From John Amodeo Ph.D., MFT @ Psychology Today: Many of us feel lonely, but we never get to the roots of why—and how we might feel more connected. Here are some common fears that may be keeping us isolated.
Fear Of Taking Risks
If we cling to the belief that we should be perfect, we may not risk doing things that might expose our imperfections. We might think “I should get out of the house more often or join a dating site,” but we don't want to risk of being disappointed. Our fear of failing keeps us isolated.
We may ruminate about asking someone on a date, but we can’t bear the prospect of hearing “no," which may reinforce the belief that we’re flawed. Being consumed by self-doubt, we may not consider a more benign interpretation, such as they’re not seeking new friends at this time.
Rather than take an intelligent risk to reach out, we may find a curious comfort in what is familiar, even though it keeps us painfully isolated and disconnected.
The Fear Of Shame And Embarrassment
Another factor that may fuel our aversion to risk-taking is a fear of facing shame or embarrassment. We don’t want to be seen as defective—or see ourselves as flawed. The belief that we’re flawed or a failure can create one of the most painful human emotions.
Toxic shame is so agonizing that we’ll do almost anything to avoid it. And there are many things we won’t do in order to sidestep the prospect of shame. We won’t reach out to people, share our thoughts, or allow our natural humor to come out. We won’t begin a new hobby or enterprise. We won't place ourselves in situations where we might not excel. Without a guarantee of success, we succumb to our default mode of not exposing ourselves to possible embarrassment or humiliation.
Of course, life offers no guarantees. Without a willingness to take intelligent risks and face possible criticism or rejection, we remain paralyzed, which perpetuates our loneliness.
It takes wisdom to realize that even if we’re rejected, it doesn't mean we are a reject. Our inner work is to hold ourselves with dignity and respect, whatever outside events befall us. We have no control over how others view us, but we have some control over how we view ourselves.
The Fear Of Being Vulnerable
Taking risks that might move us toward satisfying connections and a more fulfilling life means being willing to embrace our vulnerability, which means realizing and accepting that we don't always get what we want. This takes a courageous willingness to feel sad or disappointed sometimes, or even a mild sense of shame, which might help us learn and grow. This is simply the human condition. The good news is that we can learn to have a more friendly relationship with all of our feelings, perhaps through the help of a psychotherapist.
Moving toward a less lonely, more engaging life means cultivating resilience. Resilience means finding the strength to say "yes" to ourselves when others say "no" to us. It requires realizing that how others respond to us says something about them; it is not a statement about our worth and value.
This is the deeper meaning of self-love: honoring ourselves and learning to rest comfortably in our body and being as we venture out into an uncertain world. We come to affirm that we’re ok just as we are. As psychologist Carl Rogers put it,
“The curious paradox is that when I can accept myself just as I am, then I can change."
Being Friendly With Ourselves
We experience the universe as a friendlier place as we become friendly with our inner experience of life. Trusting ourselves to deal with the full range of feelings that life brings up in us, we can take more risks to be vulnerable. We can extend our hand to others with courageous vulnerability, knowing that if we’re not met with a positive response, we can feel good knowing we tried… and move toward people who might be more responsive.
Most of us feel a little lonely sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with that. If we can hold ourselves with gentleness as we experience our loneliness, it may begin to shift. Asking ourselves “What does this loneliness need?” we might discover a new gentleness toward ourselves or some small act that may help us feel more inner peace and connection.