The Rogue Wave, a sonnet on overcoming loneliness and being in an unfamiliar crowd
How to overcome loneliness
It is rush hour and you climb up the bus, greeted by a sea of unfamiliar faces that belong to ordinary folk like yourself. You see the people on the bus look at your too conservative dressing and it makes you very reluctant to head to the back, which is where you usually take a seat. You scramble to the nearest available place in front, relieved that it is a single seat that gives you a little privacy.
You are aware that there are people around you, but you are consumed by a tidal wave of loneliness.
It can be a discomfiting sensation.
Everyday, we are parts of crowds, yet we can feel pangs of longing for company. It can be more pronounced that if you have no one else around you.
Yet, we have to deal with being in crowds because we face them every day of our lives.
Why do we feel uncomfortable in crowds? How do we address our own feelings of being lonely and feel more comfortable in a crowd of strangers?
Why we feel alone in a crowd
The feeling of being lonely even though there are many people surrounding you can stem from a wide variety of reasons which are, unsurprisingly, commonsensical. When we pause to think about these reasons, we can be more aware of our own feelings of loneliness and take steps to address them.
You are not with familiar people.
We are with many people, yet with no one we can connect with. That diminishes our sense of security and increases our feelings of loneliness.
When we are alone on a shopping trip in a crowd, we feel lonely because we lack people whom we can exchange pointers with about that lovely white blouse or that smart looking pair of shoes. There are many people, but the shopping trip is less fun because you are not with anyone you know.
You lack companionship.
Feeling lonely is a result of not having people whom you can connect with around you. People in a crowd are strangers, not companions whom you can have a conversation with.
This is why we seldom want to go to parties where there is no one we know to begin with. The party then is made up of a whole group of strangers. You do not feel that there is an opportunity for you to get involved.
A crowd can aggravate feelings of loneliness.
A crowd can heighten our feelings of loneliness. Seeing people have fun together will make a person who is alone feel rather disconnected.
Sitting at a table alone while watching a family celebrating a birthday or a couple having a wonderful meal together increases feelings of longing for a companion with you at the time. Of course, this varies to greater or lesser degrees.
It increases social pressure.
Being among a crowd of strangers increases social pressure and causes you to have greater expectations of yourself. Why do I say this?
Though not true of everyone, some people may feel that others are looking at and judging their appearance, sizing them up. This is especially true when attending social gatherings or functions. When we attend these gatherings alone, the social pressure is further increased.
There is a feeling of not fitting in.
With certain group dynamics, we feel that we do not fit in. This could be because we are not on the same wavelength with the others, and we may not be able to hold conversations with them. When we are without familiar company in these situations, we become more self-conscious, uncomfortable and lonely.
How do I overcome feelings of loneliness in crowds?
If you have such feelings of loneliness among a group of strangers, it may mean having to get over our own feelings of loneliness. We may also need to overcome our reservations to become more comfortable with strangers.
How to feel comfortable in crowds
To feel more comfortable in crowds, especially when we are alone, can watered down to a few simple steps. Being comfortable among others, including groups of strangers, can be simpler than we think.
So what can we do if crowds make us uncomfortable?
Visit places where there are crowds.
I have quite a few girl friends who really hate shopping when they are alone and must do it when they have company, for the reasons of loneliness and the need for companionship discussed above.
Remember, though, that we cannot always shop or attend gatherings and social functions with company.
If you are like any of them and completely detest being alone in crowds, try going to crowded malls more often by yourself. Get used to talking to complete strangers and trying a few clothes on with no one around to disturb you. As you become more accustomed to that, you may find that you get more shopping done and strangers become less intimidating!
Take a deep breath.
If we are alone and nervous among a group of strangers, try getting over the fear by taking a deep breath. Repeat as necessary and you might find yourself more relaxed.
Try not to be judgemental.
Why do I say that, you may ask. Remember the social pressure of being in crowds? This can be caused by the fear of being on display in front of others or being judged by them. This feeling can be heightened when we are alone in a multitude or even a small gathering of people.
If we have this fear, try to avoid judging people based on their appearance and having thoughts like “Wow, that lady is so fat,” because we fear others doing the same to us. This is especially when we are by ourselves.
Try to relate to the strangers around you.
This tip is useful if you are attending a gathering where you do not know anyone at all. Try finding a connection or something with which you can spark off a conversation. Perhaps it is a magazine, or an interesting hair color. It could be their kids, or even a shared hobby or joke. That way, the stranger will become less strange to you.
Do not be afraid to introduce yourself.
Again, because we feel as though we are on show in front of complete strangers, we can sometimes feel afraid to say hi. If we avoid the contact deliberately it increases the discomfort for both the stranger and yourself.
When give in to the fear of saying hi and introducing ourselves, we isolate ourselves further and feel even more lonely at that gathering,
Feel free to strike up a conversation.
At a party or in a group where everyone is having a lot of fun, feel free to strike up a conversation at a comfortable opportunity. Ease the loneliness when you are part of a crowd by striking up a conversation with someone on a train. It helps to pass the time. If someone tries to strike up a conversation with you, open yourself to it. You can always end it inoffensively if you really do feel tense.
I ended up explaining the functions of an IPAD to an elderly lady on the train when I was journeying from one end of singapore to the other. The journey seemed faster than I expected and I did not know where the time went!
Try doing things in crowds by yourself.
If we fear the looks and judgement of strangers, remember that it is not an odd thing to be alone in a restaurant having a meal, or to be enjoying a nice movie alone. Just try to love the activity for what it is, not because of who is or is not there.
Use your imagination.
If you are uncomfortable or feel lonely in crowds, try to imagine yourself in the situation. Ask yourself why you feel this way, whether it is because you are feeling judged or because you simply lack a companion. Just imagine that most people are friendly,which is often the case.
If you are afraid of what people might be thinking about you, there is a reality. Most strangers do not think about us at all and, like all of us busy folk, have their minds occupied by many things!
How to overcome feelings of loneliness
When we feel alone in a crowd, we also have to address our feelings of loneliness. Part of the reason why we dread crowds is owed to the lonely feelings we may have, for one reason or another.
Remember that we all will feel lonely.
Feelings of loneliness are not yours alone. We all get lonely, especially as we face major, life changing situations and come to the crossroads of life.
When we are making transitions, we will have feelings of loneliness as we search for others who share our interests. I found this out when I switched from teaching to writing, and was lucky to find fellow writers who are now wonderful friends and companions.
There is a difference between loneliness and solitude.
There Is a great difference between the two. Loneliness is when being alone creates a feeling of unhappiness. Solitude indicates the peaceful feeling of being alone and enjoying some “me” time.
If you enjoy having alone time, be comfortable and do not feel as though it might be a strange thing to do. We all enjoy the times when we can be by ourselves.
Initiate a get together with people you know.
When you feel lonely, why not initiate gatherings with people you know? They may not be your most favorite people, but having contact with them can help you to get to know others.
Taking initiative in bettering of forming relationships requires that you challenge yourself to do it. If we want people to get to know us, it sometimes requires the step of getting to know them first.
Get involved in activities
Get to know others by taking classes. Find volunteering opportunities within your community. Make sure that these are activities you enjoy and try not to attend them with the expectations of making new friends straightaway. Just make up your mind to enjoy yourself, the activity, and forget the need to meet others.
Don’t allow yourself to wallow.
Try not to give in to feelings of self-pity or dwell on how lonely you are. It is easy to do so when our minds are not occupied, so pick up a favorite book or take a walk. Go shopping! Try something new, and the experience will give you more leverage for striking up conversations with others at gatherings.
Get a pet!
A pet can be a welcome companion and keep the mind occupied too. Consider adopting one from a local shelter, and that pet can open up opportunities for social interaction as well.
Dog runs are the best places for us to get to know others, with their pets as conversation leverage. Everyone enjoys talking about their little dog or cat.
If you suspect social anxiety, seek professional help.
Extreme feelings of loneliness or discomfort at being alone in a crowd may represent a level of social anxiety which needs addressing by a professional. If you suspect this, seek the help that is required.
The rogue wave
Being alone in a crowd of strangers is like being a tiny drop of water in a huge sea. Enjoy this little sonnet on the subject of loneliness in a crowd of strangers, and how to overcome it.
A tiny droplet, bit of tide that sweeps,
Overwhelmed and carried by a rogue wave of forlorness,
Droplet drowned by this vast sea of sadness
Little form to its lonely self,now keeps
Other droplets with it same, yet so diverse
But not friendly waters dabs of aligned mind,
It has no soul mates among them to find,
Flows with rogue tide, small and terse
Little droplet knows that others feel the same,
That is one, though not so alone
Knows to go where all dabs know his name,
Where pleasant tides to him are always shown,
Where he need not hang his tiny head in shame,
Puddles of sanctity, where it can go.
Copyright Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin All Rights Reserved
Feelings of loneliness can be daunting, and can be heightened when a lonely person is part of a crowd. To address it requires the willingness to overcome the discomfort of being around strangers and the feelings of loneliness.
Here, I would like to thank the writers who answered the question :"What are your thoughts on being alone in a crowd?" Do take the time to pay them a visit and read their work!
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