Otherwise, shame can play a big role in perpetuating loneliness. “We compare ourselves with others and think, ‘Everybody else is doing this, or has that, or looks this way,’” Kinder says. “That kind of comparison just builds up a sense of shame and we hide. We try to fight the inadequacy we feel while putting out an image that we’re okay. Meanwhile, isolation builds.”
The holidays in particular can increase this sense of shame, Kinder says. “There’s so much stress and pressure about what we think Christmas should look like. Whether we’re part of the perfect Hallmark family, or have lots of gifts under the tree, or take the perfect vacation. We believe we’re not okay if we’re not having the experiences everyone else seems to be having.”
Masking perceived imperfections while replacing connection and community with success, power, and the accumulation of things is what makes people lonely, Kinder says. It even translates into how parents can relate to their children.
“So often we fall into the practice of thinking we need to provide more things for our children or allow them to participate in every kind of experience or activity possible,” she says, “rather than realizing kids need us to nurture them, feed them, and understand what they feel in order for them to know we’re with them.”1