Being alone and being lonely sound similar, but they couldn’t be more different.
That’s because the emotional states they create are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Being alone can feel independent, freeing, relaxing, and downright luxurious. Being lonely on the other hand brings anxiety, depression, and apathy.
Despite being very contrasting states, the truth is that the two can be quite easily confused.
Maybe you’re not such a lone wolf after all. Perhaps, you might just be a little lonely.
1) You’re afraid of rejection, so you isolate yourself
One of the biggest defining differences between ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ is this:
It’s the reasoning behind the alone time that counts.
Lone wolves enjoy their own company. In fact, on many occasions they simply prefer it. That’s ultimately why they do it.
Lonely people on the other hand may still choose to spend time alone, but not necessarily because they like it.
When you are scared that people won’t like you, or that you’re not “good enough” you might decide to hide yourself away.
But it’s really just a defense mechanism.
2) Sometimes you feel left out
True lone wolves don’t feel left out, because they’re not. They leave themselves out.
If you feel on the outside then it suggests you wish you were on the inside.
According to psychotherapist Tina Tessina:
“When people you like, or admire, or want to feel close to exclude you from conversations, activities, and invites, they’re signaling — intentionally or unintentionally — that you’re not important to them,”
It happens to all of us at some point or another. But feeling excluded always feels bad, and can prompt a sense of loneliness.
3) Nobody understands you and it hurts
You’d be surprised just how many people feel this way.
One survey of 20,000 Americans found a whopping 54% of people feel like no one understands them or knows them well.
Yet we can look around at others and feel like everyone else fits in, except for us.
Being the “odd one out” is more of a universal struggle than you would imagine. Nevertheless, when we do feel this way it can be ever so alienating.
4) When you do spend time with others, you gain energy from being with them
On the rare occasions that you go out with a group or to a party, you have a good time.
You come home feeling alive and a buzz of energy. It doesn’t drain you or make you crave a week alone just to recharge.
If you’re honest, you could do the exact same again tomorrow given the chance.
5) You tell yourself you don’t need anyone
Self-sufficiency is a wonderful thing. It’s great to be able to stand on your own two feet.
But we all need companionship to some degree.
If for whatever reason, you feel like that’s not an option for you, you may try telling yourself that you’re fine alone.
Your brain is saying one thing, but your heart says another.
No matter how many times you repeat it, you don’t quite believe it.
6) It’s easier to be alone than have to wear a mask
Do you ever feel:
- That you can’t be yourself around others?
- That you need to hide how you are genuinely feeling?
- That you have to be someone else in order to be liked?
One of the reasons we can prefer our own company is because we don’t need to make an effort. That’s understandable.
But it can turn into loneliness when we don’t feel like we can be vulnerable enough to show anyone our authentic selves.
7) You have a habit of pushing people away
You are worried about them seeing the real you. You are preempting the time when they inevitably leave you.
You can’t trust anyone, as they only end up hurting or betraying you. So you always make the first move by pushing them away first.
That way at least you feel in control of it, rather than just waiting for it to happen.
Pay attention to the stories and justifications you make for why you are living a solo life.
8) There’s nobody you feel like you can rely on
If you found yourself in a crisis — be it practical or emotional — you can’t think of anyone you would call.
Lone wolves may not have a large circle of friends, but they still have close connections — whether it’s a bestie, a family member, or a partner.
They do let people in, they are just selective about who.
If you aren’t letting anyone in, that’s a very lonely way to live.
You may feel like every connection you have is shallow or casual.
9) You’re constantly glued to your phone
The weird thing about much of our modern-day technology is that it gives the illusion of connection. But it remains distanced.
There is a barrier between you and the outside world.
If you are a self-proclaimed lone wolf, and yet:
- You spend all your time watching what other people are doing online
- You do have friendships, but exclusively online
- When you’re not scrolling on your phone you feel bored, sad, or anxious
…you may be craving more human connection than you realize.
10) You put yourself down
Lone wolves tend to have a very strong sense of self. That’s why they’re ok with long spells with only themself for company.
If you are very self-critical then it suggests some self-esteem issues.
If you feel quite insecure about who you are, you may be isolating yourself unwittingly.
11) Sometimes you wish you were someone else
When I was growing up I struggled with my self-worth. I suffered from depression and other mental health issues.
Looking back I realize that I didn’t like myself very much.
I would daydream about what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes, even for a day.
I wished I could be like so-and-so and experience life as they did.
But this wasn’t just some innocent curiosity. It was a sad sign that I was lacking in self-love.
12) You often feel tired and unmotivated
A big clue lies in how we feel when we are alone.
If you feel motivated, enthusiastic, and energized then you may be a natural lone wolf.
If you feel tired, apathetic, or burnt out, you may be lonely.
13) You feel like you don’t know how to talk to people
Maybe you’re super shy, or uncomfortable in certain situations.
It could be that small talk makes you squirm and so you avoid it at all costs.
But unlike lone wolves, you also find deep and meaningful conversations just as challenging.
It’s the intimacy that makes it so difficult.
You struggle to open up to other people and you aren’t sure what to say.
14) You’ve been a victim of bullying
If your lone wolf status emerged after you were bullied you may have some trust issues.
The trauma from what transpired has probably left you weary of other people and letting them get too close.
You’ve sadly seen firsthand how cruel some people can be, so no wonder it’s made you overly cautious.
Maybe I am lonely, So now what?
The truth is that we all experience loneliness from time to time.
It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It’s an unavoidable part of the human condition.
But if you can relate to more than a few of the signs on our list, you may be suffering from loneliness more than you realized.
Recognizing it is the first important step, so you no longer continue to hide from how you feel.