We think of loneliness as just something that some people have to learn to live with – not us – people like that weird old man living down the street or that eccentric aunt living with her six cats. However, loneliness is far more widespread and insidious than we may imagine. It is also a lot more dangerous and consequential than we could possibly fathom. So here’s what I want you to ask yourself – could you possibly be lonely? Even as you remain connected 24×7, with all your social media followers and ‘friends’, could it be that you’re experiencing loneliness? I think the answer may well surprise you if you answer these questions with complete honesty.
Your connections – authentic or counterfeit?
What is an authentic connection? Is it the person who always ‘likes’ your post, unfailingly replies to your Instagram story, or dutifully retweets your pearls of wisdom? Or is it that person you can sit with in complete silence, the one who will burst into spontaneous laughter with you because the two of you are just that attuned? Is it the person who claims to laud the wisdom of your online persona or the one you know you can count on to have your back no matter where or when you need them?
Examine your life – how much of your life do you live virtually and how much is spent in the real world, having real and meaningful interactions with those who actually matter to you? Which version of yourself do you present to the world – do you show the version of you that you think is likable and admirable, or do present the real you along with the warts? The people you genuinely connect with are the ones who know the authentic you – good, bad, and ugly. Go ahead and examine your connections – identify which ones are authentic and which ones are counterfeit. And voila! There you have the answer to your question – am I lonely?
Why and how to step out of your comfort zone.
For me, creating authentic connections is the antidote to loneliness, and the only way to do this is to really put yourself out there. This involves getting out of your comfort zone, maybe even switching off your critical mind for a bit and switching on your intuitive self. I am aware that fear is a big part of this – there is the fear of rejection, of it all not working out. Remember, if you’re fearful, so is that other person. They have the same apprehensions and insecurities that you do. Maybe the confident persona on display is a façade.
So here’s the good news: stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t that scary once you’ve taken your first step. There are many, quite simple and non-scary ways to take that all-important first step, as I explain in this video. Go ahead and open yourself up. Creating genuine and meaningful connections is the most powerful bulwark against loneliness – even the kind of loneliness that you may have difficulty recognizing or acknowledging.