Why You’re Still Lonely and What To Do To Fix It
As an introvert, I actually enjoy my alone time. I enjoy being in my own space while listening to my own thoughts. I enjoy doing alone activities like writing, meditating, and exercising.
But as much as I enjoy the feelings of solitude, whenever I remained lonely for an extended period of time, I begin feeling strange. I question my own self worth and how I can return back to the world. I then stall and make excuses as to why I shouldn’t go out to social events. Before I know it, I develop a short case of social anxiety.
Chances are, you don’t like the unwanted exposure to anxiety. You hate the feelings of being too afraid to go out to a social event. You hate the fact that you’re too scared to talk to that cute girl in the grocery store. If there’s a chance you’ll be forced to interact with other humans, it makes you avoid those social situations, which in turn leads to more social anxiety whenever you do end up in a social situation. It’s a horrible domino effect, but it’s a common case for people.
In fact, it’s quite normal to have social anxiety. In Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness, Gillian Butler proves through his research that social anxiety is a natural instinct based on human nature, and everyone suffers from it to a certain degree. Social anxiety makes you think logically over a situation before you carelessly jump into it.
Let’s say Johnny sees a crowd of suspicious people carrying weapons. Thanks to social anxiety, he isn’t going to approach them angrily to express his negative opinions. His natural instincts are going to tell him, “Whoa buddy! You might not want to talk to those people. They might hurt you.” Thanks to the Jimmy the Cricket in his head, Johnny isn’t going to make a silly mistake by possibly starting a fight with a group of dangerous people.
But suppose Johnny’s social anxiety didn’t want to shut up just yet. Now when he’s at home on a Friday night, wondering if he should go out, Jimmy the Cricket pops on his shoulder again. But instead of offering Johnny any useful advice, he says, “Whoa Johnny! You might not want to go out tonight. It could be dangerous! And if you don’t run into anyone dangerous, your pride might be lowered once you realize no one wants to talk to you. Because let’s face it, you’re not the most exciting guy in the world. So let’s sit stay at our desk and continue watching some anime.”
This is where social anxiety reaches a dangerous point in our lives. Making unfair assumptions about a situation that may arise when you go out is what sets people back from overcoming social anxiety. Although the mechanism of social anxiety can keep them safe from unpredictable threats, it can destroy’s someone’s self-esteem when it controls their lives.
And this isn’t to say that people who experience social anxiety suck at socializing. I have a friend who’s amazing at socializing whenever you take her to an event. She grabs people attention with ease and knows how to carry out a conversation.
However, whenever she’s alone, she’s frighten by the idea and feel intimidated before going to a social situation. She doubts her ability to carry out a conversation and if anyone would find her interesting.
In a research study done by College professor Megan L. Knowles, she led 4 experiments that demonstrated lonely people’s tendency to choke when under social pressure. By the end of the study, she discovered that out of the 86 undergraduates she studied, the lonelier students performed better than the non-lonely students whenever they took a “General Knowledge Test,” to read the emotions from 24 faces on a computer screen.
However, when the lonelier students were told to read 24 faces on a computer screen to test their social skills, they did worse than the non-lonely people.
This theory reflects the natural tendency that people with social anxiety normally struggle with. Although they have the confidence to perform well in a social situation when they don’t put a second thought into it, the moment they feel like they’re being monitored by a crowd, they become stage fright.
My social anxiety is normally handled at a reasonable level. If I’m told to go to a social situation where I know at least 10% of the people, I feel confident enough to manage myself there. I can speak to someone I know and once that conversation dims down, I can switch to a stranger and see how they know the people I know.
But my social anxiety can easily get out of proportion whenever I’m offered to go to a new event where I know no one. I have no idea who’s going to judge me there, who I’ll be able to speak to first, or what people will think if I stood alone. The more I dwell on those thoughts, the more I’m tempted to push myself away from the idea of going to either a club, bar, museum, or party.
Sometimes I become too frightened to even go through with going somewhere alone, but most of the time I manage to walk out of the house. And by the time I arrive to a social function, although it’s strange at first, I usually find my way speaking to people about the environment I’m in.
The biggest obstacle you normally have to defeat is second guessing yourself. Second guessing rarely helps because it’s often your initial thoughts that prove to be the right choice. If your conscious tells you that you should socialize, chances are you’re feeling a bit lonely and need some human interaction. If your conscious tells you to talk to someone near you, chances are you already recognized their positive facial emotions and they’ll be likely to hold a conversation with you.
So what are the best solutions for you?
Break out of Prison
Think of your mind as a prison that’s restraining you along with all your anxious thoughts, worries, and fears. The longer you dwell in your mind, the longer those unwanted thoughts pin you against the wall and have their way with you. They make you question about your life choices, the way you act, what others will think about you, and if you’re interesting enough.
Thus, develop a practice to break you out of prison. Move your body whenever you’re overthinking about anything. Exercise if you find yourself doubting your abilities to socialize. Practice any hobbies to break you out of your mind prison. Whatever activity you prefer, ensure that it forces you to focus on it so it take away those unwanted thoughts.
The faster you break out of your mind, the more you can concentrate on using your social skills to speak to others, make friends, and form relationships.
Awaken Your Super Saiyan 2
In a way, you’re like a superhero who just needs to tap into their inner being. Cut away the fears that you’re not interesting enough to gain anyone’s attention. You have a inner power in you that me, your family, or friends can’t even begin to imagine.
If you think about it, have you ever noticed the amount of times you performed well in a social situation. Perhaps it was in school with your friends. Maybe it was with your work colleagues. Or maybe it was at a party you went to where you were the center of people attention.
Either way, I’m more than confident to say that you’ve already demonstrated the potential you have to avoid social anxiety. And I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t think you could do it.
Throughout your life, whenever you watched other people perform well in a social situation, you compared yourself to them and doubted your abilities to do as well as them. Although you have the potential to be just as good as them, you tucked it away until you were pushed into a corner to unleash it. And once that situation dwindled, you tucked away your potential.
A reference I usually like to think of is a character on Dragon Ball Z named Gohan. Although he was just a teenager, he had the potentials to defeat the most powerful villain in the world. All he had to do was forget his fears, accept his potentials, and no longer think about them. I’ll even show you the scene that motivates me when I think about him.
For those who watched this scene, do as what Android 16 said. (He’s the talking head for those who aren’t familiar.) It’s not a sin to tell other people about your thoughts. It’s not fair to allow social anxiety to destroy every potential friendship or relationship you could obtain. Social anxiety is like a beast that likes to hurt your pride. Drop your restraints and be the person who you were meant to be. You have the potential. Just let it go. Release your pride. Release your ego. Release the idea other people are judging you.
Once you let it go, you’ll feel your social anxiety slipping away and you’ll unleash your inner Super Saiyan like an explosion. (Sorry if I placed you in the mood to watch DBZ. Here’s a link to the entire Gohan Vs Cell fight if you want to watch it.)
Realize other people face a worst sense of loneliness than you
Although you feel lonely a majority of the time, realize the pain that other people go through. Especially celebrities. A lot of people don’t understand that celebrities are more lonelier than what everyone thinks. Despite the millions of fans who adore them, they still develop a great sense of loneliness the average person can’t understand.
Celebrities are humans too and when the spotlight is on them, they’re constantly being judged and watched. Rather than behaving the way they naturally are, they have to watch every word they say. They have to watch their every action. It has become almost a weekly habit to see a new celebrity put under the negative spotlight because of a silly thing they previously said while in the privacy of their own home. As a result, most celebrities are forced to isolate themselves away from most of the population to avoid being seen as a villain.
Jennifer Lawrence had admitted that her newfound fame can make for a “lonely lifestyle,” and that she still keeps the same group of friends for years.
“It’s so easy to think that this (celebrity) is reality; that people are lining up outside just to write down what I have to say. That’s not real; that’s weird.” -Jennifer Lawrence
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Brad Pitt said that, in spite of the fact that he was a full-on movie star by the late 90’s, he “got really sick of himself” and became a pothead shut-in. He also mentioned that his depression made him feel like “the ultimate loser.”
So why did I mention about the unfortunate side to being a celebrity? To put it simple, it’s to make you realize the great advantages you have. Even if you feel alone with social anxiety as your unwanted roommate, there’s still a greater chance for you to be yourself in the world. And sometimes you need a reminder that there’s other people in the world who have it worst than you.
You don’t have to worry about people hanging around you who’s only looking for money, power, or a boost to the top. You don’t have to worry about being on the news if you do something silly at a party or social event. You don’t have to worry about a stranger trying to backstab you when you make yourself vulnerable.
The Roman Cicero told of a “fan” named Damocles, who envied the ruler Dionysius for his wealth, luxuries, women and flatterers. Dionysius offered to trade places for a day, and Damocles immediately agreed. Initially, he had a great time standing in for the ruler, until he realized that there was a sharp sword directly above his head, secured to the ceiling by nothing more than a horse hair. That made it difficult to enjoy the food, women, and finery.
This, Dionysius explained, is what it feels like to be the person on top. That isolation leads to fear. They must be on constant guard to keep their place, and to prevent their own demise. Humans will always derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others.
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