Loneliness, the unpleasant feeling due to the inability to have satisfying relationships or the dissatisfaction with one’s quality of relationships; and shyness, being socially reticent and the tendency to feel awkward, worried, and tense during social interactions, are both problems and difficulties that a lot of people, throughout different age groups, experience.
Both loneliness and shyness are a lot more common than they are believed to be and their consequences on individuals’ mental, emotional, and physical health is a lot more debilitating than it is believed to be. Even the extreme form of shyness, which is social anxiety (the persistent fear of being negatively scrutinized by others and the fear of being embarrassed and humiliated in social situations), has been found to be very common - third most common psychological problem all over the world.
Loneliness and shyness have been found to be associated with each other. An individual with loneliness is likely to suffer from shyness or social anxiety; likewise, an individual with shyness or social anxiety is very likely to experience loneliness. Many of the consequences of loneliness and shyness are also common; some of the major consequences of both being depression, low self-esteem, inferiority complex, and lack of self-confidence and self-belief.
In extreme cases such individuals should go for professional help. One of the most common techniques used to overcoming loneliness and shyness is cognitive behavioral therapy, in which individuals’ faulty adaptive behaviors and faulty thinking patterns along with negative feelings associated with the experience of loneliness and shyness are altered to more adaptive and positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
In less extreme cases, however, individuals, in their day-to-day life, can try to alter their behaviors and develop strategies in which they could cope and deal with their difficulties associated with loneliness and shyness. This could also be done initially, by individuals who suffer from extreme forms of loneliness and shyness, as their lack of self-confidence and awkwardness in social situations may cause them to hesitate in going for therapy.
There are a number of ways in which lonely and shy individuals can help themselves in dealing with their difficulties. These are given below:
Identification of Strengths
Each person has some strengths. The key is to identify those strengths. The identification of these strengths will boost the self-esteem of that person and will make him/her feel that there is something good about him/her. With time the confidence due to identification of that strength(s) increases. Even a little bit of confidence can turn out to be very fulfilling for lonely and shy individuals.
Being with Likeminded People
For lonely and shy individuals, it is always good to be with like-minded people and spending time with people who have similar interests. Being with similar people will reduce the feeling of self-consciousness. It will help in interaction with little hesitation, reduce the feeling of being left out, will bring in positive vibes, and help in developing a positive mood.
Finding a means for Self-expression
Individuals with loneliness and shyness can find it to be very helpful if they try to share their feelings with people who they feel understand them. If not with people, then indulging in writing can be a great medium for self-expression. Individuals can write about issues that they feel passionate about; they can maintain a diary. The internet can also be used as a way for self-expression. The individual can share experiences of self with others on online forums. They can talk about their difficulties and experiences on blogs. Self-expression has been found to lead to better mental health. It reduces the feeling of worthlessness and makes individuals feel better about themselves.
Guided visualization is about overlooking the negatives in the current situation and thinking about how things could get better. Having a positive attitude towards life is the key to a successful living. In difficult situations, individuals with loneliness and shyness must learn to tackle conditions by imagining a possibly good reason behind it and sorting the best way to handle it in calm and composed manner. One must try to overlook the present gruesome conditions and think of the time lying ahead of it, which might give pleasure along with strength. Being hopeful that things will get better in the future helps in instilling self-belief that things will get better in the future.
Avoid Making Comparisons
Each person is a unique individual. For individuals with loneliness and shyness, it is always better to be like they are and avoid comparisons in life. A person should not try to be like someone else and should stop aiming for other lifestyles. They should always focus on who they are and be what they are. Making comparison is an irrelevant aspect of life. It is more important to identify oneself, realize ones true potential and ones goals in life. Individuals should focus on their own strengths and the things that inspire them, instead of wanting to be like someone else.
Individuals with loneliness and shyness tend to become anxious in social situations, which increase their breathing rate. Breathing rate tends to be a marker for the level of anxiety at any time. Short breaths depict sudden terror or anxiety felt by the brain and the body. In situations of fear and panic attacks, in social situations, deep breathing exercises can be very helpful. By taking long continuous breaths, signals are sent to the brain not to panic and stay calm. Loosening of muscles also works in the same manner.
During anxiety, too many thoughts start occurring in the mind. The person’s brain starts an over production of thoughts and ideas that may have little logic. These thoughts can even heighten up in nervousness and distress. In such situations, individuals should try to calm themselves down. The person should start indulging in self-talk, such as to challenge themselves by asking questions and finding the answers to it. This can turn out to be very useful because after this, the person feels much better and very much in control of his/her thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.
Behavioral rehearsal is about imagining the whole social situation beforehand. The person may think of all that can be spoken and try to have the whole conversation in his/her head. This can give a basic idea of a forthcoming situation. It prepares the individual in how to react appropriately. It also helps in relaxing oneself and dealing with the anxiety associated with a specific social situation.
Confronting the Fears
Lonely and especially shy individuals develop a fear of being in social situations and interacting with others. Instead of evading such situations and making things get worse, the person must work on these fears, try to figure them out and try to deal with them. This is a useful way of dealing with these problems because they tend to be exacerbated if left just like that.
Learning about the Fears
This involves a keen observation and record of the fears and problems faced by the individual. The individual should keep a track of that happens and, accordingly set small yet achievable goals regarding reduction of inner fears. By doing so, lonely and shy individuals can specify the exact reason of fear in a wide range of social situations. Once they get to know about specific fear arousing situation/object, they can then try to confront it and try to deal with it effectively.
Individuals with loneliness and shyness often develop a low self-esteem and lack confidence. Such individuals should concentrate on their contributions or on what they can contribute in their life and society in general. They should try to appreciate what they have done so far and think about the benefits of their contributions around them. This realization will bring about a change in their self-evaluation and will enhance their confidence. It will also help in delivering with maximum efficiency. The more confident they will feel, the more satisfied they will feel about themselves. Apart from this, they should also always praise their own success, which will further add to self-appreciation and make them feel better about themselves.
These aforementioned strategies, which small alterations in thoughts and behavior, help lonely and shy individuals a lot in dealing with and to quite an extent overcoming with their difficulties.
Apart from bringing about changes in themselves, it also becomes important for others to act in certain ways towards them, which may help them to feel better about themselves and feel more accepted. One of the best ways for lonely and shy individual to deal with their difficulties is the feeling of being accepted by others. This can only happen when and if those others think and behave in specific ways. Such actions/behaviors are given below:
Just being aware about the various problems, difficulties that people face can be very helpful. Being aware gives an understanding of such issues. It will make them sensitive towards lonely and shy individuals and will develop empathy towards them. The development of an empathetic feeling towards lonely and shy individuals will encourage them to shed their inhibitions and make them try to interact with others in a better manner.
Understanding and Acceptance
There should be an understanding about individual differences. An understanding that there are different types of individuals, with different types of behavior patterns helps a lot. This understanding can develop a feeling of acceptance for lonely and shy individuals. It is acceptance what such people need to feel better.
Care and Encouragement
Showing care and concern for such people becomes very important. People should not indulge in harassing or making fun of them. They should show appreciation for any of their talents and strengths. They should encourage them to come forward and express themselves and try to mix up with others. Even a small word of appreciation and encouragement can turn out to be very fruitful for lonely and shy individuals.
Parents Should Be Supportive
Parents need to be supportive towards their children who are lonely or shy. They should not be critical about them. They should develop a relationship in which they share and discuss their problems and issues with them. They should not take signs of withdrawal in their child lightly (which are the initial signs of feeling lonely and shy). They should be able to identify early signs of loneliness and/or shyness/social anxiety. They should also put in all the effort to help the child and make them feel comfortable and should not in any way make them feel unwanted.
Teachers Should Be Sensitive
Teachers need to be sensitive towards lonely and shy individuals in the classroom. They should try not to be critical to them, especially in front of others. They should always show appreciation in front of others. They should also be able to identify any kind of signs and symptoms of loneliness and shyness (such as sitting alone, away from others, or having a sad expression), and take actions accordingly. Teachers should also be aware about a student being bullied by others and help him/her not to feel embarrassed in such situations. They should always encourage the students to share their personal problems with them and try to help them as much as possible.
If people, including peers, friends, parents, siblings, relatives, and teachers keep these things in mind, they will be helping lonely and shy individuals to a great extent. Such behaviors can be very encouraging and soothing for individuals with loneliness and shyness. It can prove to be very significant in helping them to cope and overcome with many of their difficulties.
Loneliness and shyness are serious issues that are quite often ignored. Both can be dealt with if individuals having these problems consciously make some minor, yet significant, alterations in their behavior and thought processes. It also becomes a lot easier for lonely and shy individuals if others, in their surroundings, are more aware, caring, and accepting about such issues, and do not see it as something that is trivial.