Mental Health Awareness Week is from the 9th – 15th May and this years key topic is loneliness. Today we hear from our Engagement Manager Hannah about what she has learnt from her experiences of loneliness.
“Loneliness can show up in life in many different ways, it can come from feeling the need to be around others, needing validation from external sources, feeling like no one understands you or really knows you at your core, feeling un-seen or unheard in your life or workplace or even from people not liking your posts on social media!
However you feel it, loneliness is a normal part of life. Most of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives and will experience how it can wear away at our sense of self-worth and belonging.
Loneliness is not about the number of friends we have or how many people we see in a day. It’s the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social and emotional connections we have and those that we want or need in that moment. It’s the thoughts that we have around this that feed the negative emotions that come with loneliness. It’s the lack of true belonging.
As a teenager I often felt lonely. I felt things very deeply, often being told I was ‘too emotional’, ‘too sensitive’ and needed ‘thicker skin’. I felt alone in my head with my whirling thoughts telling me I wasn’t good enough, normal enough, skinny enough.. the list goes on.. Those thoughts continued, until my early twenties when I experienced a period of poor mental health which resulted in a panic attack which showed me that those negative thought patterns had got out of control.
After that, I became committed to learning about, developing and growing the relationship I had with myself. I spent time rewriting the stories I had created around ‘not being enough’ and challenged the idea that I am too emotional. Being emotional and feeling emotion is a super power! It makes you really passionate about ideas, people, causes – caring is a good thing!
I found belonging by listening to podcasts or reading books where people are talking about their own struggles in life. It helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone and that other people feel the same way I do (Do let me know if you would like some recommendations, I would be happy to pass them on!) I also started to take notice of where I wasn’t showing up as myself in life and removed myself from those friendships, relationships and situations where I wasn’t being a version of myself that I wanted to be!
Fortunately, as I have got older (now nearly 30!) those negative thoughts have got quieter and I care much less about putting myself in situations where I cant be me.
I have been fortunate in life to have been blessed with a handful of amazing people who know me very deeply, I do not need hundreds of friends but I do need people who I can truly belong with.
However, no matter how many people you have in your life, it is the relationship that you have with yourself that is the most important relationship you will ever have..
When I think about loneliness and belonging there is a quote by Brene Brown that I always return back to..
I still feel lonely sometimes, I’m sure there will be many times I feel alone in my lifetime. But still I know that as long as I have places where I belong and a strong relationship with myself those feelings of loneliness will pass..
If you do feel like you are struggling with loneliness, negative thoughts or isolation do reach out to the people in your life, listen to podcasts and read books, join communities or groups or check out our programmes.
You are never truly alone if you are able to find happiness within your self.
Hannah is our Impact Manager at Better Connect. Her role is to show the impact that Better Connect and our programmes are making in many different ways such as through social media, our website, networking, events and presentations. Hannah is passionate about creating positive environments that people feel safe to be themselves in, especially at work. She loves building strong relationships with partners, meeting new people and really getting to know why people are the way they are and why they do what they do!
Hannah loves being creative and getting into ‘flow’ with her work. She loves making things and being involved in the creative process. Hannah loves working for Better Connect because she gets to have variety in her role and appreciates the positive culture and focus on wellbeing.Learn more about Hannah