“Is it possible I’m unlikeable? Perhaps it’s my personality and behavior that causes no one to want to share my company.” That was a nagging thought during my times of loneliness. Yet I came to find out that wasn’t the case. What I was feeling was the stigma often associated with loneliness rather than the reality of the situation.
The reality was that I was having a hard time connecting with others. And that was because I didn’t know how to go about making connections.
Today it seems as though people are more willing to admit to a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety than they are that they are lonely. The judgment I had toward myself when I was lonely kept me from reaching out to others for fear of stigmatization. The fact that I couldn’t reach out to others for help out of a fear of judgment made me feel worse. I believed I should be able to get free of the feelings of loneliness I had.
This inability to free myself of loneliness goes back to feelings of self-sufficiency that many of us carry in Western culture. It’s based on an idea of pulling one’s self up by their boot straps and working things out on our own. This idea of self-sufficiency is that it's seen as weakness to need help. Indeed, as the late Professor John Cacioppo said in an article from a 2016 story from The New York Times: “The very word 'lonely' carries a negative connotation…signaling social weakness, or an inability to stand on one’s own.”
So what can we do about this stigma? As with most issues, it’s important that people who are suffering from this issue speak up. If we share that we are experiencing loneliness, it's easier for others to feel comfortable sharing their troubles. It’s one of the reasons I talk about this through my speaking and writing.
Also, bringing attention to the issue as a society is helpful. Directing funds to research and public programs can be of great help in showing individuals how to break free from the grips of loneliness. Education on methods by which one can find connections would go a long way to break down the stigma.
At the close of my talk on loneliness I say the same thing: “You’re not alone in feeling lonely.” It’s so important to remind others of that in the hopes that those few words can make a difference to break down stigma. It's a stigma that keeps so many from receiving the help they need to find connections.
This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.