Lonely in a Crowd

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Jean Browman at cheerfulmonk.com wrote a post earlier this week, At Home in the Universe, in which she writes about the feeling of loneliness that some of us can feel sometimes and fears that go along with feeling alone. She has opened up a discussion on this topic and has asked several bloggers, including myself, to join.

Unique and Lonely

One of the greatest things about being a human is we are all unique. There is no one else who thinks, looks, acts and experiences life exactly the way we do. At the same time, this is also one of the greatest burdens. Our uniqueness ensures that no one else on Earth can ever really understand us fully.

This can be amplified in small or otherwise sheltered communities where the chance of finding others who share similar values is smaller. This is also true in today’s transient communities, where many of us are forced to change our circle of friends frequently and lose the common ground of past experiences.

For some of us, this loneliness is unbearable to the point where we are willing to compromise our own values and judgment for those expressed by others. The results of these compromises can be seen in harmless cultural commonalities such as clothing style, celebrity obsession, spectator sports, etc. At the extreme, they can also lead to harmful cult activities, group violence and even holocaust supporting behavior.

The Ironies of Compromise

One irony of compromising our values in favor of those expressed by a majority is that we will always find ourselves surrounded by others who express values different than our own, thus making us feel more alone. When we are sincere about who we are and what we believe, we will attract and find others with like minds who can help us alleviate the feelings of loneliness.

A second irony is found in how we spend our time. If loneliness drives us to avoid being alone and always be surrounded by others, we will find it difficult to discover our values and beliefs, which, of course, makes it difficult to find other like-minded people. Finding comfort in solitude is a great way to alleviate loneliness. Alex Shalman’s post, I’m Stuck On A Deserted Island, With Just Myself, addresses this with some tips on how to spend alone time constructively.

Tips to Alleviate Loneliness

  • Know yourself. The better you know yourself, the better others can know you and the more likely you are to find others with like minds.
  • Be honest and sincere for the same reason as the above tip. If there are others in your life who have difficulty with your beliefs, they will either learn to accept you for who you are or make room for others who will.
  • Blog. Blogging exposes your thought to a larger audience than you may have available in your local community. Usually, people will read blogs that resonate with their own interests and values, so you can more easily find an audience with whom you can relate.
  • Balance social and solitude time. Too much of either can lead to loneliness.
  • Learn to have faith and trust in others. A book could be written on this topic alone. Without trust, loneliness is inevitable. Building trust often requires risk.
  • Improve your communication skills. Often times, what most separates us from others is an inability to appropriately express our values and needs. Journaling is one great way to build these skills.
  • Look for similarities rather than differences. Although you are unique, there is not likely any single trait you have that is not shared by someone else. Look for yourself in everyone you meet.

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