Understanding Loneliness in Your 20s & 30s
Deep loneliness is common for millennial professionals in their 20s and 30s. If you are feeling lonely, the odds are your life is out of balance.
You may be relying too heavily on social media, social activities, or work to distract you from connecting in a meaningful way with yourself; or you are focusing too much on your own inward negative self-talk and pulling away from deeper social connectedness with those in your circle out of fear of rejection or lack of confidence.
In order to lead successful, emotionally healthy lives it is important for millennials to understand what loneliness is and how to live a meaningful life despite its ebb and flow.
Loneliness is a Motivator
Like many other emotions, loneliness can motivate us to make changes. Anger motivates us to correct injustices, guilt motivates us to make more heart lead choices, and loneliness motivates us to connect with others or ourselves more deeply. Instead of being surprised, embarrassed or even ashamed that we are feeling lonely, accepting that it is a natural part of everyone’s life from time to time and then allowing it to motivate you to make changes could shorten the length and the intensity of these periods of feeling disconnected.
Don’t Mistake Being by Yourself for Being Lonely
Many of us mistake being alone with loneliness. A world immersed in social media and constant surface level interactions has made it difficult for some to tolerate their own company. So the discomfort we feel when we are alone is heightened and mislabeled as loneliness.
Times of solitude and reflection have been shown to provide us with insight and transformation because they force the individual to explore their thinking in a way that is missing when others are present. These times offer us a chance to get to know ourselves in a real and deep way, but only if we choose to embrace them and open ourselves up to the opportunity.
It is only when we are no longer distracted by others that we can begin to make peace with ourselves.
Loneliness Can Be an Opportunity to Know Yourself (and Maybe Even Begin to Love Yourself)
When we are dissatisfied with our life or with who we are, loneliness is all the more intense. This is because it forces us to address, or at least acknowledge our insecurities. We rush to fill the emptiness with distraction instead of embracing it as a short-term opportunity to connect to ourselves.
Research shows feeling lonely is not directly related to physically being alone.
In many studies, people reporting the most intense and long-term loneliness were those with large friend and family groups. If you are not on speaking terms with yourself, if you are not satisfied with your own company, there is no amount of distraction that people or devices can provide that is going to reduce your discomfort.
Are you surrounded by friends and family and still feel lonely? If so, it’s time to connect with yourself.
This can include meditation, yoga, reading books about self-understanding, trying therapy for the first time (or trying it again), going to a movie, on a hike or to dinner by yourself, or reconnecting with your personal form of spiritual expression. These forms of embracing loneliness as a season of life and accepting it as an opportunity to grow can help to reduce the discomfort and prepare you to move into deeper and more connected relationships.
When we ignore this possible root for our loneliness, we find ourselves frantically seeking out social interaction. In the process, we use other people to alleviate a pain that can only be healed from within.
Put Yourself Out There
If you instead are finding yourself going through your days with almost no human interaction and are craving company and companionship, reach out. Expect that there will be some discomfort involved in connecting with others. But move closer anyway.
Accept an invitation you would have previously turned down. Seek out a book club, a political campaign or social issue you support. Take a class in something that interests you like a language or some form of artistic expression. Use social media to find events like organized hikes or activities where you will meet others who share your interests. Or take the risk of inviting people you already know, like coworkers or acquaintances, to activities you enjoy.
There are so many ways to put yourself out there. But you have to be ready to accept that connection, whether to yourself or to others, always brings the potential for both risk and comfort.
If you acknowledge your loneliness is not horrible or something to be ashamed of or hidden, but instead, is a chance to move your life in a new direction, you may be able to find the motivation you need to take the first steps toward a new and better season in your life.