Lonely in a Crowd
Just moved to a new city? Maybe you’ve been here a little while and feel a little lonely. Maybe you’ve been here a few years and are still feeling like a newcomer. Whatever the case, I can tell you, you are not alone. “Everybody” knows that “everybody” is moving here…has moved here, whatever. So if there are so many people, there should be so many people to hang out with, right? Life should be filled with all the amazing stuff people do, right? You know, like snowboarding or going to the beach followed by cocktail hour followed by dinner with a huge group of amazing friends followed by a romantic walk home with an amazing new partner. Right?
You are not Alone
Not necessarily. That’s actually not how it is for everyone. And more importantly, that’s totally normal and okay.
I’ve only been here a few years myself and I can tell you that during this time I have seen several, lots of clients actually, that feel lonely, discouraged and frustrated with the whole thing. Little do they know, that there are tons, TONS, of people out there feeling the exact same way.
So what happens when we feel out of the loop? Well, we typically feel lost, disconnected, lonely and bored. So what can we do about it?
To start, we don’t have to have lots of relationships to feel connected and a part of. Having meaningful relationships is important, yes, but there are things we can do in the meantime to help us feel present, safe and connected.
How do we do this?
We change our perspective
Having alone time in a new place can be refreshing and exciting. Discovering new places keeps us in the moment. We can learn about ourselves through what brings us joy. You may discover that with a fresh pair of eyes, you see something you’ve never seen before.
We hang out at public places, even by ourselves.
Go to a coffee shop and work or read a book. Go to a movie. I go to movies pretty often and I always see people on their own. And guess what? They always look happy! How about a museum? The Botanical Gardens? A wolf sanctuary? Point is, being around others, even if we’re not technically engaged in conversation, can help us feel a part of. Did you know that it’s common to go to a nice restaurants and offer to share your table with another single guest? Yes, it’s true. I spent 10 years in the restaurant industry and I always thought this was the best idea! Single people love it! One more thing on restaurants-it can feel luxurious and comforting to get a nice meal alone. Bring a book, sit back and treat yourself.
We check out meet-up groups.
We can type in any hobby, interest, activity etc. on meetups.com and instantly find a group of like-minded people who are interested in the same things. There’s literally a meet-up group for everything. Many of my clients have found these groups to be beneficial. It’s great because most individuals looking for meet-ups are in the same boat. There’s no need to feel singled out!
We stay in contact with friends and family.
It can get lonely in a new place and hearing familiar voices can remind us of who we are and why we’re here. It’s okay to feel scared and lonely in a new city. There is no need to act as if you are on top of the world. Chances are, however you got here, it was for good reason. Give yourself some time and be patient with yourself. How would you help a friend?
Next time you’re feeling lonely or anxious about your new abode, remind yourself that that this is part of the process. Chances are you’ll look back in a few years (months even) and realize how important this phase of life was. We don’t see growth while it’s happening, but are always better for it. Maybe someday you can be a newbie’s new friend. Show them the ropes and empathize with their experience because, well, you will have gotten through it.
Lindsay Melka, LPC
If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact me here.
Where Does Self-Esteem Begin?
Feel comfortable in your own skin...We’ve all heard the phrase, but what’s wrong with our skin? I’m all about visualization, but if you really think about this one, it’s kind of gross! This saying is clearly a metaphor for being comfortable with who you are. You know, really liking ourselves, feeling confident and secure. So why is building self-esteem so hard?
We constantly compare our insides to other people’s outsides
We don’t feel like we fit in with the people we surround ourselves with
It's easy to feel like we don't belong
Media is a constant reminder of how great everyone else’s life is (btw, so not accurate!)
We embarrassed ourselves at some previous time in our life, and continue to fear this happening again.
There are many reasons why we don’t feel secure with who we are.
Why is so difficult to focus on our strengths?
1. Our brains are really good at creating patterns and habits. When you try to insert a new thought, emotion or behavior, its first function is to resist it.
2. A lot of us believe that if we focus on our failures or the characteristics we don’t like about ourselves, we will be reminded not to act/think this way in the future.
3. Negative experiences pose a threat of danger. We see potential seclusion, “differentness” as a threat to our lives. Really!
So what builds self-esteem?
Learn to befriend that inner critic of yours. Your worst enemy belongs to you.
Identify the negative self statements and ask yourself “would I talk to a friend this way?”
Practice self-compassion. See how you were able to practice compassion in #2? Talk nice to yourself!
Remind yourself that nobody’s perfect. Everyone that you compare yourself to has flaws too. Some of those people may actually think you’re pretty great.
Take a breath and ask yourself. “What do I appreciate about myself?” Really think about this one. It’s important.
It's OK to be who you are!
Most of us, at some time or another, feel uncomfortable in our own skin. Just like you created a habit of self-doubt and insecurity, you can create a habit of self-love and self-compassion. You can learn to identify real danger from perceived danger. You can learn to love that evil bully in your head and make him or her your buddy. It’s time to be nice to yourself. You’re the only self you’ve got!
Lindsay Melka, LPC
What You Resist Persists.
Ignoring Negative Thoughts and Painful Feelings Makes Them Stronger.
What are the Costs of Avoiding a Negative Thought?
As a therapist who practices Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I know full well the costs of avoiding a negative thought. Now you’re probably asking yourself, what’s wrong with avoiding bad thoughts or feelings? Good question. Let me show you why accepting your thoughts is better than avoiding them.
I’m going to ask you to participate in a small thought experiment with me. An experiment that I was also taught while training in how to accept “bad” thoughts and feelings. I’m going to be a little more creative here, so bear with me. I promise, it’s fun.
Find a Quiet Place.
I want you find a place where you can sit down and relax for a couple minutes. You there? Okay. Next, I want you to close your eyes for one minute and do everything in your power not to think of a blue unicorn. Take the whole entire minute to not think about that blue unicorn.
You done? How’d you do? Were you able to not think about the blue unicorn? I’m going to go out on a limb and say you imagined a blue unicorn.
Now imagine that that blue unicorn is a negative thought or feeling. What happens when we try to avoid thinking about it? When we resist it? It sticks around, doesn’t it. We think about more! This is the unfortunate paradox of avoiding or altering experiences. Who knew?
You’re now probably wondering..”well what do I do with all these negative thoughts I’m no longer pushing away?” The great and surprising news is, accepting your negative thoughts can actually help you experience them less.
Develop a New Relationship with your Thoughts.
Let me explain. When you accept all your thoughts, not just the good ones, you begin to develop a relationship with them. You accept that they’re there, thus not having to spend so much time pretending that they’re not.
Here, I have another great example.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine you are in a pool. A nice, cool, refreshing swimming pool. I want you to think of a negative thought/feeling/experience/memory that you’ve been trying to get rid of. Got it? Great. Now I want you to imagine this thought/feeling/experience/memory as a giant beach ball. I want you to try to keep the ball underwater. Hold it down. Okay, you get the picture here? What happens? A few scenarios.
You get tired of holding the ball down. You struggle to keep the ball under water. The ball pops back up in your face. You get the deal. There is an alternative and a much better solution.
Imagine that instead of struggling to keep the ball underwater you just let it float around in the pool with you?
Result: You Feel Better.
Doesn’t that feel so much better? Think about all the other fun pool toys you can play with now. “Other fun toys” being pleasant thoughts/feelings/experiences/memories. They're all there for you too.
So next time you try to avoid an uncomfortable thought, take a break, relax and let the “ball” float around in the pool. I promise, it works.
Lindsay Melka, LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy
When Things Go Wrong In Our Lives
When things go wrong in our lives, and we feel we could have done something better, we often have negative, self-critical and angry thoughts about ourselves. These may take the form of feeling ashamed, less-than or inadequate etc. Listed below are several statements that are indicative of someone who feels useless or inferior. If you identify with some of these, it may be time to learn some self-compassion. There is hope that you can turn self-attack into self-reassurance.
Take a look and notice how you feel reading each statement.
- I am easily disappointed with myself.
- There is a part of me that feels I am not good enough.
- I feel like a loser a lot of the time.
- I have a sense of disgust at myself.
- I remember and dwell on my failings.
- I am a disappointment.
- I stopped caring about myself.
- I call myself names.
- I can’t accept failures without feeling inadequate.
- I often feel like everyone is better than me.
- I feel I will never measure up to others.
- I do not like who I am
- I think I deserve my criticism
Am I Doomed?
If you’re thinking “wow, I’m doomed," I get it. Be assured that there is no need to continue to worry. Most people who identify with a list like this would feel that way. The good news is, now that you have identified your self-talk, you can start to change it! The process of beginning to build self-awareness of self-critical thinking and shame begins the process of decreasing it. Really, it works.
As Jason Luoma, a leader in compassion studies exclaims “if shame is like a festering wound, then talking about it is like bringing light and air the wound that allows it to heal”.
Can Therapy Help Me?
Working together with a therapist, you can begin to understand the causes and consequences of your shame and self-criticism. Beginning to catch the negative self-talk that is no longer serving you, can transform your life. For example, you’ll learn the difference between “I’m a loser” and “I notice the belief that I feel like a loser when I don’t succeed to the best of my abilities." Therapy can provide you the opportunity to really learn who you are, and to learn what continues to hold you back and perpetuate all that negative self-talk. If you are feeling sick and tired of beating yourself up and are ready to start believing in yourself it may be time to reach out and talk to someone. You are worth it.