Loneliness and the uncertainty of making friends

Loneliness is a very big challenge. And especially in recent times, things seems to be getting worse. I have been reading some interesting articles on various aspects of the issue. And here are some of my thoughts on a few of them.

The Looking Glass Self and our wrong beliefs

This week in our Sociology class at University we learnt one of the ideas of Charles Cooley, “The Looking Glass self”. The idea says that the way we behave is often as a reaction to how we perceive others view us. However, this perception of how others view us need not always be true. We may think that others look at us in one way, but the reality is often far from it.

This is often true when it comes to how we perceive loneliness. Olivia Laing wrote about this in an article for The Guardian earlier this year, saying that when people perceive themselves to be lonely, they see signs of it everywhere – reading into what people say or do – whether the intent was there or not. “It’s the equivalent of the anorexic’s damaged sense of their own body: a dangerous illusion that needs to be challenged on a daily basis,” was her summary.

Wrong Beliefs about what is loneliness

A similar idea was proposed by Miriam Kirmayer in another article for The Guardian who said that one of the reasons of loneliness was also people’s wrong beliefs. Many people considered themselves lonely because they wrongly prioritized quantity over quality. They assumed that because they did not receive a certain number of likes or comments, they might be lonely. It is easy to see how this would then feed into the wrong perceptions as suggested by Laing.

What do we do about it

Both Kirmayer and Laing say that what is important is to talk. Fears don’t correspond to reality and so just reach out and talk to people. The fear of becoming vulnerable is real. We fear how the other person would react. But might it just be our wrong perception of how people view us? It is even possible that the other person has also been looking for someone to talk with. You would never know untill you initiate and talk.

Another interesting article I read on how to make friends in College by Jane Story suggested that one of the ways to make good friends was to be a good friend. This would involve asking genuine questions and being a good listener. But another aspect of this was her idea that the reason we often aren’t there for our friends when they need us is because we are not sure of what to do in such situations. And her advice is something that has stuck with me ever since that day. “It’s more important to show up and feel uncertain than it is to be perfect.”

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