94% of the time I feel fulfilled, thankful, and happy- I have the kindest husband, an amazing miracle that I get to call my daughter, wonderful family and friends, hobbies, hopes, and dreams- nevertheless there is a persisting loneliness, a feeling of isolation, being different, a feeling of being left out, that I can’t seem to kick the other 6% of the time. There are factors that have caused me to feel this way such as the fact that in the past two years we have moved twice. Both moves were to places where we knew no one. New adventures, new cities, starting over- that can be exciting, I’m the kind of person who welcomes change, but it can also be so lonely. Or sometimes I feel lonely because I feel different or less than. I let these negative feelings isolate me. Often I wonder if I am the only one. Many days, especially as a work from home mom, can feel mundane, same ol’ same ol’. While I am cleaning up the kitchen or changing diapers I think that everyone else in the world must be having a grand old time- dinner parties, concerts, travels- and I am just at home. By myself, day in and day out, with my toddler while my husband works. The occasional play date, date with my husband, mom’s night out, facetime chat, hang outs with childhood/college friends, are life savers and I am so thankful when I get to do those things. If you are sitting there too feeling like you are all alone in your feelings of loneliness, like life is a party or an exciting adventure all the time for everyone else- first, you are not silly or pathetic for having those thoughts, and second- more and more research shows that that is not the case.
In fact, I did my own tiny little “research study”( if you can even call it that) on Instagram stories. I took a 24 hour poll and asked “do you feel lonely?” I had 149 responses in 24 hours. 116 out of 149 people responded yes. That means 78% of the people who responded to my story shared that they feel lonely. I had 576 people view the story and who knows how many more would have responded yes- maybe some didn’t take the time to read the question, maybe some didn’t care, or maybe some didn’t feel the desire to be vulnerable enough to share that they too feel lonely. The latter is only a guess. Next I asked if those who feel lonely feel lonely occasionally/situationally or constantly. 151 out of 174 voted their loneliness was occasional or situational while 23 out of 174 shared it was constant. The next question I asked was for stay at home parents or those who work from home to share if they felt lonely in this role or not. 71 out of 100 people shared yes, they feel lonely in these roles, 29 did not feel lonely in these roles. The last poll was for people who work in an office/social setting. I was surprised the most at this response- 49 out of 68 people shared they felt lonely at work whereas 19 out of 68 shared they do not feel lonely at work.
So why are we so lonely? We live on a planet with 7 billion plus other human beings? I asked people to respond to my Instastories with what triggers loneliness and many of the responses involved the following- comparing personal circumstances to others, moving, isolating illnesses such as cancer or a difficult circumstance like infertility, shame from past mistakes, having a spouse who travels or works a lot, singleness, seeing others enjoying time together without you, losing friendships, spending a large majority of time alone for work or as a parent, feeling like no one can relate, mental health struggles, and grieving through a difficult time. I had pages and pages of responses. I was touched, saddened, and blown away by the amount of responses I got to this question. It is a very vulnerable thing to admit what causes you pain, so thank you to those who took the time to share.
Ok, the most important thing now that we have admitted that many of us experience loneliness- let’s figure out how to work through these hard feelings. First, I want to establish that there is no shame in loneliness. This is a reminder to myself as well. For whatever reason there is a stigma about being lonely, it makes us feel embarrassed to admit our loneliness. Maybe we think that sharing that we are lonely means we have no friends or less than desirable circumstances. Well, remember at the beginning of this blog I shared all the wonderful things I have going on in my life? I have some awesome circumstances yet I still have these occasional feelings of loneliness. I bet you also have some amazing things and amazing relationships in your life. Second, in these times of loneliness remember your worth- whether you believe it or not you are a beautiful creation by the almighty God who created the universe. He looks at you and smiles; after all, you were created in His image. Third, remember the things that are life-giving to you. I mean a hobby, a place you can get to easily, something you can do or look at, or somewhere you can be that brings you joy, something that breathes life into you again. Fourth, take a bold step and call someone up to hang out! Seriously, I know it sounds scary but I have a good idea that person you have in mind is lonely at times as well and maybe wishing someone would initiate a hang out. Be the brave one, call someone up and plan a coffee date, or invite them over for dinner or a play date. Fifth, why not start up a conversation in the waiting room or if you see another person alone at a coffee shop? As people we crave connection. If you always shy away from talking to others you eliminate your potential to make new friends. Sixth, remember that you are not alone. There are 7 billion plus people on this earth and no matter what each person’s personal circumstances are each of us has emotions that lead us to feel lonely at times. Maybe you picture some celebrity living the high life or a famous instagrammer whose life looks picture perfect- I promise, their life is lonely too sometimes. Seventh, get involved with something– find a place to volunteer- this will allow you to help and meet so many new people, your church, or a church in general if you don’t go, find a group of people who share an interest of yours- a running group, an artist group, a group for moms with toddlers, etc. Branch out! The things that help me when I feel lonely are praying and giving it to God, spending time with my family, time with a friend, making a gratitude list, starting a positive and energizing conversation with someone, watching one of my favorite shows, getting outside and going on a walk, listening to a podcast, and reading.
Loneliness doesn’t have to be embarrassing. It is a human experience. Let’s talk about it. Vulnerability encourages vulnerability. If I am able to help or encourage someone by admitting something taboo about myself, than I am more than happy to do that. So today world, I tell you that I indeed feel lonely and isolated sometimes. You are not alone if you experience this from time to time as well. We cannot eliminate the feelings of loneliness altogether but we can find ways to help our aching hearts in times of loneliness.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or dread, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6