Alone—in a crowd? It might seem like a strange feeling to have, but it’s actually very common. When you think about the reasons for it, it actually makes a lot of sense. Fortunately, there are also ways to cope.
Why do I feel this way?
Humans have a need to feel connected to other people. Not one of us can meet all of our needs on our own. Loneliness is our brain’s way of motivating us to reach out and build up our support system. When we feel lonely, we naturally want to surround ourselves with other people.
But sometimes just being around other people isn’t enough. That’s because being in the same room isn’t the same as feeling connected. In fact, sometimes being surrounded by strangers or people you’re just not very close to can just make you feel more alone. All those people remind you of the connections you wish you had. If you tend to beat yourself up, you might think, “I’m such a loser. There’s 50 people at this party and I can’t connect with a single one!”
You’re not a loser. You’re just in a situation where you expected to feel connected, and you didn’t.
Feeling alone even when people are around is also a common symptom of depression or social anxiety. Our online mental health screening tools can help you know whether you’re experiencing a mental health condition.
Strategize: What do I need and where can I find it?
Another thing you can do is to think about what kind of social situations you’re pursuing. There are lots of different ways to spend time with other people. They all serve different purposes. Some strategies may work better than others for your situation.
Think about what you’re trying to get out of socializing. Are you lonely and just trying to get some companionship? Are you depressed and looking for emotional support? Are you trying to make new friends or connect more with the friends you have?
Say you want to meet new friends. Unless you’re really outgoing, going to a bar and drinking alone probably won’t work very well. Instead, try to find a group of people with common interests. If possible, try to find something in person: for example, a book club, or a group of people who get together and play board games. Meetup.com is an example of a website with lots of these groups on it. If you can’t find anything in person, you can look for online communities like Facebook groups, Reddit forums, or online support groups.
On the other hand, going to a bar or another public place with lots of people can be nice if you just want to be surrounded by other people. As you think about what you’re feeling and what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to learn how to meet your needs at any given time.
Likewise, going to a party can be a great way to meet new people and have lighthearted fun. But if you’re looking for deeper emotional support, you might want to hang out with just one or two people who you know really well.
If you’re not sure how to act in social situations, or if you experience a lot of social anxiety, check out Succeed Socially—it’s a website with lots of great advice about how to fulfill your goals of connecting more with other people.