If you clicked this article wondering, “Why do I feel lonely but want to be alone?”, “Is it normal to have such conflicting emotions?” I see you.
Loneliness is a very complex emotion. You could be in a lively room full of people and still experience it. This simple example showcases that loneliness is often not directly linked to the presence or absence of people surrounding us.
On the contrary, loneliness is evoked by the perceived lack of authentic connection with your social environment.
The American Psychology Association defines it as the emotional distress that results when inherent needs for intimacy and companionship are not met. So, can you be lonely and like being alone? The question almost answers itself.
Certainly, this can happen if the people in your life do not provide a sense of belonging. You may not find meaning in engaging with what you perceive as superficial relationships.
On the other hand, spending time with yourself does not require energy and effort, which might be comforting and encouraging.
Now that we have established how the need for solitude and the feeling of loneliness can coexist, we will take our quest a bit further.
We will explore why you may feel a great urge to be alone and discover possible answers to the question, “Why do I feel lonely but want to be alone?”.
Why Do I Crave Being Alone?
Occasionally, seeking solitude is perfectly natural and often necessary. Even if you have a generally extroverted nature, you may still crave taking some alone time. Let’s explore some reasons that could lead you to seek your own company:
- To recharge when you feel emotionally or physically drained.
- To devote time to a personal project, whether work-related or not.
- To spend time assessing your thoughts when you need to make important life decisions.
- To allocate time for introspection and self-care during emotionally challenging times.
- To replenish your energy after demanding social interactions when you are an introvert.
Why Do I Feel Lonely But Want To Be Alone
Our society tends to stigmatize those who prioritize solitude over social interactions. In a world where extroversion is celebrated, those who find peace in their own company might be labeled as weird, unconventional, or unwanted.
This prejudice cultivates a fear of being different, leading to the compulsion to socialize, which could be interpreted as loneliness.
Also, the peer pressure from people in your environment who constantly engage in social activities can fuel a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).
This nerve-racking feeling that you’re not appreciating experiences you “should” be enjoying can slowly morph into loneliness.
Having An Introverted Personality
According to Verywell Mind, introversion is one of the main personality traits and is characterized by a focus on internal thoughts, feelings, and moods rather than seeking external stimulation.
Introverts thrive in solitude. When they are in their own company, they feel safe and inspired to unravel their personalities and explore their full potential. And yes, as an introvert myself, I second this!
They honestly enjoy doing things alone, like reading a book, going on walks, or enjoying a hobby.
This, however, does not mean that introverts cannot appreciate authentic and comfortable social interactions. That is why they still feel the need for emotional connection and socializing from time to time.
However, certain social interactions (especially with people they don’t feel well acquainted or comfortable with) may drain their social battery and become overwhelming.
To protect their energy, introverts may prefer to stay alone even when they need company, which can lead to loneliness.
Negative Past Experiences
Another reason you could be experiencing loneliness but still preferring to be alone is negative past experiences with relationships that have hurt your feelings. Maybe you have experienced rejection or had to see a loved one walk out of your life.
When you are emotionally hurt, you are more reluctant to allow yourself to trust or connect. Subconsciously, to guard your feelings, you withdraw from social interactions as a defense mechanism.
Yet, isolation in a time of emotional turmoil can magnify existing feelings of loneliness, exacerbating your mental state.
Having Unfulfilling Social Interactions
Imagine a scenario where your interactions are superficial and cannot quench your thirst for deep connection and authentic emotional exchange.
Whether it’s a group that tends to be overly critical or relationships that lack depth, engaging with them may feel vain and draining.
Sometimes, the feeling of being alone in the presence of others can echo louder than being in your company.
At least, when you are alone, you can do exactly what you want whenever you want it, without having to give up your energy to shallow conversations.
Yet, the yearning for soulful connections and meaningful relationships will not resolve just by shedding old acquaintances and may transform into greater loneliness.
Fear Of Rejection Or Unworthiness
The fear of rejection can stem from past experiences where opening up to others has led to hurt or disappointment.
Otherwise, it can sprout from a place of rooted insecurity and unworthiness that creates limiting beliefs of not being good enough.
The concern of being vulnerable and not being accepted as your true self can lead you to opt for solitude as a protective measure.
However, the lack of connections you impose on yourself is only going to falsely validate your fears, creating a vicious cycle of loneliness.
Going Through Mental Health Challenges
During periods of heightened emotional distress, seeking solitude can offer a sanctuary from overwhelming external stimuli and allow time for essential self-care.
Additionally, these conditions often cultivate the feeling that no one can truly understand you, leading to physical and emotional isolation.
Yet external support is often absolutely necessary to cope with the emotional and practical struggles these conditions bring up.
Striking a balance between soothing isolation and a healing level of social interaction is essential for managing mental health challenges.
Experiencing Great Life Changes
Significant life shifts, such as moving to a new place, switching careers, or undergoing relationship changes, often trigger a preference for solitude as a means of coping with change.
During these transitional periods, solitude can provide a stable point amid uncertainty. It offers a familiar space where you can find a sense of control.
However, the absence of familiar connections and routines can also intensify feelings of loneliness.
How To Find Balance Between Solitude And Loneliness
Against what you might think, the answer is not to become more social or to renounce relationships once and for all.
The solution is to find a comfortable balance between being alone but not lonely and spending time with others but not to the point of being overwhelmed.
No one said that finding the sweet spot between being comfortable in your own company and engaging in enjoyable social interactions is an easy task. However, you can use these steps as a general guide:
- Accept that solitude is your personal need and that you should honor it whenever it arises.
- Affirm to yourself that needing time alone does not make you an outcast or a weirdo. Up to 40% of the earth’s population are introverts, meaning people that thrive in solitude. You are not alone!
- Listen to your emotional responses and pinpoint how loneliness manifests itself. This way, you will be able to spot it in time and handle it before it magnifies and becomes overwhelming.
- Have some solutions at hand to appease the feelings of loneliness when they are hard to cope with. These could include:
- Making a call to a friend or family member.
- Going for a walk in a public space, where you can feel the presence of people without necessarily interacting with them.
- Creatively channeling the negative emotion through dancing, drawing, or cooking.
- Citing affirmations to yourself about being safe, loved, and held by yourself and others.
- Journaling to process how you feel and ways to resolve that.
- Dare to open your circle of acquaintances to form meaningful connections. This is possible by engaging in hobbies, clubs, and volunteering groups, where you will find peers with shared interests and values.
- Be prepared for social interactions or events so that you don’t have to avoid them. For example, bring a person you feel comfortable with or have an exit plan in case you feel overstimulated.
- Instead of conforming to the usual forms of social interaction like grabbing a drink or lunch, adjust them to your needs and preferences. For example, you can invite some friends to your house, plan a date in a library, or anything else you would feel more comfortable doing.
- It’s essential to be transparent about your emotions. Keeping your emotional distress hidden from friends and family can have detrimental effects on both yourself and your relationships. If you find a safe space, communicate openly about your social limits.
Conclusion On Why Do I Feel Lonely But Want To Be Alone
The intricate dance between solitude and loneliness is a complex one that many of us find ourselves engaged in at various points in our lives.
Loneliness, as we’ve discovered, is not solely dependent on the presence or absence of people but is rooted in the quality of connections we forge with others. It can manifest even when we seek solace in our own company.
The reasons for feeling lonely while desiring solitude are diverse and multifaceted. From societal pressures to past traumas, personality traits to mental health challenges, and life changes to unfulfilling social interactions, the spectrum is wide. But amidst this complexity, there is hope.
Finding a balance between solitude and loneliness is not about rejecting one for the other; it’s about embracing both when they are needed. It’s about honoring your need for alone time without feeling like an outcast.
It’s about recognizing the signs of loneliness and having strategies in place to combat it. It’s about daring to open your circle of acquaintances to form meaningful connections and being transparent about your emotions.
Remember, you are not alone in your quest to understand and manage these conflicting emotions.
Many people grapple with the same feelings, and acknowledging them is the first step towards finding that delicate equilibrium between being comfortable in your own company and engaging in enriching social interactions.
So, as you navigate this intricate dance of emotions, know that there is a path to balance and fulfillment, one step at a time.