Loneliness doesn’t always look like the sad, social outcast in the corner at a party.
Here is an intriguing way of viewing loneliness that I hadn’t considered before…
Thanks to clarification around Brene Brown’s podcast episode on the physical and emotional toll that social disconnection takes on us, I can confidently proceed with this loneliness post that has been idling in my drafts for 3 weeks.
To preface, loneliness is somewhat of an epidemic right now (given the fear over coronavirus, unpopular opinions on putting your kids back in school, job uncertainty, etc).
Loneliness is terribly damaging to our self-esteem and mental health, yes. But what is fascinating is that feeling alone contributes to the downward spiral of our physical health. And if not addressed in time, it leads to premature death.
Hate to be so morbid, but this is important and we all need to be reminded of it. We need to be there for people. And people need to be there for us. It is actually quite simple. If you’re feeling lonely right now (is anyone not?) I think (1) most of us are too egotistical to admit we are lonely, or (2) we are lying to ourselves.
Now for the juicy stuff you won’t find on Google. I hate Google lately.
How You define Loneliness Depends On Your Age
And consequently, what seems “normal” for your age group.
Our 20s were a time of partying, dating around, and being surrounded by new and exciting people. It was a magical time of looking at life through an irresistible lens.
If you felt lonely in your 20s, it was most likely due to not feeling like you fit in with your social circle.
I had no problem with loneliness in my 20s. After all, it was a time period that celebrated uniqueness, adventure and spontaneity. All things I am (was?) very fond of.
Now in my 30s, I have never felt lonelier. Your 30s, acclaimed from society at large, are about making your mark on who you are as a working professional. Your 30s are also the typical time period in modern day where we are getting married, having babies and owning homes.
And because a lot of us 30-somethings are in this “settling down” phase, we’re not scratching that social itch that came so easily to us in our 20s. No wonder we feel alone. Compared to our 20s, our 30s are boring and serious. Two words that will always make me cringe.
30-Something Pressures — There’s A Whole Lot Of Em’
In addition to the pressures of landing your dream husband, starting a family and residing in an enviable home and neighborhood comes the push for a steady, lucrative, and purposeful career.
That’s a tough pill to swallow when your previous responsibilities revolved around attending 3 happy hours per week and paying your rent on time.
If you aren’t married, don’t have kids, and don’t own a house by the time you’re 40? The trolls of society tell us there is something wrong with us. And we believe them.
I don’t know what loneliness looks like in our 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond, but I do hear — and believe! — that things get better with age.
Connection is Key
When she was living in LA, Samantha told Smith she no longer felt a connection — “To it, to LA, to you, to all of it,” were her exact words.
Loneliness is triggered by so many things. Our environment, the people we do or do not interact with every day, working in a job we despise, having loud and unwelcome opinions, the list truly is endless.
And furthermore, when we don’t feel a connection to something or someone, the side effect is always going to be a feeling of aloneness or isolation. I believe this to be the overarching reason why New York City is such a dreamland. Everybody belongs.
Loneliness does not discriminate. Are you rich, skinny, and popular? You’re not immune. Are you poor, out of shape, and weird? You’re not immune. Everyone is privy to it.
Keeping up with societal and social constructs isn’t only impossible — it’s toxic. We all move at our own pace. If you feel yourself falling into comparison traps over relationships, work, motherhood, whatever, get rid of whatever is making you feel less than. Maybe it’s social media. Maybe it’s a family member. Whatever it is, kindly tell them to f*ck off so you can live the life that you want to live, on your terms.
Here are some reminders I utilize when I’m feeling down in the dumps:
I always feel less alone when I’m listening to music (Taylor Swift’s Folklore as of late)
Reading books where I know I would be best friends with the author (Been There, Married That, as of late — so far so brilliant!)
Calling a friend I know will make me feel better
We are all human beings in search of the same exact thing — connection. Just because it manifests in different forms for different people doesn’t mean they don’t want it. We all want the same things. We want to be happy, and we can’t be happy without the support of other people.
Go out into the big bad world and find your people.
Thank you for reading. May your Tuesday be filled with abundant sunshine, heart-pumping workouts, and fantastic street tacos. I’m in Manhattan and the soul of NYC is still here. It’s quieter, but it’s here.