Monthly Archives: February 2018

Causes of awkward silences

The awkward silence is one of the most troublesome social problems. When we run out of things to say & we feel that awful pressure to say something and are worried about the consequences of not doing so, especially so in one-to-one settings. Here’s a run down of  common causes.

Causes of awkward silences

So far identified

  • Not listening; being distracted by anxiety and worried about what people around are thinking, missing out on talking points (anxiety-related hindrance)
  • Not listening; planning what you’re gong to say next in your head (a safety behavior; attempt to avoid silence)
  • Self-censorship; e.g. hmm, can’t say that it’s too boring, unoriginal, I’ll sound stupid etc. (a safety behaviour)
  • Asking too many closed questions; the ‘interview trap’ (conversation skills related)
  • Not giving much for the other person to work with (conversation skill; what can we do differently)
  • Mind going blank due to other sources of anxiety within the social situation*, (anxiety-related hindrance)

Don’t forget the other person is a factor too. Sometimes the other person maybe hard to get a response from for any of the above reasons. This article is focused on identifying your main reasons since these are things you have control over.

The social situations that influence your anxiety when you hit a silence

Chance are, awkward silences are more of a problem in some situations & less so in others. What I want to get to is when you get one of those moments, what influences our degree of anxiety? All these factors can influence the degree of discomfort experience when your conversation hits a wall;

  • Excusability; the degree to which you feel ‘trapped’ with the person; whether an absolute one-to-one or a mingling or group environment. The latter two have the advantage that you don’t have the being trapped factor
  • How publicly visible the awkward silence is; do you feel more anxious when you feel the silence is publicly visible or you get a feeling that others around are watching your social performance?
  • The types of people around; if there are types you see as unforgiving around, you’ll likely feel greater anxiety during those moments you do hit a silence

Excusability; how ‘trapped’ you feel in the conversation

Some people report that they find group conversations & mingling environments easier than purely one-to one situations. This is purely because if they hit a silence, they know it’s easy to escape (& for the other person) without feeling you’re being rude to the other person. In group conversations you and the other person can focus on what the group’s on about, knowing that the person you were talking to is doing the same. In mingling situations (focused on making lots of small talk with many people) it’s relatively easy to excuse yourself and either talk to someone else.

In pure one-to-one settings such as dates, you don’t have the escape route of excusing yourself without appearing rude or having to dig yourself out. That is why some people say they find one-to-one settings more challenging than group settings. As you’ll see in coping strategies, excusing yourself is one of the best ways of coping. How easily you can excuse yourself without offending the other person is a factor that can influence your degree of anxiety

How publicly visible the silence is

Silences are also things that people can become self-conscious over. When you hit a silence, one thing that can make you anxious is the thought that others around you are noticing, and are thinking that you look awkward. Hitting a silence is likely more of a problem in some settings and around certain types of people and less so in others.

Get to know your culprits

Not listening; due to being distracted (anxiety-related hindrance)

A major source of awkward silences is due to not adequately listening to the other person & missing out on talking points and ‘hooks’. One thing that can prevent us from adequately listening is being stuck in our heads worrying about what people around you are thinking. This is particularly so if there are things that you may be self-conscious about. One reason why many people with social anxiety think they have bad social skills is purely due to the way anxiety can hinder conversation and listening. Usually, when in situations where there’s no anxiety they’re perfectly capable of conversation free of awkward silences. This is why it’s important to get to know any sources of anxiety.

Common source of discomfort in social situations

Not listening; due to planning what you’re going to say next (a safety-behavior)

Sometimes we can be so focused on planning what we’re going to say next out of fear of ending-up without anything to say, that we can end-up not actually listening & missing out what the other person is saying. Again, we can miss out on talking points.

Self-censorship (safety behavior)

Even if really good talking points or hooks come our way, sometimes we won’t respond to them, pass a comment, share our opinion or bring-up any facts, stories etc. due to fear that the other person will think it’s boring, stating the obvious, or that we’ll sound ignorant or stupid.

Asking closed question after closed question (conversation skills-related)

Another major cause of silences can be due to asking closed question after closed question. Closed questions can effectively force the other person to give a one-word response such as yes/no answers, ‘good’ ‘I’m fine’, single adjectives or other hard-to-respond-to things. If that’s the case, it maybe a question of looking at what we can do differently.

Not giving the other person much to work with (conversation skills-related)

On the flip side, we can be guilty of not giving the other person much to work with ourselves. Even if people do show curiosity or bring up relevant experiences and other things, we can sometimes not give the other person much to work with in return. One reason there’s so much advice advocating to flesh-out your answer and elaborate on what you do say is not that you have to be impressive, but simply to give the other person things to work with. Again, the degree of discomfort and anxiety will have an effect here.

Mind-going blank due to other sources of anxiety (anxiety-related hindrance)

Sometimes when you’re having a conversation, other sources of anxiety can cause your mind to go blank, trip you up and cause you to forget what your going to say and forget what someone’s just said (a hook) which a thread could have been made from.

The other person (for any of the above reasons)

Conversation takes two to tango. The reasons we’re silent could have just as much to do with the other person as you. Sometimes the other person might not give us much to work with. The reasons could be any of the above & them being rude. In the worst case scenario, people might give the ‘silent treatment’; a rude, passive-aggressive response. Most likely if someone’s unresponsive it’s probably because of any of the above reasons, the same reasons you might struggle. I’ll talk about how to handle unresponsive people in a future post.

What you can do

If you’re prone to awkward silences, do take note of the reasons that might apply to you, the situations you tend to become silent in, and any sources of anxiety within those situations. It’s also helpful to be mindful of what you might be doing in conversations that could be a culprit, being interrogative, censoring yourself for fear of sounding stupid, and worrying about what you’re going to say next. As can be seen, there’s a distinction between anxiety-related hindrances and other causes. Social comfort and anxiety plays a major role, though it’s not the only thing that can result in silences.

When your mind goes blank; ways of coping

This is one of the most common conversation problems that people can have in social situations, both in group and one-to-one settings. The problem of your mind going blank is generally caused by anxiety and feelings of unease. A large variety of factors can be responsible including feeling out of your depth & feeling self-consciousness, including the anxiety about being seen as ‘quiet’. If this is a problem for you in social situations then you might find some of the strategies here of help.

A summary of strategies that you can employ to cope;

  • Learn to focus your attention on your surroundings
  • Beware of catastrophic thinking
  • Take the pressure off
  • Re-frame what it means to be seen as quiet
  • Tell people your mind has gone blank

The anxiety about being seen as ‘quiet’ & people thinking badly can itself contribute to a blank mind, and lead to more quietness, thus the spiral of self-consciousness can be set in motion. Here we’ll look at strategies specifically for handling a blank mind it and preventing it spiraling in social situations.

In the longer term, it can be helpful to;

  • Identify any relevant sources of anxiety & discomfort within social situations that could be throwing you
  • Identify any relevant conversational problems that could be causing quietness

Since the quietness resulting from these can be a source of self-consciousness & can be an opportunity for anxious thoughts about being seen as ‘quiet’ to set in. For now, let’s look at some strategies for coping should this happen to you.

Learn to focus your attention on your surroundings & on what people are saying

A major source of anxiety that can contribute to our mind going blank is the self-consciousness & imagining how we stand out as the most quiet person in the room, this can lead us to focus on what people might think of us and the worst that could happen, which will make us anxious and contribute to the blank mind. What’s more, you’ll miss-out on talking points and things you could contribute to. Instead, you should try to distract yourself by focusing on what’s going on outside you, what others are talking about, what people are wearing, the color of the lighting, anything. If you’re in a one-to-one setting, focus on what they’re saying.

Watch out for catastrophic thinking

When we can’t think of anything to say, or if we’re quiet for any of the other reasons, the fear that people will think you’re boring, anti-social, weird etc. One thing that socially-anxious people might do is start to imagine that people around them are thinking these things when they might not be. Such thinking is known as ‘mind reading’. The dirty little catch is, the more anxious we’re feeling, the more catastrophically we think people are thinking these things. It’s important that we identify such thinking as it occurs in social situations.

Take the pressure off, cut yourself some slack

There are likely many factors in the social situations in which your mind goes blank. It could be that you’re simply not used to the situations in which your mind has gone blank. It’s important also to be aware of any sources of discomfort in those situations in which your mind tends to go blank (see below). You can’t run before you can walk.

Re-frame what it means to be seen as ‘quiet’

Some people may get freaked-out & the thought of being seen as quiet because they’ve picked-up the belief that being seen as ‘quiet’=unlikeable, they hate you, never want to see you again. Usually if someone comments ‘you’re quiet’ it’s generally an observation.  What is important is to realize if people do see you as quiet, at most they might be curious why. If anyone does think badly of you because of it it’s their problem, not yours. Also, remember that criticizing someone for being quiet is a social no-no, a mistake on their part.


Tell people your mind has gone blank!

It’s perfectly fine to tell people in conversations that your mind has gone blank e.g if you’re asked a question, or if you forget the rest of what you’re going to say halfway through saying something, you can simply say ‘my mind went blank, it’s slipped my mind, it’ll come back to me’. You could tell them that you’re a bit flustered or, if relevant (e.g. in large groups) that you’re not used to these kinds of situations. Letting people know can take off a lot of the pressure & will teach you that over time that mind going blank isn’t always a bad thing.

What else can help?

The above are strategies that can be employed within social situations specifically to cope with this problem. To reduce your mind going blank in the longer run it might be helpful to identify some of the likely root causes.

Identify any relevant sources of anxiety & discomfort in social situations

Chances are, the problem of your mind going blank in worse in some situations and better in others. Factors such as how out of your depth you feel in a particular situation, and the types of people around & any other relevant sources of self-consciousness (e.g. do you worry about being visibly nervous or blushing) can also affect your level of anxiety. It’s important that the sources of anxiety within those situations in which you have this problem are identified.

For more information on sources of anxiety and discomfort click here

Identify any relevant conversation problems that could lead to quietness

There are many reasons we can end-up quiet in social situations that are not necessarily the result of your mind going blank due to anxiety. However, the thought of being seen as ‘quiet’ can result in anxiety which can lead your mind going blank. It’s important that you recognize whether any these are a problem for you. Other common sources of quietness include;

  • Self-censorship; sometimes we’re quiet in social situations because we’re censoring ourselves; hmm, can’t say that, it’s not funny enough, it’s too unoriginal, it’s too boring, not intelligent enough etc. It’s important that we recognize this
  • Situations where you can’t contribute; another common source of us being quiet, particularly in group settings is when the topic is about something we genuine can’t contribute to. In a group it’s perfectly OK to hang back when the topic’s on about something that you cannot contribute to or know nothing about.
  • The ‘interrogation trap’; sometimes in one-to-one settings we get into the pattern of asking closed question after closed question, effectively forcing the other person to give a limited response. This can lead to awkward silences. During the silence, the danger is anxiety can surface (e.g. thoughts that the other person might be getting uncomfortable, and that people around are thinking you’re quiet) which can lead to the mind going blank. If that’s a problem for you then learning what we can do differently should be helpful

To round off

If you find social situations a bit of a minefield and you suffer from these kinds of problems, then hopefully these strategies should be of help. Usually, when your mind goes blank within a social situation, generally the anxiety that’s causing it does die down by itself. By employing these strategies & also learning to cope with the situations that you find most difficult, it should reduce the problem of mind going blank over time.

The Importance of Work to Mental Health

Work is about far more than just earning money, it plays an important role for our mental health. Employment, work and livelihood is a very important area of life. The fact is we have emotional needs which need to be met in order for us to be happy, contented and mentally healthy. Many of the needs work meets for us include;

  • Social contact
  • A sense of belonging
  • A sense of purpose and being wanted
  • An opportunity to be good at something
  • A sense of status and identity
  • Responsibility
  • Security

We are like plants in that these needs are the same as the plant’s need to be watered. We have. If these needs are not adequately met, we can wilt just like an unwatered plant. Unemployment is bad for our mental health simply because so many of those emotional needs are not unmet. Let’s look into a bit more detail what can happen if our needs are not adequately met and the ways it can make us wilt.

Mental health risk factors of unemployment


Work gives us plenty of satisfying things to do. When unemployed it can be difficult to think of what to do with your time. Boredom is the first thing that comes to mind when many people think of unemployment.

Social isolation & loneliness

The vast majority of jobs give you regular opportunities for social contact with your colleagues and co-workers, as well as customers. When you’re out of work you don’t have this and can become unhappily isolated. In addition to this there’s also a sense of shame and a fear of being judged by your circumstances.

Feeling unwanted

Work gives you a sense of purpose, a sense that you’re part of a team, that you’re contributing to society. When you don’t have that you can start to feel like you’re not part of society, that you’re unwanted, and can start to think that you have nothing to offer. That can be painful.

Feeling like a failure

Work can give you a sense of status, identity and a feeling of belonging. Being out of work can mean this need is not met. You may start to feel like you’re useless and feel like a failure and inferior. This can be painful and can make you feel down.


Being in work gives you a sense of stability and security, and also work experience and the opportunity for career progression. When you’re out of work, you don’t have that, there’s the fear of becoming unemployable.

Loss of sense of control

Especially if we’ve been out of work for a long time and struggling, we may start to feel that we have little control over our destination. Hearing things such as being out of work makes you less employable’ doesn’t help.

Loss of hope

If unemployment goes on for a long time, and if we get stuck in a rut, we may start to lose hope of the future. We may start to fear that we’d be trapped in the situation forever. That can be misery.

Mental health problems that can result

Given the above, it’s no surprise that you might wilt under all of that. The most likely mental health problems this could result in can include


It’s not uncommon for people who’re out of work to start feeling lethargic and to start to struggle with motivation and to feel tired all the time. The boredom, that feeling of being useless and the social isolation as well as facing the prospect of being in that situation forever can sap your motivation and energy. Also, not having anyone to talk to, being dismissed and bottling your feelings up out of no choice can also contribute to low energy.

Alcohol and substance abuse

The above feelings and the great gaping gap & lack of meaning might also cause people to turn to alcohol or other drugs as a way of coping with the boredom, the isolation and other gaps, especially if combined with not having anyone to talk to. The evenings can also seem very long when you’re out of work. If you’ve got no-one to talk to, then it’s all too easy to turn to the bottle for comfort.

Sleep problems

When people are unemployed, it’s not unusual to get into a pattern of sleeping in later and getting up later and also to get into an irregular sleep pattern. In addition, many of the above factors can result in a racing mind at night. If you’ve been out of work for a while and are beginning to become worried that there may not be a way out, or that you maybe stuck in the situation forever, your mind can begin to race at night. There is a risk that these could lead to sleep problems which in turn could progress to chronic insomnia (link ‘what is chronic insomnia).

To end

You can’t really blame a plant for wilting if it hasn’t been watered. In the same way a human being who’s motivation has started to go, who’s turned to substances to fill a gap (and possibly has no-one to talk to) is a sign that they’re wilting like a plant that hasn’t been watered. On one level you cannot blame them, you cannot accuse them for ‘playing the victim’ for expressing their suffering. If I chucked a bucket of water over you, can you be blamed for your clothes being wet? If you’re pushed into a pool, can you be blamed for being wet? Of course not. If I put itching powder in your underwear, can I blame you for scratching? If we apply the same logic we apply to blaming unemployed people for being losers, we’d do just that. It’s complete insanity.

Sure people ultimately need to take responsibility for their circumstances & meet their needs other ways, but this is no argument for not acknowledging or relating to any of the above feelings and difficulties in ones life. If I made you push a wheelbarrow up a hill empty (and covered the contents with a tarp), then I was to force someone else to push another identical one up the same hill loaded with 100kg of bricks (with a tarp over the top also), would it be fair to label the guy with the bricks in his barrow as lazy? To accuse an unemployed person of laziness is a bit like accusing a tomato plant that hasn’t been watered in weeks for being a bad plant for not giving you a high yield. It’s giving a poor yield because it hasn’t been watered in weeks you silly sod. The same is true of human beings! It’s a lack of either empathy or humility to acknowledge that one might not even be in a position to pass judgment. The individualistic stance sometimes goes too far. It’s common sense, if our needs are not met, our mental health can suffer.

The ‘you are what you do’ belief

Todays rant is to call into question the idea that someone’s a lesser person because their not employed. I’m making this rant because I know people withdraw socially when they’re out of work, withdraw from friends, purely because they’re afraid of being asked about their situation. Why is this? The belief that they’re all of a sudden a lesser person because they’re not in work, because of their current circumstances. That is wrong, that is totally unacceptable. Trust me, that fear is so powerful that pushing through it can be like trying to connect two fully pressurized hydraulic hoses or manually trying to overcome the compression of a diesel engine. It’s this idea that we’re somehow a lesser person due to our circumstances & that people harbor that viewpoint.

The role of the ‘what do you do’ question

The reason people ask things such as ‘what do you do’, or ‘what have you been upto’ is to break the ice, to lead to other more interesting topics, in the same way that the topic of current affairs or the classic British one, the weather. It’s a small talk topic, a talking-point generator. That is what it’s designed for.

The questioning confrontational approach

When people ask you what you do or what you’ve been upto, it can feel like they’re trying to challenging you, trying to get you to prove a reason they should talk to you. Quizzing people, trying to force people to carry on a subject that they don’t want to talk about and creating an interrogative vibe is simple conversational bad practice, in the same way that interrupting or ignoring someone when they’re speaking to you is conversational bad practice. For some reason, on the topic of work it’s considered OK.

So your worth as a human is solely proportional to your power output?

OK, you’re an upstanding, hard-working citizen that makes you better. Let me let you into a secret, so are washing machines and car engines, only these machines are capable of exerting many times more power output than the bodies of the most driven business people. They can convert electricity and hydrocarbons to output at significantly greater rates than business people can convert glucose to work. They’re nothing compared to what you can get from 240v, 13a socket. Look, how good your body is at converting energy to work says nothing about what you’re like as a person.

Why might might some unemployed people be ‘lazy’; the wilting plant

The obvious reason people might end up being ‘lazy’ when they’re unemployed is that they’ve become depressed. Look, we are like plants, we have emotional needs which need to be met in abundance, many of which work gives us

  • Social contact
  • A sense of belonging
  • A sense of purpose and being wanted
  • An opportunity to be good at something
  • A sense of status and identity
  • Responsibility
  • Security

If these needs are not met adequately, our mental health can suffer. We can wilt like plants; our motivation goes, our energy goes and our confidence can suffer. If you’re starved of your emotional needs you will most likely get depressed in the same way that you’ll get wet if you jump into water. Can you blame someone for being wet after jumping in a swimming pool? Can you blame a plant it if it wilts if it hasn’t been watered? Of course not, that would be plain stupidity!?

To make matters even worse, THE ARTIFICIAL STIGMA causes people to withdraw when they’re out of work, starving them of social contact & the need for belonging. This only hastens the deterioration of their mental health. What’s totally insane is this idea that people deserve it. Look at it this way, if a tomato plant wasn’t giving you a bumper crop, would you punish it by starving it of water, then being angry at it for giving low yields? If your computer started playing-up, would you get a hammer and hit it? Of course not, that would be complete and total insanity! Yet we have that stance towards humans when their mental health suffers.

Some deeper thoughts

The obvious question is, are there ways to meet these emotional needs whilst out of work? The answer is yes, but it’s incredibly difficult, our society is designed so that employment is your only channel. In some ways, employment seems like a form of dependency. The truth is what you do for a living isn’t really in your control at the end of the day, it’s in the control of the employer, the turnover and the market forces. In some ways it seems insane having so many eggs in one basket, something that you could lose overnight. We are dependent on our employment not just for finance, but for our emotional health as well. We are dependent on something that is ultimately outside our control and we have so many eggs in that one basket. It seems like complete and total madness at the end of the day.

What people should say instead of; ‘no-one will love you unless you love yourself’

Instead of saying ‘no-one will love you unless you love yourself (negative) people should say one of the following ‘a) You need to find out what sort of person you are, b) not be ashamed to be that person and c) find the right people for you. That’s what the whole ‘love yourself’ thing is about at the end of the day. This is a much more empowering of expressing it than telling you that you’re an unlovable and unlikeable person just because you’re still learning to love yourself isn’t it? Let’s be honest, most people who’re in relationships, even happy long term relationships are not at a point where thy absolutely love themselves.

The phrase ‘no one will love you unless…’ that is negativity. No-one who’s feeling lonely needs negativity and cynicism like that.

What needs to change

I am cross because the current advice given to lonely people is so NEGATIVE. It’s telling people who’re unhappily single all the ways that their circumstances are going to hinder them from changing their situation; e.g. that they’re destined to act needy and off-putting, that they shouldn’t even try to change their lot, that they’re destined to fail. It makes me angry as a third person seeing people being told that. If people are feeling lonely and down, are wondering whether they’re lonely because they’re too inadequate or undesirable, the conventional advice doesn’t make people feel better, nor does it actually help them like themselves.

What is self love really about?

If you do want to advise people about self love and how it can make people attractive to others, it might be helpful to think in terms of;

  • Knowing oneself and how to not be ashamed to express it
  • Having an idea of the right types of people for you

It is a very legitimate topic. When people do ‘love themselves’, it means that they’re happy being themselves and closer to finding out these sorts of things. That’s what the focus should be on.

What’s not acceptable

Implying that lonely people deserve to feel lonely, just because they’re starting to think that their situation as a sign that they’re inadequate, unacceptable, not up to standard, that they’ve got nothing going for them. That is absolutely unacceptable and makes people in that boat feel worse, and it certainly does not help them like themselves or feel more comfortable being themselves.

Telling people that who’re feeling lonely and who’ve expressed the pain means they must be needy and are destined to fail on every relationship. The presumption that a lonely person is lonely because they must be off-putting, and/or only talks about their problems with everyone without any knowledge of their situation. Thats a judgment. Sometimes the ‘no-one will love you unless you love yourself’ cliché is based upon judgements and assumptions.

The focus should be on ‘being yourself’

Finding the right people for you, who you are, how you could meet those people. That’s what the focus should be & that’s what lonely people need.


Worst things to say to lonely people; ‘no-one will love you unless love yourself’

For people who’ve been single, particularly for a long time, it might start to hurt and it might be painful. It can certainly be discouraging being single for a long time & it can make us feel unwanted. We may also start to wonder whether there’s something wrong with you.

Common feelings and experiences

If we’re single, particularly for a long time, we may start to see our circumstances as sign that we;

  • are not likable
  • are not attractive
  • are not up to a standard
  • are not desirable
  • have nothing going for us or
  • are not capable of attracting people to us

We might start to blame our circumstances on all the imagined shortfalls we see in ourselves; e.g. ‘am I too fat, thin, shy, different, weird, nice etc. to have relationships’? Is this a sign that there is no-one out there for me? We might start to question whether we have any potential at all. It can certainly make you feel down. In some cases this can make us feel hopeless, de-motivated & depressed. It’s common to feel like that & to have these sorts of thoughts in that situation, many people do.

If any of the above resonates with you, then my guess is that you’re simply looking for a listening ear that acknowledges those feelings and a bit of reassurance that this is not a sign that you’re unlikeable nor that there’s no hope, that you’re not the only one that feels like that & that people who could be attracted to you do exist. If you’ve felt like that before, then I’m sure being told ‘no-one will love you unless you love yourself’ probably hasn’t been very helpful. If it does make you feel bad, then you’re not alone, loads of people hate being told this. If you Google-up ‘worst things to say to single people’ this one almost always appears.

*As for people going through the above, there’s a brighter note at the bottom of the page.

Why isn’t it helpful?

  • Firstly, it’s not exactly coming from a point of listening and relating, it’s often said without having established anything about the situation, there could be a wide variety of reasons people are single, lack of self-love may or may not be a factor
  • Secondly, it can suggest ‘you deserve to be single and lonely because you’re feeling like that’
  • Thirdly, it can feel like being told that you’re unlikeable (the last thing somebody in the above situation needs) that there’s no hope for you
  • Finally, it’s not even useful advice on actually building self-esteem

The last thing that people who’re feeling like this need is to be told that they deserve their situation. It’s like the bringing up of those feelings is being used as a way to attack you, like an accusation. The fact that you’ve brought-up the above concerns makes you guilty of not loving yourself enough.


I’ll make it clear that I’m not bashing self-acceptance, self-esteem and liking yourself. What I am having a go at is the way people are too quick to jump to conclusions and give advice rather than take the time to listen and relate, and how it can make people in the situation feel worse (if anything, I argue that criticism and accusation does the opposite of promoting self-acceptance and self love).

Why do people say this cliché

There could be a variety of reasons people might say this including;

  • They simply don’t know anything better to say (most likely & most forgivable)
  • The make some assumptions about why you’re single without having actually established anything about the situation
  • In the worst cases, they assume that just by your confiding in them that you’re a negative whiner or someone who spills their guts to everyone they meet

Look, imagine a friend of yours broke-up with someone and had no-one to talk to that was causing them tremendous pain or someone who’s been searching for work and had little luck. They both may have started wondering ‘what’s wrong with me’. Now imagine saying ‘are you this negative around everyone’? Of course you wouldn’t say that! That would be a completely heartless thing to presume and say. Anyway, that’s the rant over.

So not liking yourself makes you less appealing to others?

When people are feeling like how I’ve illustrated, the last thing they need is to be told that they’re inadequate and that they deserve their situation, and that any attempt they might make to meet people and go on dates will be doomed to failure. That’s not a help to anyone. That just makes people feel even more down.

Now, there are factors this may have implications in but first; establish what the situation is first.

Most people who’re feeling that way want to be related to and listened to, not be told how bleak everything is or other pessimistic rubbish.


So, is it possible for anyone of the opposite sex to be romantically-attracted to me?

The answer is a resounding YES IT IS! It’s most likely that it’s not that you’re an inadequate person, who’s too shy, or too unattractive. A large part is probably due to circumstances, lack of social opportunities, difficulties with social situations under which you meet new people of the opposite sex, and, if you find anyone you’re interested in, fears of how they’d react if they found out you liked them. It’s most likely these sorts of things that may have prevented you, rather than being inadequate. It’s a matter of finding out what sorts of people you want to meet and what can be done to move you closer to meeting them.

Common causes of loneliness

Loneliness is something that’s universal and that everyone has experienced from time to time in many forms that are familiar, both with & without people, & can result from an enormous variety of circumstances.

Loneliness vs. social isolation

Social isolation is what it says on the tin, isolation from other company. Social isolation results in feelings of loneliness, yet loneliness doesn’t always result from social isolation. Loneliness is the subjective feeling of lack of connection from others that can occur both with & without company.

Reasons we may feel lonely

Feelings of loneliness can result from the any of the following;

  • Being on your own when you don’t want to be
  • Feeling left out or excluded
  • Feeling that people around you don’t know you for you
  • Feeling that no-one accepts you for you
  • Feeling awkward in a social situation and feeling like no-one else feels the same
  • When everyone appears to make friends quicker than you
  • You don’t have a special someone to share your life with
  • Feeling like you’re the only one who feels like that or no-one understands

What puts you at risk of of loneliness & social isolation?

  • Being shy or socially anxious
  • Structural changes to social networks; such as friends moving away, friends settling down or becoming tied down
  • Being unemployed
  • Moving to a new city
  • Living in an isolated location
  • Loss of a partner or significant other
  • Being a single parent

Being on your own when you don’t want to be (social isolation)

This situation can result from not having people available to meet up with, people you know being too busy or friends being too unreliable or simply not having anywhere to go where you can bump into people or where you can go to meet new people.

Feeling left out or excluded (alone in a crowd)

A feeling of being ignored by people, of not being included in events or on a smaller scale, not being included in conversations and being talked over and drifting into the background & feeling invisible can all lead to this. Another cause of feeling left out is if people you’re with only talk about stuff that’s specific to them & in-jokes that you can’t really contribute to & are not making you feel included. Another cause of this kind of loneliness is being on your own in a social setting where everyone seems to know each other & you feel like you’re the only one.

A feeling that people around you don’t know the real you or that you can’t ‘be yourself’

Another reason we can feel lonely around people is when we feel that others don’t know the real you or only want to know you for superficial reasons. You may feel like this if you feel people around you only know you for a certain persona. Sometimes we might not know ourselves and be in the pattern of putting on a persona that we might think other people would want us to be.

Feeling that people don’t accept you for you

Another reason people may feel lonely despite having what on the surface appears to be an active social life is that a lot of their ‘friends’ might actually be shallow, superficially acquaintances who don’t accept them for who they are. This is a very common situation in the cities, especially those with a networking-focused, business-like culture.

Feeling like you’re the only awkward one in the room (alone in a crowd)

If you’re in a social situation where there’s lots of people and you feel socially-awkward, out of your depth, don’t know what to say, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person in the room feeling that way and that everyone around you is super-confident & no-one knows what it’s like to feel that way. This is a very common experience among people who’re had social anxiety.

When people around you appear to be making friends & hitting it off quickly

One other situation that’s worth mentioning is that where everyone around you appears to be making friends and hitting it off quicker than you and you feel left behind. This can happen when starting college, starting a new job or any other endeavour. It can feel very lonely & painful if you’re in that situation & see other people forming social circles and hitting it off and can feel like you’re the only one.

Not having a significant other to share your life with

Many people who’re single feel a sense of emptiness & would really appreciate an intimate relationship with someone to spend their life with and share their hopes and dreams with. The kind of loneliness from this lack of intimacy can affect you in company as well, even if you have a good social network, but it tends to be at it’s worst when you’re on your own.

Not having anyone to talk to or confide in

Regardless of the reasons for feeling lonely, with or without company, what’s devious about it is that it can make us feel like we’re the only one & that no-one else in the world & that no-one around ever feels like that. Not having anyone available to talk to or confide in about how we’re feeling or feeling that it’s shameful to talk about it can result in another type of loneliness; alone in feeling alone.

There are many different types of loneliness

The causes of loneliness are many and varied but more often than not it’s a sense of lack of intimacy, lack of connection or feeling different from the people around you. It can be tremendously helpful to acknowledge these feelings and to remind yourself that these are things that many people experience. If you’ve ever experienced social anxiety or shyness it’s highly likely that a lot of the experiences above will resonate.

see also; Lonely in a crowd; reasons

Thoughts on people who say they ‘prefer their own company’

Have you ever found yourself shut-in during the evenings when you don’t want to be, due to having no-one available to meet-up with? Ever been faced with the choice of sitting at home or going out alone? If that happens to you day after day, you’re well within your right to complain that it’s depressing you to death. If you’re shut in the house too much, are on your own when you don’t want to be, to the degree that it’s making you unhappy, lets be honest, nobody likes that, that is absolute shit, that’s misery, that is not a life. The reasons for this situation are many and varied, but the important point is, no-one deserves that. I am most puzzled as to why many people who’re in that situation seem to accept such mediocrity and don’t kick-up a fuss about it.

Now, one thing I want everyone to know about me is I DETEST social isolation. I am  people at heart. I love meeting new people & losing track of the time. Being cooped in the house for long periods of time & not being able to socialize is a big no-no; it drives me round the bend and makes me depressed. When I’m feeling like that, the very last thing I want to here is *learn to like your own company* GRR!

Reasons people claim they ‘prefer their own company’

People on social anxiety message boards say they prefer their own company not because they don’t get lonely or are unhappy. Here’s some possible reasons why people who’re severely lonely might say they like their own company;

  • They’re afraid of being judged if they admit that they’re lonely or dis-satisfied with their social life
  • They find many social situations uncomfortably painful due to social anxiety; what they really mean is ‘I find social situations too painful’ rather than ‘I like my own company and have no need for the company of others’
  • They’ve had negative social experiences in the past; they may think that ALL social situations are bad & lack memories of positive experiences
  • They’re in a ‘comfort trap’ & have become good at distracting themselves
  • They may feel that their lot is all they deserve, they may feel that they don’t deserve any better
  • They’re introverted and have less need for social contact than average; however, they might use the ‘I like my own company’ thing as a way to conceal the fact that they feel lonely because they’re ashamed of it, (in the same way that someone with a drinking problem might use the fact they don’t drink everyday to conceal the fact that they’re worried about their drinking)

Comfort trap & loneliness

With all unhappy situations, it’s possible to get caught in a ‘comfort trap’. People who are lonely might be at a point where their social life is rubbish, yet they’re keeping themselves busy with distractions enough to keep them contented enough, though not happy; that middle ground where you’re comfortable, but not at the point of ‘right, that’s it, I’ve had enough’. People might say they like their own company

Introversion and loneliness

An introvert is someone who simply has a lower need for social contact than average, they prefer solitude to social contact, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get lonely. The word introvert is misleadingly used to refer to people who’re shy. Introvert means a ‘lone wolf’ type. Introverts maybe able to tolerate a higher degree of social isolation before they feel lonely than the most people. However, when they do feel lonely, the danger is they might use the fact that they have less need for company as a defense mechanism, especially if they feel that people might find out.

You deserve better!

Look, the truth is, nobody I’ve interacted with on a social anxiety forum about the quality of their social life who says they love their own company seems to be happy with their lot. You don’t deserve to be shut in the house evening after evening if you don’t want to be. If you like solitary confinement (which I doubt), fair play, but most of us cannot stand it. It’s not an entitlement to want friends, people to hang out with, and people to meet-up with, to have the choice of being able to be outside the home with other people. It’s not an entitlement to want doors open to expand your social circle. If being on a desert island with nothing but a football for company (as in a certain Tom Hanks film) wouldn’t drive you mad, then I don’t know what the matter is. I know most people in that situation would not like it.

Common conversation trouble spots

If you struggle socially it can be helpful to put your finger on any areas you find particularly difficult or on any specific problems that you have. The purpose of this article is to help people identify the things they struggle with. Here we’ll illustrate some of the common difficulties face during social interactions. This article is not just about identifying the trouble spots, but diagnosing any possible reasons you may have trouble. Many people who have social difficulties spend years trying to overcome them. That needn’t be the case. Do any of the following seem familiar?

Common difficulties & trouble spots;

  • Awkward silences (one-to-one)
  • Mind going blank (both settings)
  • People talking about a topic you cannot contribute to (group)
  • Difficulty making eye contact (one-to-one)
  • Difficulty projecting your voice (both settings)
  • Self-disclosure (both settings)

Which areas do you find difficult? Some more detail

Awkward silences

An awkward silence is where the conversation peters out and both parters are left hanging, on the spot and under pressure to say something next. Awkward silences are more of a problem with one-to-one conversations. Common causes of awkward silences include;

  • Not giving the other person much to work with
  • Asking too many closed questions, thus forcing the other person to give a limited answer that gives you little to work with; forcing them to respond with a limited answer that doesn’t give you much to work with
  • Not listening and missing out on talking points (this can be due to self-consciousness and other sources of anxiety and worrying about what you’ll say next)
  • Mind going blank (see below)

The key to preventing awkward silences is to be able to elicit good quality talking points and to follow-them up by things such as sharing facts, passing opinions, bringing-up related experiences.

It’s also helpful to be aware of any sources of self-consciousness and anxiety in the social situations in which you experience silences in. If you find you zone out in your head worried about how you’re coming cross to people around, then you might miss out. This is a one of the main ways that social anxiety can hinder conversation.

Mind going blank

Not being able to think of anything to say. This is usually caused by anxiety & discomfort within a social setting. You may get this in both group or one-to-one settings. There could be a variety of reasons your mind mind might go blank, these can range from feeling on the spot to feeling self-conscious, including the very fear of being seen as ‘quiet’. If you have this problem it might be helpful to identify any sources of anxiety (link) that throw you off.

People talking about something you cannot contribute to

This one is most applicable in a group scenario. You maybe in this situation if;

  • People are talking about an experience between themselves that you weren’t part of
  • They’re taking about a topic that you don’t have much knowledge of

It’s generally OK to be quiet in these sorts of situations an to just sit back and listen. For people who’re socially-anxious, the main sources of discomfort are;

  • the fear of being seen as ‘quiet’
  • the fear that you’ll be judged for not knowing something that you ‘should’

It can only be a problem if during those quiet moments you zone ou in your head. There are a number of strategies for coping with this situation including, showing that your’re listening and tuned in, asking questions abou the topic.

Difficulty with eye contact

This is another area that many people find difficult. Lack of eye contact might give people the impression that you’re disengaged & not really interested. If you have trouble maintaining eye contact it could due to a variety of reasons including;

  • You might not be used to it
  • Some social situation you’re in maybe anxiety provoking and it may feel too much
  • You might feel self-conscious in the social settings and distracted by what’s going on around you
  • Sometimes even the thought that you’re not making enough or are making too much can throw you off

It’s important that any sources of discomfort are identified & that you find ways to practice

Difficulty projecting your voice

Some people might have trouble projecting their voice, particularly within public and group settings. This could be for a variety of reasons;

  • They feel uncomfortable and flustered, difficulty speaking up can be a symptom of anxiety
  • They feel uncomfortable talking in public settings where they might be in earshot of people & are talking quietly to avoid being overheard (a ‘safety behavior’). They may feel that people around are eavesdropping or scrutinizing their conversation or what they’re talking about
  • They’re simply not used to social situations that require speaking up

Self disclosure & questions

Some people find some questions difficult to answer and have difficulty revealing personal information and being open. Talking about what you do, what your interests are, what sort of music and film you’re interested in, what you do for fun, what you do socially etc and deeper things like revealing your flaws & vulnerabilities. Possible reasons people might find this area difficult could be that

  • There might be that there’s some things you’re embarrassed about
  • You have a belief that people are trying to assess you and judge you rather than find out about you*

What trouble spots do you run into?

If you can nail just a handful of trouble spot, a huge amount of progress can be made. The first step is to diagnose the most troublesome areas. Some people remain shy and awkward for years simply because they don’t identify the specific areas that they struggle with. It can be a nightmare at the best of times to figure out on your own, harder than learning the declension system of a Slavic language. I don’t believe that it should be this way at all. Next time you have difficulty in a social social, see if anything you’ve read here resonates with you.

NOTE; this is not an exhaustive list, this is a list of things that I’m aware of and that I have experience in & have researched. If there’s anything here that I might not be aware of that you might want to add to, do let me know in the comments

Depression and tiredness

Unrelenting tiredness is seen a symptom of depression. Just for the record depression is more than just a low mood and/or an unhappy situation, depression is when one or both of the following starts;

  • Your motivation starts to go; you no longer feel like doing things and you find interesting, things become much more of an effort
  • Your energy levels drop and you start waking up feeling tired & groggy

The problem could be described as depression when these things start to impair your quality of life. The word ‘depression’ could also be used to described a series of patterns that people can get into that can keep the motivation and/or energy levels low & keep them in a pattern. There are a variety of emotional and psychological reasons why motivation and/or energy levels might go. Regardless of what they are, the impact they have on a person’s quality of life and the patterns people can get into are similar. This page will explore the problem of low energy & what might be possible sources.

Psychological causes of tiredness

It’s been known since the 1960’s that people who have depression do far more REM sleep than non-depressed people. The REM sleep mechanism is known to be involved in emotional processing and laying down memory. When there’s a lot on your mind it can be overburdened, such as at times when there’s a lot of stress, there can be excess REM sleep and a deficit of deep slow wave sleep. This can result in waking up tired. The question is, what’s likely behind this? What could be straining the emotional processing system?

Possible psychological reasons for waking-up tired

If there is an imbalance of REM and deep sleep, & a lot on your mind, some possible culprits to blame could be;

  • Feeling trapped and unable to change an unhappy situation*
  • Not having anyone to talk to & having to ‘bottle things up’
  • Frequent experiences of anxiety
  • Chronic worrying
  • Chronic loneliness
  • Chronic stress
  • Post traumatic stress disorder

*There could be many little culprits that are not yet identified

*Feeling trapped & unable to change a situation is an important one. Future posts will explore reasons

Other factors that could be contributing to waking up tired

Other reasons that could contribute to waking-up unrefreshed might include;

  • Sleep deprivation; ‘REM rebound’
  • Regularly drinking excess alcohol
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Lifestyle factors; inactivity, lack of daylight, dietary factors

Defining chronic fatigue

It might be helpful to describe ‘chronic fatigue’ as any form of unrelenting tiredness that’s not relieved by sleep which impairs a person’s quality of life. It maybe useful to use the term ‘chronic fatigue’ more generally to refer to any type of unrelenting tiredness problem

  • that hinders a person’s quality of life
  • that can lead to a pattern of behaviors that perpetuate it

Regardless of it’s cause, feeling tired all the time can have the same negative impacts and can be perpetuated by the same patterns.

Chronic fatigue vs. chronic fatigue syndrome

The term ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ is used specifically to describe medical conditions such as ME, fibro-myalgia and post viral fatigue, of which unrelenting tiredness is a symptom. That same pattern of unrelenting tiredness can be caused by other factors besides these medical conditions. We could. Here I’ll use the term ‘chronic fatigue’ to describe the problem of unrelenting tiredness that’s not relieved by sleep & patterns that can maintain it. We could argue that the tiredness component of depression is a type of chronic fatigue of psychological origin.

Impacts of chronic fatigue

Regardless of the cause of the tiredness, the impacts on a person’s life are the same;

  • It can be very frustrating
  • It can cause people to withdraw socially
  • It can lead people to thinking of themselves as lazy and weak
  • People might hinder people’s efforts to take steps to change any relevant unhappy circumstances
  • It could lead to a spiral of doing less, wanting to do less, doing even less which might perpetuate the tiredness
  • This could lead to a sense of helplessness, which might result in worries about the future

*REM rebound is a recognized phenomenon that can happen after a period of sleep deprivation. After a period of lack of sleep, your body catches up on all the REM sleep you’ve missed. This can lead to period of waking up groggy. If you’ve ever gone several nights of little or no sleep, then have a massive sleep binge, you’ll likely wake up groggy and listless & be puzzled. The reason, REM rebound.

The obvious solutions

If you’re in an unhappy place and start to feel tired all the time or wake-up unrefreshed despite getting plenty of sleep, the most obvious first step might be to become aware of some of the things that could be responsible & also to identify any factors that could be responsible for perpetuating the tiredness.

A helpful way of viewing depression tiredness

It might be most helpful to think of the tiredness part of depression as emotional exhaustion. That’s all it is after all. It’s not some strange biological illness that you’re destined to suffer the rest of your life. It’s a matter of identifying patterns and ways to rectify them. I hope that this helps people who’re experiencing a loss of energy to identify any possible sources and to understand why they might be feeling so tired for apparently no reason. This is really meant as a sort of trouble-shooting tool.