People who are independent on the surface but lonely underneath usually display these 9 subtle behaviors

On the surface, some people seem to have it all figured out. They’re self-reliant, self-assured, and seem comfortable being alone. But often, underneath that strong exterior, there’s a hidden struggle with loneliness.

Identifying these subtle signs of hidden loneliness isn’t always easy. But if you know what to look for, the signs become clearer.

In this article, I’ll share nine subtle behaviors often displayed by people who appear independent but are actually battling loneliness beneath the surface.

Stick with me as we explore this often overlooked aspect of human behavior.

1) Avoiding social gatherings

Independence is often confused with a desire to be alone.

And while it’s true that independent individuals value their solitude, there’s a difference between enjoying time alone and avoiding social situations altogether.

When someone regularly skips out on social events or gatherings, it can be an indication that they’re struggling with hidden loneliness. They may put up a front of being comfortable in their solitude, but deep down, they might be longing for connection.

It’s important to remember that everyone has their off days. But if you notice this behavior consistently, it might be more than just a preference for solitude.

Being independent doesn’t mean being isolated. There’s a fine line between the two, and it’s often blurred by those grappling with loneliness beneath the surface.

2) They’re always “busy”

I’ve got a friend, let’s call him Jake. Jake is the epitome of independence. He’s successful, confident, and always seems to have a lot on his plate.

For years, every time I’d try to catch up with him, he’d tell me he was “too busy”. Work was always hectic, or he had some project he was working on. I admired his drive and ambition, but something felt off.

One day, I decided to push a bit further. I asked him if everything was okay. After a pause, Jake admitted that he often felt lonely and kept himself occupied to avoid confronting his feelings.

It was surprising to hear that from someone who seemed so comfortable being alone. But it goes to show that you can never really know what someone is going through beneath the surface.

Being always “busy” can be a mask for loneliness. It’s a way for people to distract themselves from their feelings and avoid facing their need for connection.

3) Overactive on social media

Despite the name, social media can often contribute to feelings of loneliness. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found a direct link between time spent on social media and feelings of loneliness and depression.

Independent people who seem lonely underneath might be overly active on social platforms. They may constantly post updates or pictures, giving the impression of a busy, fulfilled life.

However, this virtual interaction is often a cover for their real-life isolation. It’s a way to fill the void of actual human connection. 

4) They’re perfectionists

Perfectionism is often a sign of a deeper issue. It’s not just about wanting things to be flawless. Sometimes, it’s a way for people to prove their worth to themselves and others.

Those who are independent on the surface but lonely underneath can often be perfectionists. They might feel that their value as a person is tied to their accomplishments. Thus, they push themselves relentlessly to achieve more.

However, this constant striving can leave them feeling isolated and disconnected from others. After all, it’s hard to relate to others or open up about your struggles when you’re always trying to project an image of perfection.

5) They rarely ask for help

Independence often comes with a strong sense of self-reliance. But when taken to an extreme, it can lead to isolation.

People who appear independent but are secretly lonely often hesitate to ask for help. They may feel that they need to handle everything on their own, seeing it as a sign of strength and capability.

However, this can result in them feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Everyone needs a helping hand now and then. It’s part of being human. But for those struggling with hidden loneliness, reaching out for support can be incredibly challenging.

6) They have a hard time opening up

Opening up to others about our fears, insecurities, and struggles is never easy. It takes courage to show our authentic selves, especially when we’re used to putting on a brave face.

People who are independent but secretly lonely often find it hard to let others see their true emotions. They might fear that showing their vulnerability will make them appear weak or needy.

But the truth is, opening up is a sign of strength. It’s an invitation for connection and understanding.

If you know someone who always seems strong but rarely shows their vulnerable side, they might be wrestling with loneliness beneath their independent exterior. Reach out to them, let them know it’s okay to share their feelings. Sometimes, a little empathy can go a long way.

7) They’re always the listener

I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to listen more than I talk in conversations. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but rather, I often feel like my thoughts or feelings might not be as interesting or important.

This is a common trait among people who appear independent but are actually lonely. They’re often great listeners, always there for their friends and family, ready to offer advice or lend a sympathetic ear. But when it comes to sharing their own experiences or feelings, they tend to hold back.

Being a good listener is an admirable quality, but it can also be a way of hiding one’s loneliness. By focusing on others, they can avoid dealing with their own feelings of isolation.

So if you know someone who’s always there for others but seldom talks about themselves, they might be struggling with hidden loneliness. Encourage them to share their own stories and experiences – it could make a world of difference to them.

8) They often seem lost in thought

Who hasn’t caught themselves daydreaming from time to time? While it’s a normal part of life, constantly appearing lost in thought can be a sign of hidden loneliness.

Those who seem independent on the surface but are lonely underneath often retreat into their own minds. This might be because they feel disconnected from those around them, or they’re trying to escape feelings of isolation.

You might notice them staring off into space during conversations or seeming distracted even when they’re alone. This could be a sign that they’re trying to cope with their feelings of loneliness.

It’s not always easy to reach out when you’re feeling lonely. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle nudge to remind them that they’re not alone.

9) They’re overly self-critical

The harshest critic we face is often ourselves. Those who seem independent but are secretly lonely can be especially hard on themselves. They might have high expectations and criticize themselves harshly when they fall short.

This self-criticism can stem from a feeling of not being good enough. It can also contribute to their loneliness, as they may feel unworthy of connection or afraid of rejection.

Remember, everyone struggles and everyone falls short sometimes. It’s part of being human. If you notice someone being overly self-critical, remind them of their worth. It could be the lifeline they need in their struggle with hidden loneliness.

Final thoughts: The power of connection

Beneath the surface of our actions and preferences, there are often deeper emotions and struggles at play.

For those who appear independent but are secretly battling loneliness, these hidden feelings can be a heavy burden to bear. But it’s important to remember that no one is truly alone.

The renowned psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “What is most personal is most universal.” Our struggles, fears, and insecurities are shared by many others. Even in our loneliness, we are not alone.

Recognizing the subtle signs of hidden loneliness can be the first step towards reaching out and making a difference. Small acts of kindness, empathy, and understanding can go a long way in helping someone feel seen and understood.

So, next time you encounter someone who seems fiercely independent, take a moment to look a little deeper. Beneath their strong exterior, they may be longing for connection – a reminder that they’re not alone in this vast universe.

After all, we’re all in this together – connected by our shared human experience.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

9 ways to spot a toxic person, according to psychology

8 things a really good parent does at the end of each day