My Truth: Despite being surrounded by people, I felt all alone.
Surrounded, yet quiet.
Sitting there at the table, I was silent. While I was surrounded by other people, I didn’t have anything to say. Not because I was lost in my own thoughts – which I was – but because I didn’t feel like these were “my people.” You know, the people who you belong with. The people who accept you for your flaws along with your amazing qualities. As a result, I felt all alone.
Of course, the inevitable question was asked, “what’s wrong?” They could see I wasn’t participating in the conversation. But, when you don’t feel like you belong with the group of people asking, how do you answer that question?
I would have loved to blurt out everything I had been thinking at that moment. “Do you even care about me?” Or, “I don’t feel comfortable telling you what I am thinking because I don’t think we are truly friends.” These were just a few of the thoughts swirling through my head as I was asked the question. However, you probably already know what I actually said. “I’m fine, just tired because I’ve been so busy.”
My response to that question was a classic example of telling someone what they want to hear… or the socially acceptable answer (“busy”). As much as I would have loved to have a real, honest conversation with the people surrounding me at that moment, that wasn’t going to happen.
The Shitty Part…
I was struggling. Yet, I told them I was fine. I felt empty and lost. At the same time, this was not a safe place for me to share my true feelings. Even shitter, I didn’t know where I could share those feelings. No place felt comfortable or safe at that time. I was all alone, yet surrounded by people.
This wasn’t the first time I had felt as though I was all alone, despite being surrounded by people. In fact, I wrote a little bit about it over here in this blog post: Belonging. My Truth: I didn’t belong for most of my life…
Yes, you read that right. I didn’t belong for most of my life. You can read more about my story here and what you can do to belong.
As a result of feeling as though I didn’t belong, I ended up feeling incredibly alone. Maybe you know the feeling… surrounded by people, yet somehow all alone. It is a terrible feeling. And, while I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did, I hope my story can help you.
With Belonging Comes Connectedness
Flash forward five or six years and I have come a long way. While there are some groups of people who don’t feel like “my people” even though we hang out regularly, I do have a couple of friend groups that accept me for me. They accept my true self. Just as I accept them for being their true self.
Once place in particular is with my friend Krista. I met Krista a little over a year ago. I had followed her on social media before meeting her at a local networking event. We had even had a good conversation at the networking event, but the timing wasn’t right.
Then, a few months later, I found myself in a dark place. My father-in-law, Dave, had just passed away. He and I were close and his passing hit me hard. It didn’t help that I was still struggling to find my people at that time. Once again, just like five years before that, I found myself broken on the inside with nowhere to turn.
After a couple of months of isolation, I started to seek out meeting up with acquaintances and friends again. While I am not 100% certain how it happened, I ended up scheduling a breakfast meetup with Krista mid-March in 2019. We met at a local restaurant and had conversations that started much like any other new person I had met in the past three years. However, I did something different this time.
Breaking Old Patterns and Habits
In the past, I would have focused on “fitting in” with the other person. Whereas, this time I was intentional and didn’t want to fall into old patterns and habits. Instead, I decided to say the things that were on my mind. I shared my true thoughts – completely uncensored.
When a comment was made with an ever-so-subtle sexual innuendo, I jumped on the opportunity to channel my inner Michael Scott and say “that’s what she said.” As the conversation progressed, I dropped f-bombs, and quoted Eric Cartman from South Park. I was me. I was my true, uncensored self.
A few weeks later, Krista and I started hanging out more and more. Turns out, she had a similar friend experience to the one I mentioned at the start of this story. Krista felt as though she was surrounded by people, yet somehow still alone.
As we continued to hang out, we both were open and honest with one another. We didn’t hold back what we were thinking. We connected. I finally felt as though I had a place to belong. In fact, in our one year of friendship, she knows more about my deepest, darkest thoughts than the group of people who asked me “what’s wrong?” Even crazier, I had been friends with many of those people for nearly a decade. Yet, my year-long friendship with Krista has already provided a greater sense of belonging. I no longer felt alone, yet surrounded by people.
I realized this: When you connect, open and honestly, with the right people it creates a sense of belonging. And, that is the path to combating loneliness.
I get the sense you may have been in a similar position in your life. If not, you likely would not have read this article to this point. In that case, I’d like to offer you some actionable steps to help you overcome your own feelings of being all alone, even when surrounded by other people. You deserved to finally find a sense of belonging, too.
Actionable Steps to Help You Feel Connected!
- First and foremost: You need to know your true self, accept yourself, and be true to who you are. This means no more trying to “fit in.” How do you do this? You must accept yourself. You cannot seek acceptance from other people. When you accept who you are, you aren’t worried about what others think of you. How exactly do you do that? Read the next actionable step.
- Figure out who you are. Not the version you want to be. But, the person your true uncensored self. Ask yourself this question, if I could do or say anything – without worrying about what others say – how would you act?
- When interacting with other people, try focusing on what makes you similar instead of what makes you different. While it is a beautiful thing to celebrate our differences (when we know how to celebrate those differences), we don’t want those differences to drive a wedge between you and others.
- Stop judging. Yea… judging others only helps to separate you from others, instead of bringing you together. Basically, the opposite of belonging and connecting. If you are new to “stop judging” you may find this one hard.
- Don’t wait. Please don’t feel as though you must wait to start connecting with other people until you have done [X] first. You are worthy of meeting and connecting with others right now. You do not have to wait until you have achieved something in particular first. More importantly, you are worthy of belonging.
- Remember: When you belong with yourself, you belong with everyone. So, accept who you are and you will always belong.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ~ Brené Brown
Last Updated on February 19, 2021 by Kristi Coughlin