How to stop feeling lonely

How you may be adding to your loneliness

By Jessica Militello

I’ve written about loneliness and coping skills before, but let’s face it; even when we know what to do, sometimes we just struggle with certain feelings when they come around. As humans, we want to feel love, belonging, and comfort and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel connected to others. But- when you feel lonely it can be difficult to see a situation clearly or notice how we may be making our loneliness worse in the moment.

Here are some ways you may be making your loneliness linger

  1. Counting other people’s “blessings”

When I feel dissatisfied with the state of all my relationships or lack thereof, I have a tendency to start thinking of other people I know and begin comparing whose life may be more magical based on my own assumptions of the perceived quantity of their family, friendships, and love life while conveniently glossing over the fact that I have no idea of the quality of these perceived relationships. The truth is, regardless of how many people we think someone might have in their life, in many instances, we really don’t know what the relationship is truly like or if the relationships they have with these perceived people are even satisfying, meaningful, or if these same relationship dynamics that they have are even what we would want for our life.

2. If you are on your own on Friday or Saturday night and you don’t feel good about it- do yourself a favor and stay off social media

Loneliness has a few different outfits-one of them is FOMO. The “feeling of missing out” or the fear of it happens when we are dissatisfied with our current company, especially when that company is ourselves. Remember, being alone and being lonely are two different things, but I’m sure you know that there are tons of times when you were alone and having the time of your life and basking in the moment, and then there are those times where you feel despair, left out, and wondering why is it that everyone seems to have their social life on max, meanwhile your last text was from CVS reminding you to pick up your prescription. What I know is-anytime I am alone and feeling lonely about it I can promise you what added a sting was watching Instagram stories of friends and acquaintances, looking at what they are up to, and comparing it to my current pity party for one. If you know that watching what others are up to is going to make you feel bad, then do yourself a favor and set your social media aside for the evening. This intertwines with point one and it does nothing but turn what could be a period of loneliness into a night of wallowing in despair and it simply doesn’t have to be so.

3. Wishing for things to be different and feeling helpless

There’s a difference between your hopes and dreams being rooted in your own abilities and musing that if only you had more friends, more invites, a committed relationship, THEN you would feel happy. You may not think this in this exact wording, but its certainly underlying in times of loneliness. It’s normal to want human connection- but you need to make sure you are choosing the right people for your life. This is a game of patience and you need to know what your standards are and only accept quality, reciprocal friendships and relationships. You need to feel good enough with yourself that if these relationships are not meeting the mark, you are able to gracefully walk away. I wish I could keep count of all the times in the past where my loneliness mixed in with low self-worth, and a desperation to belong got me into trouble by choosing unhealthy friendships and relationships. It is now the reason why I would rather choose a season of loneliness than pick the wrong people just to fill voids. If you let this desire make you feel desperate for company you will throw your standards out the window.

4. Isolating yourself and expecting other people to magically know you want connection

This step usually comes about after we’ve spent enough time dwelling on the first three points I just wrote about. You can thank your inner critic for convincing you the reason you are lonely is because you aren’t good enough, amongst other unhelpful, negative thinking. We feel alone and then we feel resentful of the people who aren’t reaching out to us because we spent the time convincing OURSELVES that it is correlated to our worth and then project these feelings onto others. None of us can read another person’s mind and know what it is that they want and need especially if they aren’t asking for anything. Sometimes when someone seems to be going it alone people can assume they want space and this can especially ring true if you are known for being independent. It would be like going to a buffet with your friends and sitting at the table with an empty plate while they are going up and getting their food. Your friends notice you not getting food and ask if everything is okay and you say “sure I’m fine,” while in fact not being fine and at the end of the meal feel upset and offended that your friends didn’t “just know” that you wanted food or that they should of got up and brought you a plate while you sat there being hungry and sad. Do you see how insane that thinking is-yet that is what we do when we want company and say nothing. You cannot make your phone ring no matter how long you sit there and hope for it to. We also have to know the difference between wanting connection and wanting validation from others because of not feeling good enough due to our own thoughts and worries that made us think that way about ourselves in the first place.

What are some things you do to get yourself out of feeling lonely? What has worked really well for you? Share your advice in the comments-

What to do after a heartbreak

Some simple pieces of advice that can make a big difference in your healing

By Jessica Militello

When I think about mistakes I made after getting my heartbroken, I was in too much pain to think clearly or make decisions that were healthy for me. And that’s okay. At the time I was too focused on how to soothe my pain, but I tried to make my pain go away by staying near to what caused it in the first place. I wanted to make an article like this for a while but I felt hesitant to be so vulnerable. These are things I learned the hard way after many mistakes. I’m grateful for the lessons and the growth that came from it and I hope this helps whoever needs it.

  1. Find one or two trusted people to share your feelings with

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made right after one breakup in particular was explaining the story to a lot of close friends and acquaintances-it was mostly because the breakup itself was surprising, and it was extremely confusing and painful to me to try to make sense of it. I ended up getting a ton of different opinions-mostly from people who barely even knew him. I ended up hearing things like, “he didn’t really appreciate me, he didn’t think I was “worth” fighting for, his reasons for breaking up weren’t in fact the actual reason and he was just bullshitting me,” things that they had absolutely no way to possibly know unless they were fucking mind-readers or fortune tellers and trust me, these people weren’t experts in anything. In retrospect, thinking of these gem “words of advice” that they decided to share with me sound absolutely ridiculous for anyone to try to guess or assume, but when I was going through the raw pain of this heartbreak and confused, I didn’t know what to believe. It’s important to note that when you are in deep emotional pain, your brain perceives this pain the same as physical pain, your IQ is lower, and the feeling of rejection itself causes pain. It’s also important to note that during a heartbreak you are in the feeling part of your brain-logic does not exist at this point. So let’s add up all of this stuff that’s going on in your mind and heart plus getting shitty opinions from well-meaning people-are you picturing this? Yeah it’s a fucking disaster. The last thing you need when you’re sitting on the floor trying to pick up a million pieces of your heart are people idly standing around telling you that the reason you are in pain is because the person that you just lost didn’t really give a fuck about you and that there’s some “top secret” reason that he broke up with you. To be fair, I truly believe these people were trying*** to be well-meaning. It is hard for us to see other people in pain. We want to make their pain go away, but if you don’t know how, telling someone something that you think will make them magically move on seems like the quick fix in the situation. All it did for me was make me feel ashamed and stupid on top of heartbroken and confused. But thanks to all of the bad advice I got, I can now share a golden piece of advice here. Please- do not do what I did. Part of this was a boundary issue as well, which I did not set at the time, with people insisting I talk about it or pushing me to share my pain by telling their friend/spouse/relative what happened for them to chime in. Your life and pain are not a soap opera to entertain and amuse others and give them the chance to play armchair detective and therapist. Find one person, two people max who you trust, who is a great listener, loving, caring, and validating. State your boundary right away in whether you want to simply vent or if you want advice. You are also allowed to tell someone that what they are saying is hurtful if it is. This time in your grieving is about feeling your loss and simply being where you are. I know-especially if the breakup was surprising in any way that you want answers. Part of this is also that when you are in deep emotional pain, it is your brain that is trying to make sense of why you are in pain so that it can protect you from future threats. But this is not the time to think of and question all of the why’s-this will only hold off your healing. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Stop pretending and performing to yourself, your ex, and your social media followers

For some reason, unbeknownst to my soul, there seems to be some stupid contest right after a breakup of who can appear as if they do not give a fuck. There is no prize for the winner of this contest and yet, we love to play. Unless you are both actors vying for an academy award at the end of the year-do yourself a favor and cut the show and theatrics, especially via social media. How many romance stories have you heard that sounded like, “he broke up with me but once he saw my selfies and how fun, hot, and interesting I was from my IG stories, he came back and now the wedding is next spring in Tuscany.?” Oh wait that’s because things don’t work that way and if someone only changed their mind because of the way you look and how entertaining you are on social media, then good luck trying to keep up that show so that they’ll want to be with you. It would be best at this time to remove him as a follower, stop following him, and make your page private. If he truly wants to reach out-he will call you or text you, he will have a good reason explaining why he is reaching out and be understanding if you are cautious about it because he cares about your feelings instead of playing games and being ambiguous via passive Instagram ‘likes’ and random texts for an ego boost or attention. You will know the difference if that happens. If you feel the need to explain why you are doing this social media removing in order to focus on properly healing then use your own judgement on that. In general, your healing should be the most important thing and going no contact is the best way to begin this process.

 3. Don’t try to be friends right away

I get it, you are in pain, trying to accept a loss that you didn’t want, and now you are desperate for some way to be in this person’s life. See point one again about your IQ being lower while you are in pain and being in the feeling part of your mind with logic thrown out the window. I once felt that I was going to be in pain anyway, so the pain of keeping him in my life as a friend immediately after the breakup was better than the pain of letting go. LOL- how wrong I was. Sometimes we just want to find a way to lessen the pain and the loss, it’s our mind again trying to find comfort and not wanting to be in pain. Of course you still want the person in your life, regardless of who ended it-but you can’t keep someone in your life as a friend when you- still have feelings for them, are still attracted to them, still hope to be with them, are actively mourning the loss of them. Do you see why this is not good for you? Any time I thought the pain of holding on was better than the pain of letting go, the universe found ways to slap me back into reality. Hard. Do you really want to find out what they are up to? How would you feel if you saw them hanging out with a girl who might be a friend, but maybe they are hooking up, and going through their social media to compare and assume and put yourself through more pain? I know you don’t want to hear it but no contact is the only way to begin moving on. But I had to learn this the hard way so I’ll let you figure it out after many mistakes, confusion, and more pain. I refused to listen to logic and had to fall on my face more than once before I realized what was good for me.

4. Be where you are

I made this list short and simple on purpose- you’re going through a lot and don’t need to be inundated with tons of advice. Feel what you are feeling-it is normal, it is human. It is not weak or stupid to miss and still care for someone who was a big part of your life. It means the relationship meant something to you, it means that despite all of the heart aches, struggles, and losses throughout your life that you can still feel, you have the ability to love, you trusted yourself enough to let your guard down and be vulnerable enough to risk getting your heart broken in the first place. Understand in a world of apathy and indifference that loving someone and letting them in is the bravest act of all. Take care of yourself, stop judging yourself, blaming yourself, or wondering if you weren’t good enough. Your worth and your happiness is never in anyone else’s hands but your own. Find things that make you happy and small moments that put joy in your heart. You are enough and so worthy and when you are ready, your pain will only help you to grow and become stronger. Please love yourself and be around those who love you and spark joy in your soul. Those moments of joy and laughter will help to soothe you and slowly, over time heal the broken parts of your heart.

On Valentine’s day

 For those that don’t care about this holiday, but kind of do

By Jessica Militello

On Valentine’s day, if you’re in a loving, happy relationship that consists of the things you want and deserve, then good for you. If you’re single and it bothers you a little bit on Valentine’s day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love yourself enough or that you’re trying to fill a void.

Wanting a loving, meaningful relationship doesn’t make you broken or needy, it means you are human and have blood pumping through your veins. That feeling only becomes problematic when you believe that you NEED a romantic relationship in order to feel complete, and/or you settle for less through dating people who you know are not good for you, talking to exes who have hurt you, or settling for hookups because of a scarcity mentality when what you truly want is a loving, committed relationship.

I will also say that this particular Valentine’s day is probably one where I feel most loved, fulfilled, and good about myself and I’m not in a relationship with anyone. In the past, some of my saddest and most loneliest Valentine’s were the ones where I was settling for some non-committed “situation,” purposely getting ignored completely on v-day because we were just “having fun,” or the valentine’s where I was in a committed relationship with the completely wrong person who had some bullshit excuse about refusing to celebrate a “made-up holiday” because at that time in my life it was more important to me to feel chosen by someone, anyone, even in pieces and crumbs than to wait out a few seasons of loneliness in order to wait for the right person for me. And yes, those shitty relationships were in fact because the relationship I had with myself at that time was also shit, complete with little self-worth and even less boundaries.

And sometimes it takes being in these wrong relationships and getting your heart obliterated to finally learn that the things you are looking for in someone else are within you all along. That is why even when I settled for less, got my heart broken into a million pieces, and went through pain, it was all for a purpose because it finally led me to myself.

So- if you are single on Valentine’s day that’s okay, if you wish you weren’t, that’s okay too. Let yourself be where you are. And when that feeling passes write a list of all the things you feel like you would get from a relationship- can you get any of those things from yourself, from meaningful relationships with others like friends and family? Also remember that feelings come and go and loneliness passes. Don’t let your loneliness make you seek out people who cannot love you, or settle for less than what you truly want.

Do people treat you how they feel about you?

Do others really show you how much they value you?

By Jessica Militello

I see a lot of quotes floating around social media like, “how they treat you is how they feel about you,” “how much effort they put in is how valuable you are to them,” “you teach people how valuable you are,” and another one that floats around to the effect of, “I’ve seen people who can’t communicate/commit/ whatever for one and do it for another” and once again corelate it to how “valuable” they find you or how “serious” they are about you, and I am here to tell you that this one-dimensional, black and white thinking could not be further from the truth.

Additionally, what is all of this focus on what other people think of you or how much they value you and why do you give a fuck? What do you think of you? How much do you value yourself, because when you think highly of yourself and know your worth and intrinsic value, and when you carefully curate your own thoughts and the people who you allow in your life you will be more focused on whether how they are treating you is meeting your standards, and if they don’t-no sweat, because you know what you want and deserve for your life, and you treat yourself so well that when someone doesn’t measure up there is no wondering of why and how much they really value you. There are no questions period because you value yourself so much that you will not accept behavior that is less than the way you treat and talk to yourself.

Pay more attention to how you feel about you because when you look to others and whether they value you to determine how you should feel about yourself, your cup will always be empty. You will always be waiting for someone, anyone to give you just a drop to roll around in your cup-it will always be empty. Know your value, know your worth-because when you feel good about you, I can guarantee-the people that add to that feeling will be in your life, and the people who drain you and make you question yourself will not even be allowed in your life to begin with. Even if that means being lonely for a while until you find your people, it will be worth it because you know what you deserve.

And as a second point to the whole theory of how others treat you and what it means-change happens on a scale of 5 steps-I actually wrote about it in another article. A person, job, popularity, whatever, can not magically make a person go through the five steps of change especially if it involves undoing a behavior or thought pattern that they have been carrying with them for most of their life.

People don’t wake up one day and magically change-change is fucking hard and is a constant commitment. An individual must first observe patterns and behaviors in themselves that are problematic and constantly work on improvement. Another person’s kindness, beauty, success is not a magic wand to create a complete personality transplant in another. People treat you how they feel about themselves. Another person cannot value you if they don’t even value themselves.

Have you ever been that relative/friend/girlfriend/spouse, who was super loyal, loving, and kind to another and no matter how much you gave it was never enough? Yes? Have you also ever in your life had a relative/friend/spouse, whatever at a time in your life when you did not have a good relationship with yourself and no matter what they did or how much they cared it was never enough? And was it ever because THEY were the ones that didn’t have value? No-of course not-maybe you were too guarded, too immature, or were just not introspective enough with yourself to appreciate it or value it. Maybe someone was so good to you but because you felt so badly about yourself you just couldn’t believe it and you questioned every kind word and gesture and pushed them away only to later regret it.

Let’s face it-we’ve all been on both sides of it, but if you think about it objectively it was never because you or they did not have value or because you were not worth the effort-what did it all have to do with? Your thoughts and your relationship with yourself.

Trust me, I have lived in the prison of gauging my value with how others have treated me-it was draining. I held on to unhealthy friendships and relationships that weren’t even meeting my needs but I put them over myself because I did not have any self-worth. If I dated someone and they treated me like gold in the beginning only for the effort and kindness to diminish, I blamed myself or worried that they somehow discovered the “big secret” that I was not worthy of love. Instead of folding, I only tried harder. It makes me sad to think of how hard I would try because I could not see myself clearly. But I am also grateful for it all because had I not gotten to the point of getting hurt over and over because of my lack of self-worth, I would have never learned that there was a different way that involves healing myself and giving myself all of the things that I have spent my life looking outwardly for the answers.

It sounds corny and a little cliché, but everything you’re looking for is already within you. You just have to clear out the bullshit you’ve been taught your whole life about your worthiness and stop looking to others to how valuable you are or why you supposedly weren’t “worth” their time.

You are worthy, you are valuable-but the only person you need to prove that to is yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at others to tell you what you’re worth; no one can do that for you, only you can.

What are some beliefs that you are holding onto about yourself? How are these ideas serving you, how are they holding you back? What would it look like if you always had your back? How can you give yourself some of the things that you are looking for in others? Share some of your thoughts in the comments.

How to start setting boundaries

It’s never too late to change your life

By Jessica Militello

Honestly I didn’t even know how to start this article. It’s one I’ve wanted to write for a long time but the brutal honesty of it all made me want to avoid sharing it and I also felt like a fraud doling out advice on something I’m still learning about.

I grew up in a home where there was always so much drama going on involving other people, that I learned my role and the way to be lovable was to keep my feelings and thoughts to myself; that other, way worse things were going on, and I couldn’t possibly ask my primary caretakers for help because it was selfish to “need” anything when there was already so much chaos going on.

I learned to be their caretakers, in a sense, from a young age. They couldn’t even get their own shit together- in my young mind, I needed to learn how to take care of myself. Through observing these relationship dynamics, I learned to stay quiet, put other people’s thoughts and feelings before mine, and to basically be invisible. The few times I did try to speak up in those instances, my feelings were often dismissed or minimized, followed by being shamed for having those feelings.

Throughout my life, before learning about all this and doing the healing work to grow from it, naturally, all of these patterns and behaviors I observed growing up played out in all my relationships. I didn’t trust my instincts because I would often dismiss my own feelings in light of someone else’s, struggled to communicate when I felt uncomfortable or wanted to say no to things, constantly felt guilty if/when I would put my own needs first, settled for poor behavior and careless treatment and justified it by worrying about what they were “going through” at the time, or told myself they probably didn’t mean it or that I was just being too sensitive or some other jedi mental gymnastics reasoning to blame myself for their poor behavior. And because I constantly struggled to communicate my own thoughts and dismissed my own feelings, I landed in relationships and friendships with people who did the exact same thing to me. I would hold onto resentment and in many times get to a point where holding in my thoughts resulted in me getting mad and lashing out at the other person for boundaries and communication that I struggled to convey.

Learning to have boundaries is a multi-step process- but there are steps you can take to get you headed in the right direction that you can totally get started on by yourself. So grab a notebook and a pen and let’s get started.

Observe the origin story of your lack of boundaries by reflecting on what you were taught growing up

I realize this first bullet point may be difficult because it is asking you to honestly look at a portion of your life that you may have spent many, many years minimizing or diluting your true thoughts and feelings on. But this first part is really crucial in realizing why you have certain patterns. This helps for having empathy for yourself and understanding in a non-judgmental way, why you are the way you are up to this point in your life. I really don’t need you to dig super deep on this one. If a lot of feelings are coming up on having to reflect on childhood memories, what could be helpful is recollecting on it from a third-person point of view in order for it to feel less heavy. How did the adults in your family talk to each other, what happened when someone made a mistake, or someone’s feelings got hurt? How did communicating take place or not? How were disagreements and arguments resolved? Was there talking it out, listening to each other’s feelings, any apologizing? Did everyone just pretend it didn’t happen and swept everything under the rug? Whatever you remember, or think may be important-write it down. It’s important to make sense of how your inner critic has been developed from your entire life, so if you minimize and judge your own thoughts and feelings, it is most likely because it is what you observed and eventually learned how to treat yourself/others. Again, I don’t need you getting super deep on this especially if you don’t want to. We don’t need to delve into every memory and feeling from the past, we’re just trying to get an idea of where these ideas originated from.

Taking an honest look at your own relationships

Now that you’ve objectively looked at what patterns you observed growing up, it’s time to look at your own friendships/relationships. Are there any that immediately stand out? Dynamics of past/present relationships where you hold resentment for things you did for a person, or feel depleted and used? Any kind of relationship that you look back on where you felt your voice was not heard, your feelings didn’t matter, or where the other person just took and took and then left you on the side of the proverbial highway? As life and relationship coach Mark Groves says, “you are part of the dance.” And as I like to say-the only way someone can waste your time is if you give them your time in the first place. Any relationships where I’ve held resentment of all I did or sacrificed without getting equal effort and consideration in return was because I chose to put that person and their feelings above my own or I chose to constantly give in order to “prove” my value. If I felt I constantly gave and they mostly took, it is because I lacked the self-worth at the time to realize there is never anything you need to do to prove your value or necessity in their life. It can also reflect overcompensating for your abandonment issues by trying to prove how useful you are. This is a self-worth issue which plays into boundary setting, because if you have no self-worth then you can’t set boundaries, but when you have no boundaries, you’re going to have a hell of a time building any self-worth. It’s a vicious cycle. Realize the roles you both played in these friendships/relationships-forgive yourself, forgive them. Look at it as a learning experience and then realize how dynamics you learned growing up played out in these adult relationships of yours. It’s always good to look at any relationships, past or present, reflect on what was good and bad about it, what you did best, and what you would like to work on about yourself. Your relationships with others can only get better when the relationship with yourself improves. If you don’t like yourself, you will constantly be flattered by any validation or attention you get from others. You will accept any relationships/friendships because when you have no self-worth you have minimal standards for the way others treat you because you are desperate for any kind of belonging. But now that you know this, you totally have the chance to turn it around.

Build your self-worth

As I wrote just a few sentences ago, when you have low self-worth you will struggle to have boundaries. When it’s more important to be liked, you will settle for a lot of nonsense. Speak your truth, communicate how you really feel without worrying about scaring a person away, stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do. Stop being afraid of what will happen when you show your true self to others-you know what will happen? The people meant for your life will stay, and the others will fall away. You have to learn to like yourself and enjoy your own company so that you don’t even allow people in your life who cannot meet simple standards of respect and consideration.

Learn what your standards and non-negotiables are for your relationships

A lot of this is all inter-connected and I don’t really see it as a matter of consecutive steps, which is why I didn’t number any of these points. You do need to first realize your intrinsic value to even be able to set standards, but having standards and sticking to them builds self-worth, so it all builds together. What are the standards that you have for yourself? Write them down. Sometimes it just goes back to the golden rule; treat others the way you would like to be treated, but also don’t allow yourself to be treated in any way that you would not treat others.

People are not mind readers-you still need to communicate

In the early stages of learning about boundaries, there can be a tendency to go to extremes in order to make up for a boundary-less past. You may know what you want and deserve, but struggle with feeling defensiveness and forecasting of your feelings being minimized. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean everyone will magically fall in line. This is the hard part because sometimes people who you really want to meet your standards may falter. Communication is extremely important. Everything is not personal, and we can’t just assume what we think others should know. This is the time to have a conversation in a very objective, fact-based way by noting a pattern and how it makes you feel, an openness for discourse, as well as a suggestion or solution. But if they completely dismiss and invalidate your feelings then that is more so where the red flag lies. Adjust accordingly. You might have the best of times with someone but they are just unable to meet you where you are. They may not be in the phase of change to even acknowledge it or do something about it. You have to know your worth and when others act or fail to act in a way that is hurtful and just not okay to you. Sometimes you have to distance yourself, and in some cases if things are unhealthy, end the friendship/relationship. It’s not always easy, but you have to know your worth and your non-negotiables as well as stick to them.

Are you learning more about setting boundaries? What has worked for you so far? Share some of your experiences in boundary setting in the comments.