Why We Feel Lonely in a Crowd (& What To Do About it)

A man is lonely in a crowd while his classmates are talking outside a building

Originally published: October 13th, 2014

“Do you ever get lonely?” This is one of the most common questions I get asked regarding the disadvantages of long-term travel.

Lonely when by myself? Hard nope. Lonely in a crowd? Hard, HARD yes!

After running out of reasons to leave my hometown after years of living with a Black Sheep Syndrome chip on my shoulder, I decided to throw caution to the wind and leave everything and everyone I have known forever on a one-way ticket to Malaysia.

I’ve travelled a lot since then, mainly on my own and occasionally with friends who I have met outside my country. And when I’m not doing that – I decide to live somewhere new. A whole new country. A different city. A fresh challenge. A brand-spanking-new place.

And I choose to do it all on my own.

Me, myself and I. No support system or circle of friends. Some people think it’s cool, some think I’ve completely lost the plot and a select few make condescending comments about why I do it, and how it affects me.

Why We Feel Lonely in a Crowd

funny Freud meme

As humans, we crave connections and we are aware that time is ticking fast, when we feel alone in a crowd we are selling ourselves short and lowering our standards and I think on a visceral level we know that; hence the impeding gloomy feelings of loneliness.

The honest truth is when I am on my own – I seldom feel lonely. I love my own time and I’m an independent person. I always have some interest/obsession that I want to throw myself into and I appreciate the freedom I have to choose. Sure, I could do with sharing a problem with a good friend when I’m feeling overwhelmed, but I just suck it up and I crack on. Lonely when alone? Very, very rare for me, personally.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel lonely. And that I don’t feel it often. When I feel this – I always think of a famous, depressing saying; “A crowded room can be the loneliest place in the world.” 

When you are in the company of the wrong people, it can shatter your happiness levels in a heartbeat. In fact, the people don’t need to be necessarily ‘bad,’ per se – but just bad for you. Bad for who you truly are and how you think.

Sometimes you can’t even consciously put your finger on what exactly it is, the feeling can hit you subtly or like a freight train.

With nothing in common and just “off” energy, you can feel incredibly alone in a crowd and when this happens, we need to make sure that we get the hell out of that crowd as soon as possible and not feel bad about the desire to.

We Don’t Have To Agree on Everything To Be Friends

Please don’t understand this personal take as an agreement to only keep company with people who agree with us on everything. That is creepy as hell and at that point, you are no longer an individual; you have become a monolith without the capacity to think for yourself.

We live in times where we feel the need to absurdly preface opinions on people with; “well, I don’t agree with everything that s/he says, but…”

You don’t have to agree on everything and if you did that would be a red flag that you have lost your mind and have become too precious. Still, if someone is unnecessarily making you feel any type of negative emotion and this makes you feel alone in a crowd then you owe it to yourself to no longer be around that feeling.

What To Do When You Feel Alone in a Crowd

A tourist alone in a crowd in China
Travelling solo in China: A sure-fire way to feel lonely in a crowd!

Most people stick with the wrong people. They don’t want to be alone, but they aren’t self-aware enough to know that they feel lonelier in a crowd of the wrong type of people.

And that the root cause of their loneliness is the company that they keep. Don’t be one of those people. Locate the kind of folk who lift you up and give back the love which they give you. Whenever you’re in a room and you feel that no one ‘gets’ you, or that the people who you are with are hellbent on not trying to understand you on your level, and over critical of you – leave.

Choose solitary happiness over loneliness with the wrong people. It’s a golden prison. Learn to be comfortable with your own company. And never, ever feel like you have to spend time with vampires of your energy. It’s a tough and frustrating process, but it’s worth it – trust me. I think this revelation in the last year or so has changed my life for the better.

Nothing worth doing ever comes easy. Even I don’t take my own advice and have let these circumstances drag on too long in the wrong company in the past few years. I’ve tried to explain myself and communicate with people who just don’t want to even bother. It’s a waste of time. I just can’t stand the painful, lonely feeling and it sets me back so much.

You owe it to yourself to be around people who lift you up, instead of drag you down. It’s your duty to your true self to be around people who understand you or at least try to. Find a book you want to read or a skill you want to learn when alone. Don’t sell your soul anymore and don’t allow boredom to be a poor excuse for being in a company that will make you feel alone.

You don’t have to accept every invitation and you shouldn’t be surrounded by the energy that brings you down. Be true to yourself and the right people will fall into your life.

The next time you’re feeling lonely in a crowded room – get the f**k out of there and give yourself a pat on the back for respecting yourself enough for being happy on your own and leaving the door open for the right kind of people in your life.

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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