In my church community I often hear women say that they don’t feel like they fit in. Younger women, older women, those who never married, career women, those who long for children and stay-at-home moms. Age or status doesn’t seem to affect this epidemic of loneliness. The crafty women say they don’t fit in because they aren’t “hip” or “cool.” The career women don’t feel like they fit in because they aren’t available during the day for play dates and meet ups. The moms feel isolated from everyone because they are tethered to home, reliant upon nap times and feeding schedules. The single women are different because they were never able to find a spouse. Everyone feels lonely and nobody seems to want to take the first step to overcome it!
In this age of “social” media, we are more lonely than ever. Online tools are great for facilitating social activities, but showing up in person is still required if you want to meet new people or continue your current friendships, at least at a minimum level.
So what do we do about this epidemic of loneliness? Depression and anxiety are sky-high. The pressures of our western culture are driving us apart– and toward mental illness!
Just like everything else I teach, it has to be up to the individual. You only have control of you. You can’t wait for someone else to invite you over– that might never happen. Not because there aren’t people out there that want to get to know you, but because they don’t know who you are! You have to overcome your fear and put yourself out there. Define who you are so that your tribe will know!
I have lived most of my life feeling separate and different from everybody else. I would always complain to my husband late at night before we each drifted off to sleep, about how the other moms didn’t like me. Nobody seemed to reciprocate my invitations. I talked too much and was too outspoken. Eventually I got to a place where I thought I didn’t need any friends, per se, because I had long-distance friendships and it was okay that I only had a few girlfriends. I tried to cover my feelings of loneliness with an “I don’t need them anyway” attitude. But deep down, I still craved more friendship and face-to-face interaction. I wanted people to want to be around me. Essentially, I wanted to know that I mattered to someone other than my husband and my kids.
Then I realized that I wasn’t the kind of person I would want to hang out with! I was showing up in my life in a way that didn’t invite others in. When I had thoughts about how others didn’t like me, or how I said the wrong thing, it would make me feel insecure and shy. When I felt insecure and shy, I tended to clamp my mouth shut and stay in the safety of the corner at a gathering. I probably gave off that “Don’t talk to me” vibe.
Well of course few people befriended me! My actions were probably scaring them away– and these actions stemmed from those thoughts about other people not liking me. And the kicker? Most likely my thoughts were pure fiction.
I’d like to offer 5 steps that you can implement into your life to combat the loneliness you feel:
- Watch your thoughts. Are you making up fiction in your mind? What is fact and what is just a thought in your mind?
- Put yourself out there. People who love you just the way you are, wait patiently for you to reveal yourself to them. Make the first invitation. Host the party. Tell others your passions and desires.
- Be the kind of person you would want to spend time with. When you do this you will be a magnet for the exact people you seek.
- Brave rejection. It’s probably going to happen. But it doesn’t mean you don’t matter. Don’t make everything mean something about you; maybe that other person is just having a bad day, or even a bad year!
- If someone doesn’t like you, don’t take it personally. You are like a peach. A perfectly ripe and juicy peach. Anyone who doesn’t want to eat that would be crazy! But you know what? There might be people out there who just don’t like peaches. And that’s ok.
When we each start creating positive stories about ourselves (and others) in our minds, we will find the community and belonging we crave. How will you change your story?