishing you much peace and joy,
Customized. Personalized. Just for You.
Looking for a personable, heart-felt, caring coach to partner with you and help you achieve your personal and professional goals?
Rebecca's transformational whole-person coaching has helped her partners build confidence, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and connect authentically with themselves and others. She has partnered with executives, managers, and teams for over 15 years offering private coaching as well as Workshops in Public Speaking, and Worksite Wellness Classes in Stress-reduction, Work/Life Balance, and Time-management.
Over 15 years as an Executive Coach and Trainer for leaders in Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, Top-tier Universities, Government, NGOs, Small Businesses helping leaders and their teams achieve superior results
Results: Strengthened relationships and communication, Increased confidence and happiness, Reduced stress, Improved quality of life and employee wellness, Enhanced performance, Increased job satisfaction
1500+ hours of formal training and certifications in stress-reduction, mindfulness, and communication strategies
Certified Master Coach
MPA in Managerial Leadership, graduated with honors
BA with a concentration in Speech Communication, Magna Cum Laude
Named Top 16 Coaches in Raleigh for 2022 by Influence Digest