by Freya Selman, Senior Resident
Freya is studying Social Work MSc and is in her 4th year at UoB, and her first year being a Senior Resident. Coco is a 2 year old miniature poodle. Freya was not able to get Coco’s explicit informed consent too share these pictures, as she is still working out how to go about it!
Loneliness is a horrible feeling, and it is definitely not as simple as just ‘deciding’ to not be lonely. It’s also something that people don’t often talk about. When feeling lonely, it’s so easy to see other people with all their apparent friends and assume that we are the only ones. We aren’t though. In fact, the more I’ve spoken to people, and tried to be more open about feelings of loneliness, the more I realise that there are very few people (if anyone at all!) who doesn’t feel lonely. Ironically, you are never alone in feeling lonely, and there will always be someone out there who will help you to feel supported. With time, you can also become that person for yourself.
Especially during university, there seems to be so much pressure on having the ‘best time of your life’ and making ‘forever-friends,’ but honestly this seems like a much rarer experience than people suggest, it’s just that people often don’t share the more difficult parts of life! I find that there is so much stigma surrounding being alone, that I can sometimes feel pressured into being around people who make me feel lonely. The thing is, while being alone can often cause feelings of loneliness, so can being around the wrong people. It’s taken a lot of trial and error, and lots of time spent around the people who aren’t right for me, but I’ve actually found that I feel a lot lonelier when I’m around people who don’t get me, than I do when I’m simply on my own. There seems to be so much emphasis placed on having lots of friends (this is definitely not helped by scrolling through social media, which is essentially just a highlight reel of other people’s lives). Often, people feel a lot lonelier than they seem, even when surrounded by people.
Things I have done that have helped me feel less lonely:
- I signed up to BorrowMyDoggy (https://www.borrowmydoggy.com) a while ago. It’s great because you get to help someone out when they aren’t able to take their dog out for themselves, as well as getting the companionship that dogs bring. An added benefit is that it can provide some really structured socialising practice with other dog owners when out and about to help build confidence!
- Join a society that meets regularly. I particularly like sport, because it’s a time each week to be around people but with a really clear goal (e.g. playing sports/improving technique etc.).
- Write it out. What does feeling lonely feel like? Can you share your writing with someone else/online? You might be surprised by who can relate!
- Loneliness is a very common experience, especially for neurodivergent students. As an autistic student myself, I found that it felt lonely when people didn’t understand my experiences. I set up Bristol University Neurodiversity Society (BUNS) with another autistic student, and we now work to be a safe space for lonely ND students. If you identify as neurodivergent (with or without diagnosis) you’re very welcome to join us to meet like-minded people. You can also set up a society yourself to meet people who enjoy the same things as you!
You are wanted and valued in this world. You may not have found your people yet, but they are definitely out there. In the meantime, try to find peace in being by yourself, do things that you enjoy and that make your heart happy, and remember that other people do not define you. You define you.