10 surprising habits of people who feel lonely despite their cheerful exterior

Have you ever felt like your sunny exterior hides a deeper sense of emptiness? As if you’re throwing a party for everyone else but feeling disconnected and sad when it’s over? 

If that hits close to home, check out these 10 surprising habits of lonely people despite their cheerful exteriors.

1) They’ve got an open ear whenever you need it

Lonely people know how it feels not to have someone to vent out to when things get rough. 

Since they know the loneliness struggle firsthand, they’re often the first to lend an ear to those who need it.

It’s that same sensitivity that lets them empathize with others that also leaves them craving real connections, which can be hard to come by in this world.

Studies show that empathy helps lonely folks to manage their emotions and actually reduce their feelings of loneliness.

2) They jump in to help

Lonely folks often demonstrate their empathy by also going the extra mile to help those around them, hoping to strengthen connections and escape their unpleasant feelings. 

This habit not only keeps them occupied but also promises them to maintain meaningful relationships.

Lonely individuals, often masking their loneliness with cheerfulness, frequently exhaust themselves trying to be the perfect friend, partner, or colleague.

They might volunteer to help out in a move or take on extra work responsibilities because they find it hard to say no. They fear if they turn down an opportunity to be of support, they might lose a chance for a potential connection.

3) They’re pretty active online

Reflecting on a personal experience, my late twenties marked one of the loneliest periods in my life. After relocating for work, I found myself miles away from family and friends. It was during this time that I developed an addiction to social media.

I spent every waking hour joining online communities, commenting on friends’ posts and pictures, and seeking any virtual means to make new friends and maintain old connections.

Despite my fragile state of mind, none of my new coworkers suspected a thing because I wore a positive mask, not wanting them to perceive me as weak.

It turns out that the internet provided an ideal social environment for me to interact with others and gave me the agency I needed at that time to feel like I had some control.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember, just like any emotion, loneliness doesn’t last forever, even if it feels like it does. 

Taking the right steps, like finding someone to talk to or reaching out to a professional, can help you break free from unhealthy coping habits like this one.

I was fortunate to find a therapist who helped me regain my confidence in my social skills, allowing me to step out of my virtual bubble and form genuine connections in the real world. It took a while, but I managed to do it.

4) They’re fake homebodies

Let’s be real here: constantly having no plans for the weekend or holidays can feel pretty awkward for lonely people. They worry about being judged or pitied by others for not having solid social connections.

That’s why they often pretend to be homebodies, even if, deep down, they’re total social butterflies.

By pretending to enjoy solitude, lonely individuals put on a brave face, but it comes at the cost of their true happiness.

You know, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert and needing some solo time to recharge. 

But using introversion as an excuse to hide the emptiness you feel inside isn’t really dealing with the problem. 

First things first, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, even the not-so-great ones, and then take steps to address them head-on.

5) They’re always busy

Here’s another trick lonely folks pull to dodge the whole “loneliness taboo”: they keep themselves crazy busy. 

You’ll find them buried in their phones, diving into work tasks, or tackling chores all weekend long.

All this fake busyness? 

It gives them a temporary boost in feeling worthwhile and valued, offering a little bubble of security in the midst of it all. It’s like a quick fix to escape that nagging sense of solitude.

When you’re feeling fragile, like when you’re feeling lonely, you might go to great lengths to hide it from the world. 

Sadly, in doing so, lonely individuals often worsen their situation by missing out on opportunities to connect and expand their social circle.

6) They form unhealthy attachments

When you’re feeling lonely, it can push you into some tricky situations. You might end up sticking with the wrong person, getting overly fixated on material stuff like cars or bags, or even backing away when things start getting real in relationships.

Lonely folks often doubt their ability to form genuine connections. So, they might get super clingy with others to escape that inner emptiness, or they might act like they don’t need anyone, even though they secretly do. Like those folks I mentioned who claim they’re homebodies.

I had this friend who always seemed thrilled with this guy everyone knew was bad news. Then, one day, she opened up to me and admitted that she was in a toxic relationship but just couldn’t find the guts to leave him. 

She thought having someone, no matter how badly they treated her, was better than being solo. That’s when I realized she was really just a lonely soul, desperate to connect with someone, no matter the cost. 

7) The settle

Lonely folks often struggle with maintaining a healthy self-image and the confidence needed to navigate daily life. To avoid risking the loss of those around them, they tend to settle, much like my friend did with her toxic boyfriend.

Now, this tendency to play it safe can manifest in various ways for lonely individuals. They might refrain from pursuing a promotion at work to avoid creating rivalry, or they might avoid exploring new interests with their social circle out of fear of rejection.

Instead of taking risks that could potentially jeopardize their existing relationships, they opt to keep things as they are. This habit presents them as cheerful and agreeable people who never cause trouble.

8) They develop (secret) addictions

As a kid, visiting my uncle was the highlight of my week. He was always so full of life, the ultimate host who’d whip up feasts for us every Sunday.

Even though he lived solo and rarely ventured out, let alone got hitched, he seemed content whenever we popped by.

But as I got older, my parents filled me in on the tough reality: Uncle had developed a serious addiction. It turned out he struggled to reconnect with family and the outside world after a tough breakup with his long-time partner.

That heartbreak left him retreating into himself, using alcohol to dull the pain.

You know, part of living a fulfilling and responsible life is owning up to our challenges instead of dodging them. When it comes to loneliness, running away can show up in all sorts of ways—turning to alcohol, dabbling in drugs, or even going on shopping sprees like there’s no tomorrow.

9) They overshare

Another habit lonely people develop is oversharing. They may seem that they’ve got everything going perfectly, but when they’re given the slightest window to talk about themselves, they tend to go overboard with sharing.

They can impulsively share personal stories with strangers over the bus or a colleague at work. 

It’s like they want to take the opportunity to enhance the closeness of a relationship instead of allowing the relationship to take its course in time.

The key here is to recognize the real reason why we race to build a connection and invest our efforts with authentic people with whom we share common values.

10) They worry

Social anxiety and loneliness often come as a package deal, don’t they?

Lonely folks, bless them, go through all sorts of hoops trying to dodge those unpleasant emotions, turning them into full-time worrywarts. They’re always on edge, fearing rejection, and socializing becomes more of a chore than a joy.

Unfortunately, it’s a never-ending loop. Despite their best efforts to hide it, most lonely folks end up stressed out from this anxiety. And guess what? That stress makes their loneliness even more unbearable, leading to poorer mental health all around. 

Final thoughts

Loneliness isn’t something we should shy away from—it happens to everybody at some point. Loneliness can creep in whether you’ve lost someone, gone through a breakup, moved to a new place, or can’t seem to connect with others.

However, chronic loneliness can really mess with your mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and stress. So, it’s important to tackle it head-on. Taking care of yourself, staying active, and using social media wisely can all help. And hey, having someone to talk to can make a world of difference, too.

You have the power to change your situation, so keep reaching out to find the warmth and connection you truly deserve.

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