Loneliness is a common and often debilitating experience that can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health. It is a risk factor for a number of health problems, like heart disease, stroke, dementia, and even death. People who are chronically lonely are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and social isolation. In fact, in case you do not know it, loneliness is now officially an epidemic, to the extent that the World Health Organisation has started a global campaign to address it. In the meantime, a lot is being revealed about its effects.
For example, according to Transformative Network, "One study found that a lack of personal connections has a larger impact on health than smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure. Whereas, social connection increases chances of longevity by 50% and strengthens our immune system, it also lowers risk of anxiety and depression, and improves self-esteem, empathy, and trust."
However, not everyone feels the same level of loneliness. It seems that younger adults are more likely to feel lonely. According to a 2018 study, 22% of adults aged 18-29 reported feeling lonely often or always, compared to just 14% of adults aged 65 and over. Women are also more likely to feel lonely than men. A 2020 study revealed that 31% of women reported feeling lonely often or always, compared to 22% of men.
We are social beings. In essence, we have to connect with each other to feel alive and sane, otherwise we will simply deteriorate in wellbeing. So what is fuelling this increase in loneliness, getting in the way of forming healthy relationships with other people? One which is often lethal in its effects?
It's a single word called FEAR.
Fear tends to rob us of a life because we are too busy worrying about what might, or might not, happen instead of just enjoying it. We tend to worry that things might not go as expected, while the worry stop things from developing at all! Often on dating apps the guys talk about dates they have coming up and most of them worry about:
- their nerves;
- doing the right thing;
- being liked by the date;
- pleasing the date, and
- everything else relating to what the date might like or want, but not what they themselves desire.
At the back of all that worry and angst lies a single fear: the fear of being inadequate and not up to expectations. They put another human being above them on a pedestal. The end result is that they are likely to appear less than the best to the very people they are trying to impress.
When we have a date, it is natural to want it to go well. But it shouldn't go well at one person's expense, otherwise that's an accident waiting to happen further down the line. That's why many relationships are short lived. There is too much aiming to please, instead of being ourselves, so there is much pretence between couples which is bound to come unstuck when the pretences can no longer be maintained.
The best relationships work when we accept the other as they are, not what we wish them to be in order to make them over to suit us, or to bring expectations of perfection to the interaction. We all have flaws and the best thing for new relationships is for each person to work out what really makes them motivated and happy, and try to seek if from their relationship. If both parties are getting what makes them feel good, in a natural unforced way, that's a great beginning. A relationship should enhance us, not make us feel worse, so why bother with it in that case?
For example, I adore dancing. It is also excellent exercise for my health. When I was dating, my love of dancing immediately ruled out at least 40% of men who might not like it and have never done it. Do I care? Nope. I would not give up dancing for anyone. I might compromise by going a little less often to the disco, as I do with my current boyfriend, but I wouldn't stop it, or curtail it unnecessarily. It means that I will only attract the person who wants to share that with me, which lessens the time wasting, and trying to be what I am not.
I also love communicating, discussing, resolving issues. If my date is not keen on any of that, I am not going to stay quiet for his benefit because, further down the line, when I am more relaxed and just want to chat, he'll be irritated by it. Perhaps that is why my relationships have been awesome, because I get what makes me happy on the main things that matter, and the guy gets what makes him happy, too. The rest we can compromise on. It's never good going on a date with any kind of fear. The foundation for any relationship is to BE YOURSELF! If it is going to work, it really will without the pretence, or trying to please too much, or having to put the other person above you. Otherwise, when the pretence stops, you'll both be in for a shock!
That self-acceptance means that you'll be proud of who you are, you will act naturally for the occasion, instead of in a forced way, the other person will get a good idea of who you are, as quickly as possible, and you'll both feel more comfortable with each other. Or you will spot the problems early, too. In that way, when the relationship comes together, it is often magical, and is likely to last much longer, because it is a win-win for BOTH parties instead of only one person benefiting from it.
On a general basis, it is easier t overcome that fear of others than we think, by making a genuine effort to connect with people: like joining a club or group, volunteering to help others, or simply spending more time with friends and family. Being involved in our local communities, such as participating in local events, or simply getting to know our neighbours should lessen the fear of connecting with strangers.
Building heathy relationships with others can have a significant impact on our lives, especially through enhancing our experience and joy in surprising ways. Trying to overcome the personal fear of others means developing trust, allowing some vulnerability and openness, and widening our world just a little bit more.
About the Creator
British Empowerment Coach/Public speaker/DEI Consultant. Author: The New Theory of Confidence and 7 Steps To Finding And Keeping 'The One'!. Graduate/Doctor of Open Univ; Postgrad Cambridge Univ. Keen on motivation, relationships and books.