Feeling lonely even when you’re surrounded by friends? Here’s a few reasons why and how to build lasting friendships in Nigeria.
Growing up, I experienced acute loneliness and disconnection. This is characterized by the feeling that you’re the only one who truly understands you. You bear your pains alone and cry secretly. You want to share your hurt and have someone hug you tightly while rubbing your back. But there’s no one to whom you feel connected, enough to share your pain.
You’re a social butterfly; always surrounded by friends and can get familiar with most people within a week of being in a new environment. Yet, you’re feeling lonely.
You have 1,273 friends on Facebook, 741 contacts on your phone, 312 active chats on WhatsApp but you still feel lonely. You’re crying hard in your room and a notification pops up questioning your wellbeing. You reply saying “you’re fine”.
Why couldn’t you open up to this person about the pain you’re going through?
The answer is simple. There’s no true connection to them.
Why You Feel Lonely and Disconnected Even Amidst Friends
You have false standards
Imagine this scenario. You’re from a family where having male friends is not encouraged. So you set your standards to keep male friends away. Most Nigerian ladies can relate to this.
You tell yourself that having male friends is wrong. Not because you believe it is wrong, but because you want to be accepted within your family circle.
You begin to make friends with people who also believe that male friends are bad. But somehow you really can’t relate with this set of friends because you don’t believe what they believe. You admire peers who feel free with male friends. You want to reach out and connect with them but you can’t because your default standards stop you from doing so.
Now you’re in a dilemma. You have friends but only connect with them on the surface because of conflicting values. You see those who share the same values as you but can’t reach out to them. So you feel lonely despite being surrounded by friends.
Those you call friends do not truly know and understand you and there’s a gap between you and those you want to be with. How much lonelier can it get?
How will you know if you have false standards?
Pop quiz for you…
- Do you find yourself desiring to do the very opposite of what you want to do?
- Look out for things you constantly criticize in others. Do you imagine doing them sometimes?
- Are there things you do secretly but you’re afraid of doing them openly?
- Do you say Yes just to be liked?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any or all these questions, it is an indication you may have false standards.
A practical guide to fix false standards
Pick out all the questions to which you answered in the affirmative. Using the last question as an example: “Do you say Yes just to be liked?”
Step 1: List out (as much as you can remember) all the requests you’ve said no to when you wanted to say Yes, and vice versa.
Step 2: Take your time. Don’t rush this process. Ask yourself, what would be the outcome if you say ‘Yes’ when you want to?
Step 3: What was the outcome when you said ‘No’ but wanted to say ‘Yes’?
Step 4: Now compare both outcomes. Which do you prefer? And based on your preference, redesign your standards.
Remember that to have a true and happy friendship, you need to be true and happy with yourself. So redesign your standards to stop making others comfortable while neglecting your own comfort and happiness.
Embrace yourself for who you are. It’s hard but it’s the only way out. If you love yourself for who you really are, the right people will be attracted to you. And you won’t feel haunted anymore.
Read also: How to value yourself
You believe that all you need to make it in life is ‘you’.
Of course, it’s okay to believe in yourself. As a matter of fact, you must do so to find true happiness. But you also need people. Everyone in the universe is a droplet that makes up the ocean and without one, the other appears insignificant.
What you need is an understanding of boundaries. There’s a point to which all you need is yourself and a point where you need people. So understand this, and let people come in where they should.
Quit trying to handle everything yourself. Quit seeing yourself as the only competent one. Begin to trust other people’s competence and let them function where they should.
Turn your view so you can appreciate the presence of friends.
Fear can come in different forms.
It could be fear of being abandoned by your friend. Fear of whether the person or people you call friends truly care about you. The fear of being betrayed, or witnessing a repeat of unpleasant past experiences. The fear of people seeing you negatively, the fear of letting people know who you really are, and the list goes on.
However, of all these fears, the greatest is not knowing whether your friends truly care about you as you care about them.
How do you know if those you call friends are truly friends and not frenemies?
Answer the following questions. But give a full explanation for 11 & 12
- Are you comfortable being around them?
- Do you have to put up a new attitude to get along with them?
- How often do you communicate? Regularly?
- Do they feel happy having you around?
- Is there a genuine interest in what’s going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel?
- Do they feel comfortable sharing things about themselves with you?
- Do you have to compromise your values, always agree with them and disregard your own needs?
- Are they supportive?
- Do they treat you with respect?
- Are they the kind of people you can trust?
- How do you feel after spending time with them?
- How safe do you feel expressing yourself around them?
If you answered ‘No’ to question 2 & 7 and ‘Yes’ to the rest, you’re on the safe side. But if your response is different from that, it either means you have to work on your circle or build a new one.
If you want to build a new circle, refer back to these questions. It’ll help you decide if the new set is the real deal or not.
Once you are sure that the people you call friends care about you just as you do for them, every other fear is dispelled.
You were neglected as a child
Did you grow up in a family where cuddling with your parents is seen as childish and stupid? Or where your parents weren’t emotionally available for you? That’s most likely why you feel lonely and disconnected from friends later in life.
How to build lasting friendships in Nigeria
Let go of your false standards
In most cases, the friends you acquire based on these standards will truly care about you. But because your reality differs from theirs, you won’t be able to open yourself to build lasting friendships with these people. No matter how much you contribute to conversations, there will always be a huge part of you that feels lonely.
Understand that you’re not alone and can’t survive alone
Consciously allow people to contribute to your well-being. Make it a deliberate act to connect with your friends. If you’re not sure about the sincerity of those you call friends, find a better circle that you can lean on. It’s more beneficial to have true and lasting friendships with a small number of people than be surrounded by a thousand and still feel lonely.
Develop intimacy in your friendship
I don’t mean ‘have sex with your friends’. People often interpret intimacy as sex. The fact is that sex is only an aspect of intimacy. Sex is not intimacy and intimacy is not sex.
¹Intimacy is about knowing yourself and being known by others for who you really are in all aspects of your life. It is the primary ingredient for true connection and lasting friendships. Intimacy is what brings forth the truth about who you are so you will be accepted. It also helps the other person bring forth the truth of who they are without fear of rejection. Intimacy is where empathy and understanding climaxes.
Set your boundaries
If you don’t clearly spell out your boundaries, you’re giving room for disasters that ruin good friendships. I’m speaking from experience.
I didn’t know what was expected of me in a friendship. It wasn’t clear when to say yes or no, and I constantly agreed to things I didn’t feel comfortable with. The result was that I began to see my friends as manipulative. I thought they were using me, but they weren’t. They weren’t even aware of the fact that I was hurt by those things I agreed to do.
After all, they didn’t pressure me into agreeing with them, they only asked. And because I didn’t have my boundaries spelled out, I said yes even when I didn’t want to.
Signs that you have unhealthy boundaries or no boundaries at all
- ¹You say no when you mean yes and vice versa
- You feel guilty when you disagree with people.
- Your integrity or values have the least priority
- You do not speak up when you have something to say.
- Adopting another person’s beliefs or ideas so you are accepted.
- Accepting maltreatment with a smile on your face.
- You accept physical touch or sex when you don’t want it.
- You allow yourself to be interrupted or distracted to accommodate another person’s immediate wants or needs.
- Generosity for the sake of social acceptance
- You become overly involved in someone’s problems or difficulties.
- You allow people to say things to you or in front of you that make you uncomfortable.
- It’s difficult to communicate your emotional needs in your relationship.
How to develop healthy boundaries to build lasting friendships
Developing healthy boundaries in the words of Teal Swan, “Is not about controlling what other people do and don’t do. It’s about you personally defining and then following your individual sense of happiness, desires and personal truth”. And this makes it easier for people to relate to you
To start, you have to identify those things and people that make you unhappy. The following exercise should help.
- ²List the ten things in your life that you are unhappy about right now. What will you do to change them or stop such from happening?
- List ten things you’d like other people to stop doing around you or to you or saying to you.
- List the people in your life one by one and write down how you feel around them.
Remember the checklist we used earlier to help you differentiate friends from frenemies? You can use it in evaluating the people on your list.
If you live by standards you don’t believe in, or believe that all you need to succeed is you. If you have friendship-related fears or you were emotionally neglected as a child. Chances are you’ll feel lonely and disconnected from potential friends. You’ll also find it difficult to build lasting friendships.
To deal with loneliness, first embrace yourself for who you are and let go of your false standards. Understand that you also need people to get through life. Evaluate your friends to be sure they truly care about you. This way, you’ll eliminate all destructive forms of fear and finally develop intimacy in your friendship.
¹ & ² Teal Swan the anatomy of loneliness. You can visit the Teal Swan YouTube channel for related content.
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