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By Nicole Mikanik

Loneliness is commonly defined as the feeling created by the discrepancy between one’s existing and desired social relationships.

Yet regardless of how many new relationships are built or old ones are strengthened, some people find that the looming feeling of loneliness remains.

You don’t feel lonely because you don’t have the relationships you want. You feel lonely because you’re disconnected from yourself.

When a person feels lonely is when they truly need to be alone. It’s ironic, but true. A person who is uncomfortable being alone is a person who doesn’t know who they are; a person who doesn’t like themselves. We fall into other people as an escape, much like an alcoholic does with alcohol and a drug addict with drugs. Except the escape here, the “addiction,” is other people. This addiction is not so obvious, because humans need social connection. The problem is you are not looking for social connection. You assume you are; but you are actually looking for a way to escape yourself through other people. You are essentially looking to feel connected to yourself through other people.

There is a difference between a whole person seeking connection and a person seeking connection to compensate for empty areas within themselves. When it’s the latter, that person will never feel satisfied, no matter who is in their life. They will always be searching for more, because they haven’t yet found what they’re looking for. So they keep looking and looking, unaware that they’re looking in the wrong place.

Because the answer isn’t in other people. With every person you use as an escape, you are subconsciously trying to run away from yourself. You will realize at some point that regardless of who you have, your inner turmoil remains. You can’t run away from emptiness. You can only displace it for awhile with your distraction of choice.

Humans have a natural aversion to pain. It is much easier to try to escape your pain than to sit with it, figure out why it is there, and work through it. When we don’t want to deal with our emotions, we desperately try to get rid of them by occupying ourselves with something else. We deceive ourselves into thinking we feel better by escaping into distractions – other people, alcohol, social media – using them as a means to avoid dealing with ourselves and our own pain. Avoidance does not get to the root of the issue. It just displaces the issue for the moment, only for it to return later, once whatever escape we’ve used to get away from it is gone.

Loneliness often accompanies some other sort of pain – whether it is depression, low self-esteem, or hopelessness. It is easy to feel disconnected from everyone, coming to the conclusion that other people are the cause of your loneliness. It is not other people. It is because you are depressed, have low self-esteem, or feel hopeless. When you are in these states you do not feel connected to yourself.

Pain is a sign that something needs to change. Whatever it is that needs to change cannot change if the pain is consistently avoided.

Until you feel connected to yourself, you will always feel a little bit disconnected from others.

The first step is to stop avoiding yourself.

Take some time to be alone. Take some time to figure out who you are, what drives you, what excites you, what makes you happy. Take some time to figure out your passions. Take some time to let go of your destructive bad habits and develop healthy ones. Take time to feel whole on your own.

Be your own friend. Give yourself the love you’re constantly searching for from other people. Become in touch with yourself and connect with yourself, instead of trying to connect with yourself through something or someone else.

You will suddenly find that the more connected you feel to yourself, the more connected you will also feel to others.

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