Loneliness is an epidemic that seems to be sweeping through our culture with surprising force, affecting people with an alarming intensity. Many of us are more technologically connected now than we’ve ever been. We have hundreds or even thousands of friends online. We spend our days with our coworkers at our jobs and our evenings with our families in our homes. In our day-to-day lives, we are almost continually surrounded by people, yet we struggle with feelings of loneliness that leave our hearts aching.
How can we feel alone in a room full of people? How can we feel like we don’t have community when we’re a part of so many? How do we feel so disconnected when Facebook says we have 800 friends?
Many of us have formed habits over the course of our lifetimes that keep us from having the rich and connected relationships we desire most. Sometimes these habits develop out of necessity because of hurt we’ve experienced or rejection we might have felt, or because of the season of life we are in, or even as a result of our surrounding culture.
By identifying these habits, we take back our ability to build meaningful relationships with others.
If you are one of the many people who feel alone in an ultra “connected” world, it might be time to see if you’ve developed any of these habits that are common in people who feel lonely. These habits won’t be applicable to everyone and they aren’t true all the time, but if you find yourself raising your hand and agreeing with several, it could be beneficial to investigate a little further. It might even be time to make some changes.
Here are 10 habits of lonely people:
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jake Melara
1. Lonely people are busy.
Busy isn’t always a bad thing. It often means we’re involved (not always), and hopeful effective, but it can also make us feel lonely. If you find yourself running from one thing to the next without being able to truly connect with the people around you, you may be too busy. Take time to pause and have a conversation, enjoy coffee with a friend, or send a text just to check in. Making time for intentional connection is important.
2. Lonely people are overly task-oriented.
Do-ers are incredible people. Task-oriented people keep the wheels spinning and the world turning, so if that is you, thank you! However, if our focus is always on completing the task we need to do, we may be missing out on the people God has placed right in front of us. If we want real connection, we need to put down the to do list for a moment and engage with the people already in our lives.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Timon Studler
3. Lonely people self-protect.
The world isn’t always a safe place. Many of us have been hurt in community and in relationships. We have learned that to keep our hearts safe, sometimes we need to self-protect. The downside is that when we self-protect, we shut down opportunities for connection. People cannot get beyond our walls if we don’t let them, and real connections are the ones that happen when we let our walls down enough to let people in.
4. Lonely people fear vulnerability.
We know our own flaws and we see the messy places in our lives and hearts. Many of us wonder if people will want to connect with us if they really knew us. We let insecurity keep us from sharing our truest selves with people. We present a polished faux-version of ourselves to the world instead, but authenticity breeds community. People cannot connect with us if we aren’t willing to be a bit vulnerable now and then.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Pixelheadphoto
5. Lonely people compare.
In our social media-saturated world, we see the picture-perfect version of others. We often begin to compare their highlight reel to our mundane and messy every day. Instead of wanting to connect with others, we compare their home to ours, their marriage to ours, their kids to ours, and their jobs to ours. If we aren’t careful, we can begin to see life as a competition instead of a chance for true connection. It is nearly impossible to connect with someone you are focused on competing with.
6. Lonely people believe in scarcity.
We live in an upwardly mobile society. It seems everyone is trying to do better, be better, and get ahead. While that kind of drive is admirable, it can be a community killer. If we believe that the top is the best place to be, then we want that spot and we want to keep anyone else from claiming it. If we believe that there isn’t enough good to go around, we fight to claim the best for ourselves. We cannot connect with people who are a threat to us. We must be willing to realize that there is always room at the table. We aren’t a threat to one another, but a compliment. We can pull up a chair and invite others to come alongside us without having to fear that there isn’t enough to go around.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tommaso79
7. Lonely people are unwilling to take risks.
Relationships are risky, plain and simple. Each one is an opportunity to get hurt or to be rejected, but they are also an opportunity for connection and community. The benefit far outweighs the risk, if we open ourselves up to take that chance.
8. Lonely people are self-focused.
Society encourages you to be self-focused. So many parts of our lives are identity driven. While it’s good to consider who we really are, and how our choices reflect that, obsession over our own identities will become consuming and detrimental to our relationships with others. If we only focus on our own needs, wants, desires, problems, or circumstances, then we cut off any connection that we might be able to build on with others. If we want to build community, we have to take an other-centered approach and open our eyes to those around us.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Andrew Le
9. Lonely people stay superficial.
We don’t want to be seen as intrusive or nosy, and we definitely don’t want to be insensitive. As a result, we tend to keep our conversations and our relationships superficial. We rarely navigate into the deeper waters of feelings, dreams, goals, hopes, aspirations, struggles, and conflicts because those waters get choppy awfully quick. However, real connection happens when we take our conversations and our relationships a little past surface level.
10. Lonely people spend a lot of time online
So many of us do much of our work and our lives online. We even spend time online just to socialize. This is an incredible technological advancement, but one that can lead to loneliness if we aren’t careful to build richer personal connections online and in our in-real-life communities.
Not every one of these habits will describe each one of us. This is a generalized list of habits common to lonely people. However, if several of these habits sound familiar and have hit a little too close to home, it would be good to dig a little deeper.
Often our habits come from the life we’ve lived, the experiences that have shaped us, and the people who have influenced us. Some are intentional and some are a result of our environment. They are not our fault, but they can cause us further harm. If our habits are leading to deep feelings of loneliness, examining them and thinking through whether we want to continue in them can make a difference to our futures. We have hope for something different and something better.
Our habits don’t control us. Through the Holy Spirit living inside us, we can have control over our habits. We aren’t slaves to the ways of our past, or even the ways we are right now. Christ is continually making all things new, including us!
If you’re ready to change some habits that have been holding you back from connection and leading you to loneliness, join me in the following prayer:
A Prayer for Ending Habits that Lead to Loneliness
You did not create us to be alone. We were created for community with you and community with others. We believe this and we are willing to look deeper at some of the habits that may be keeping us from connecting with others. Convict us in areas where we need to change. Help us break hurtful habits. Give us the strength to change what we need to change.
Lord, we long for connection. We desire community. Help us do our part.
In Jesus’ name we ask this,
Bobbie Schaeperkoetter is a writer, speaker, community builder, and an encourager of women at http://www.bobbieschae.com. She’s doing her best to honor God in the craziness of everyday life and she’d love to walk alongside you as you do the same. You can connect with Bobbie through her website or on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/bobbieschae or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bobbieschae
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Originally published Wednesday, 28 August 2019.