Feelings: Loneliness

Picture of a person with her hands in her face that reads Exploring Feelings: Loneliness
Each morning I wake up and get going, usually after my husband leaves for work. While he never leaves without saying goodbye, giving me a kiss, and wishing me a good day, I typically resist his morning display of affection. It's not uncommon that I can't muster the energy to open my eyes. I usually mumble something incoherent and try to go back to sleep. Although I think he tries not to wake me, I am usually awake, and tossing and turning from that point until the time I actually get out of bed. I love the morning affection and wish I could be more engaged, but I'm not. Once I'm awake and ready, I make my way to my office and start my day. Many days, especially afternoons are filled with loneliness. Many days my husband returns home around 5:30-6:00 PM leaving us just a few hours of time together. When asked by my psychologist how I'm feeling, or even when coworkers ask, I'm often tempted to indicate my loneliness. Typically I just internalize it and "cover" my true feelings.

A woman sleeping in bed with the covers pulled up over her face.
So what is loneliness exactly? According to Oxford Languages, loneliness is "sadness because one has no friends or company." And according to Merriam Webster "being without company" or "cut off from others".

By this definition, I'm certainly lonely. Likely, just about every person who works remotely is lonely too; and, given the ongoing COVID situation, this probably applies to a large portion of the population. I think there is likely more to loneliness than just these definitions.

While I would not say I have no friends, I certainly don't have many, and often wish I had more. I'll save the friend topic for another day though. I certainly have sad feelings about being alone and feeling like I have no one to talk to. And I am certainly alone all day, every day. What I do know is that feelings are feelings and they can't be wrong. What we can do is choose what to do with our feelings. While I have a tendency to internalize and bottle up my feelings, loneliness is one that I'm learning to deal with.

You might be wondering what I do to combat loneliness. I hate to admit to you I don't have a magic wand, and with some minor changes, I feel less lonely; but, I'd be lying if I said I'm never lonely.

My number one tip for dampening my feelings of loneliness is to always turn my camera on. Even if I'm the only one with my camera on, you'll still likely see me with mine on. I don't have any expectations that others will/should turn their cameras on. But I certainly appreciate it for a lot of different reasons.

Microsoft recently released some resources for employees to help facilitate collaboration with people with a variety of disabilities. As a person with disabilities myself, I quickly went to read what they said about my disabilities, and then I read all the other ones in hopes that I can be a better ally to my diverse coworkers.

The general recommendation on many of the disability pages is to use your video camera in remote/virtual meetings. Using your camera helps to create additional context and connection. The site recommends that if you’re in a small group meeting you should keep your video on. However, when in a large group meeting, you should turn your video on only when it’s your turn to speak or contribute. If possible, use good lighting and neutral background that contrasts with your skin and clothes.  
A woman with headphones on, sitting at a computer with a web conference on screen. 

While my background in my YouTube videos is not really neutral, it certainly is "me". You might find that I gravitate to more neutral backgrounds in some future videos. I frequently hear that people don't like to turn on their video for a slew of reasons from, "I didn't do my hair or makeup"--to "my room is a mess". 

My best advice on this subject is blunt. No one likely really cares what you look like, how your room looks, or whatever reason you came up with for not turning your camera on. 

A quick hello and a smile at the beginning of a meeting can make a huge difference in someone's day. So consider if you can make a habit to offer a friendly face more often in your daily interactions, especially if you only interact virtually. And don't feel like you need to apologize for your appearance. I certainly won't judge you and I encourage you not to judge others for their appearance. If your background is "that bad", consider using a blurred background or pick an image that represents your personality or mood.


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