Loneliness is not your fault
Becky talks about feeling lonely at university, and how she learnt to pursue new social connections.
I’m Becky and I’m 24 years old. I live in Hampshire and work as a content producer for Counselling Directory and Happiful magazine. In my spare time you’ll find me in a group fitness class, writing content on my blog, or out walking somewhere – I like to think of myself as a part time wilderness explorer!
My years at University weren’t the best
I’ve always been independent, and as a kid I liked spending time on my own. I’m an introvert, but I would never have described myself as lonely. That all changed when I went to university. There’s so much expectation for it to be the best years of your life. I don’t regret my time at university, but this certainly wasn’t true for me. I struggled with my mental health and began to isolate myself. My internal struggles meant that, for the first time ever, I was finding it really hard to connect with other people. I went days without seeing someone I knew.
Looking back, I can see how sad this made me, and being in a long-distance relationship didn’t help. The lack of physical presence added to my feelings of loneliness, and I lost sense of who I was, and what made me happy. I was consumed by thoughts of worthlessness. Being lonely makes you think people don’t want to spend time with you. I didn’t realise it was something I could try and change.
Being connected digitally isn’t the same
I think there’s an assumption that because of all the technology we have as young people, we are more connected with each than ever before. I think that’s a misconception. It’s possible to make really powerful connections online – some of the people I’ve met online have turned out to be some of my best friends. But, I think we have to take connection offline – to connect face to face, for it to be truly beneficial for our mental health.
Loneliness shouldn’t be a taboo
No one chooses to be lonely. Isolation and loneliness are two separate things. You don’t have to be isolated to be lonely, just as you don’t have to be lonely to be isolated. Loneliness is not a lack of people in your life – it’s a lack of connection with people. You can be in a room full of people, and still feel alone. But if you’re in a room full of people that you feel a connection with, you’re not lonely. It depends on our desired social bonds, and how we wish to be connected with others.
It’s easy to feel lost during life’s transitions
Young people go through lots of transformative events, which could make them feel lonely. From moving from school to university, or staying at home to study whilst friends move away. It’s easy to feel lost in these periods of your life. Friendships change, relationships change and you change so much yourself.
Loneliness can accompany a lot of other mental health issues. Whether you experience anxiety, depression, an eating disorder or another mental health condition, if you don’t have the opportunity to reach out for support, this can be isolating. When you’re young, this can be especially difficult to deal with when we’re already going through so many other life changes.
I looked for what was missing in my life
When I moved back in with my parents after finishing university, I spent less time alone. But this doesn’t mean I never feel lonely. One of the most triggering things for loneliness is feeling that I don’t have a connection with other people, or I lack the confidence to form connections with people. Self-belief is something I’ve always struggled with, and I think there’s a link between that and my ability to put myself ‘out there’.
So, I started prioritising my own happiness. I looked for what was missing in my life, and what I enjoyed doing which I had lost sight of. Dancing, and group fitness, filled a huge gap for me – I started meeting more people with similar passions to mine, and I started having fun again. This had a massive impact on me, as it not only increased my social circle but improved my physical and mental health too.
It’s scary, but it’s so important to open up
I started trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, to do things that scared me, like going to events on my own. This is another way I’ve made new connections – and, as scary as it might feel, it’s worth it for the confidence boost it gives you.
If you’re feeling lonely, please remember that it’s not your fault. Try reaching out to a friend or family member, and suggest doing something fun, that you both enjoy. Loneliness might be the last taboo, but the more we open up and talk to others about what we’re experiencing, the sooner the stigma will end.
- Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
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- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
Updated on 21-May-2018
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