It is hard to proclaim that you are feeling sad and lonely when you are an extrovert. People do not assume you can fall victim to loneliness or think you can be depressed. Often you become really good at hiding you loneliness from everyone, and often from yourself. A lonely extrovert is caught between the sad and disconnected feelings (maybe even depression) and their self image of being the center in a crowd.
My own story is not something I can make fully public in this blog post. It involves other people who I care about who I do not wish to paint in a bad light. Most of the people had no intention to hurt me, but my self esteem and mental health were wounded and I grabbed hold of the negative thoughts and built walls inside myself.
There is an epidemic of loneliness in our society. Studies show over 20% of adults admit to sometimes are always feeling lonely. The United Kingdom has even appointed a Minister of Loneliness to study and counteract this problem. In 2017 the former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr Vivek Murthy wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review about his epidemic. His research is now a book that will be released in April 2020, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.
Together by Vivek Murthy is going to be a powerful best seller (my prediction, but I know from my own speaking on this topic that it resonates deeply with people). In my talks on relationships / networking I site this topic and people line up to share their stories of loneliness. It has become clear to me that I am not the only person who has lived this loneliness epidemic while putting on a happy face in public.
As an extrovert I do like being in crowds. I like attending live events and parties. Being with people makes me feel at home, but even in a crowd one can feel isolated. I have been blessed with a great family (my wife and I have been together 29 years), good friends, and interesting colleagues. But just having people around you does not mean you are engaged and connected. I have talked to many people who identify as a lonely extrovert. And they all feel misunderstood and embarrassed. If you seem to be the life of the party, how can you tell anyone you are lost in your soul?
An it is worse because of social media. The extrovert (or anyone) who uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc… seem to be doing great. These social media tools just show the good days and the superficial social gatherings. The real way a person feels is not shown. The lonely extrovert is assumed to be doing great when they really could be lost and feeling all alone.
Often on Twitter I use the hashtag #SeePeople. We all need to take some time to look up from our phones and notice the people around us. This is not just the suggestion to see the servers in a restaurant as a person, or to make eye contact with a homeless person (although those are both good ideas). My thoughts around #SeePeople is that we have to see those in our lives, too. Remember, one can be lonely and still be surrounded by community. We rarely ask others about their “loneliness”, and if we do we settle for their answer of “Fine”. Fine is not enough.
Are you a lonely extrovert? If so reach out and let me know. I am here to chat by email with anyone who sends me a note. firstname.lastname@example.org.