It is a lonely thing to always be considered an “other.”
Many people in the LGBTQ+ community know that feeling of being an outsider well.
In fact, coping with loneliness is often a shared and strikingly common experience in our world. Starting life in the closet, assumed to be something we aren’t, was a lonely path. Coming out to ourselves often carries a weight of solitude. And finally, sharing ourselves with others can ensure pangs of rejection and separateness that make loneliness more painful than we could have imagined.
It’s not that we aren’t loved and finding love. We do and we are. On the whole, we are finding a more visible, viable place in the world.
But the lives we lead at the office, applying for insurance and home loans, or seeking lasting love are deeply affected by inequality and disconnection. We are constantly aware of a culture that struggles to see us as truly belonging within it.
Of course, our LGBTQ+ Community isn’t the only community to suffer loneliness, but we definitely know the suffering intimately.
That’s why we need strategies to cope. Before internal depression and deeper isolation steal the connections we have to each other and the strength we need to keep shining light to a world that is poorer without us.
Consider these 8 ways to cope with loneliness in our LGBTQ+ community…
1. Acknowledge and Accept Your Feelings
Telling yourself the truth is a key first step to coping with loneliness. Saying you’re down or sad, isn’t the same as admitting you long for meaningful human connection. Facing your longing and feelings and feelings honestly can help break through the thick skin you’ve had to develop. Acceptance of yourself as an LGBTQ+ person is vital but so is acceptance of your basic humanity. Acknowledge that you need people. Accept that life isn’t fulfilling without more intimate relationships. Then you can move forward, no longer stuck pretending that you’re okay alone.
2. Deal with the Isolation inside your head!
When we think of isolation and loneliness we often think of social isolation. While social loneliness is very real, so is mental loneliness. After all, we spend a lot of time in our own heads. If you don’t have role models to inspire you, positive thoughts to encourage you or a viable dream to shoot for, it’s difficult to feel connected to the world you live in…even in your own mind. So make it a mission to search out those who are living life in our LGBTQ+community, and the world at large, WELL. Use a daily mantra to propel you forward. Look at peoples and groups who have been “others” in society throughout history and learn from their will to overcome the aloneness you feel.
3. Let Yourself be Known
Loneliness festers when you hide yourself away or keep yourself one dimensional. Find ways to spend time with others on a regular basis. Friendships and bonds aren’t created in once-in-a-while situations. Give yourself time to bump into people repeatedly, revisit conversations from previous meetings, and start to think of each acquaintance as whole individuals. If you can do this while routinely participating in a yoga class or cooking class, so much the better.
4. Don’t Forget the People You Forgot You Knew
Lonely people often say they “don’t know anyone.” But that usually means we don’t know familiar people well. Ask yourself why you don’t get to know your colleagues at work, treadmill buddy at the gym, or your hallway neighbors? Make an effort to release your fear of being misunderstood. Reach out a little more daily. With each encounter, try to make an effort to open up about yourself. Allow these pre-made connections to springboard conversations that could lead to deeper relationships down the road.
5. Give up the Tendency to Self-medicate
Lonely people sometimes cover their loneliness with false courage. Often that bravado is easily found through drugs, alcohol, or other risky behavior. And by the time the indulgence wears off? Loneliness is back again, sometimes accompanied by shame. You don’t want to live that solitary cycle anymore. If you struggle with using self-medication to soothe your loneliness, reach out to a support group instead. That way, you kill the risky behavior and loneliness birds with one stone of solid, productive support.
6. Seek Out a Compassionate, Affirming Therapist
Therapy can provide you the help and encouragement you need to work through your past and hurt feelings. Tools to deal with loneliness and rejection can be explored. Strategies for living your values and finding people who share them are also an important part of such guidance. Having such a supportive relationship can help you learn more about yourself and start to ease your loneliness with each session.
The truth? Loneliness in our LGBTQ+ community has a long history and disproportionately affects us. But we don’t have to accept it as our destiny. We can plan for deeper connections, we can cope, and we can thrive! As lifelong advocates, allies and members of our LGBTQ+ community, we got you! You can schedule an appointment with any of our affirming therapists by clicking here. Or if you’d like, our monthly free LGBTQ+ support group is happening in Charlotte Hall, click here to see more information. See you soon!