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What Does It Really Mean to Be Lonely?


Sad Young Woman Sitting Outdoors
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Loneliness is the state of being that comes from feeing lonely, which Dictionary.com says is "affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone" and "destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship." Of these two definitions, the second one is much more to the point. True loneliness comes not necessarily when you're alone, but when you feel as if you don't have someone who really knows you and supports you.

What can make one person feel loneliness (spending time by themselves, being alone at the holidays) might just sound like heaven to someone else. Therefore, when you define the term loneliness, you need to also get to the heart of what makes someone feel this way, and it isn't just "being alone." Loneliness is not determined by the amount of friends you have, since some people can have a lot of friends and feel lonely, while others might have just a couple friends in their life and feel complete.

How to Tell If You're Lonely
While loneliness can affect people differently, some common signs include:

  • Negative attitude toward relationships.
  • Feeling of despair about your friendships.
  • Feeling sad about lack of friends.
  • Feelings of anger when other people are happy.
  • The general feeling that you aren't part of "the crowd" or "a group."
  • Feeling as if you aren't accepted in the world.
  • Feeling as if you are "too different" to have friends.

If you are generally unsatisfied with the amount and nature of your personal relationships, you may feel lonely.

Actions That Mask Loneliness
Sometimes people feel lonely but try to "work through it" by keeping busy. Perhaps they don't want to slow down enough to fully realize how lonely they are. Keeping busy can help with loneliness in many cases. However, if the problem is a failure to connect with others, adding more activities into your schedule won't fix the empty feeling deep down. Some common things people do (usually to the extreme) in order to mask loneliness include:

  • Throwing yourself into work.
  • Exercising frequently or when you have any downtime at all.
  • Signing up for a lot of activities, but failing to truly connect with someone.
  • Spending too much time on the computer.

If these activities are done in an excessive manner, they may be hiding the loneliness you feel.

The Difference Between Loneliness and Solitude
Don't confuse loneliness and solitude. Loneliness has negative feelings associated with being alone. The lonely person wishes they had more friends or deeper connections with the friends that are already in their life.

Solitude, on the other hand, brings with it feelings of peacefulness, reconnecting with spirit, and enjoying one's time alone. The difference between loneliness and solitude is personal preference and attitude. Some people crave and appreciate the time they spend alone, while others feel lost without other people around.

Introverts and Loneliness
There is sometimes a false perception that introverts are "loners" and therefore lonely. This is not the case. Introverts very often do spend large amounts of time alone, not because they are lonely but because they process the outside world differently than extroverts. Introverts recharge their emotional batteries by spending time collecting their thoughts and enjoying quiet, reflective, periods. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by the external world of people and conversation.

If you're someone that is prone to loneliness, you could learn a lot from observing a well-adjusted introvert. Typically, they use their alone time to do hobbies, read, enjoy music, or pursue other creative pursuits. They can also find a social element from computers and websites, connecting with friends online. These are all things that, if you currently lack friends, can help you find other people to talk with so you can get the confidence you need to meet new people.

More On Introverts:


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Pronunciation: lone-lee-nis

Also Known As: lonesomeness, being alone

Common Misspellings: lonliness


"I'm so filled with loneliness this holiday season. I wish my family was here."

"I've been lonely since moving to a new city. I'm making friends slowly, but I wish I had more right now."

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