I was shocked, but after thinking about it further, it started to make sense. We are social creatures. Even if you are an introvert, you still need social contact to some degree. Having no one to share your thoughts or feelings with can lead to dark thoughts and negative ruminations. It’s no wonder the most punitive punishment in prison is solitary confinement. We need to share our thoughts with others to stay sane.
This is where the community plays a huge role. You can be around people and still feel alone. The presence of people is not enough. You must find those who are relatable to you; those who will understand you and be interested in what you have to say. Sometimes these people are not the in closest proximity to you and you will have to go out into the world and find them. This can include going to meetups or attending social gatherings for things you may be interested in, (cosplay events, board game meetups, recovery meetings, group hikes, soccer games in the park, etc.)
The next barrier tends to be social anxiety, and this is where it gets tough. The only way to overcome social anxiety is to expose yourself to the anxiety provoking situation. I know that is not want you want to hear, but unfortunately it is true. The more you avoid the thing that makes you anxious, the worse the anxiety gets. Every time you lean into the avoidance, you make the anxiety (the thing you want to get rid of) more powerful. Embrace the messiness that is social awkwardness. Remember, there is strong probability that the person you are speaking to is also anxious, which should hopefully be comforting.
Many of us doubt ourselves and fear social rejection to a certain degree. It hurts to feel rejected. It’s normal to feel that pain. However, the pain of social rejection is not as dangerous as the chronic, long lasting, slow burn of loneliness and social isolation. And now that you know that social isolation is deadlier than smoking cigarettes, that should scare you. It’s time to get out there and find your community of people. They exist. You must find them. There is a community out there for everyone.
As a final thought, don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Emotions are how we relate to one another. If you feel nervous, then own it. Say, “sorry I am feeling nervous.” Sometimes saying that simple sentence will help you feel less nervous. The person you are speaking with (if they are not a mean person) will have a better understanding of how you are feelings and may know what to say to relate to you. Give it a try. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.