People who isolate themselves when they’re unhappy in life usually have these 10 traits

When you’re feeling down what is your instinctive response? Would you call a friend to talk, or hide yourself away?

We all deal with things differently. Plenty of people prefer to shut themselves off when they’re feeling down.

But whilst a little bit of alone time is perfectly okay, social isolation when you’re unhappy can make things worse.

Here’s what prompts some people to opt for isolation over connection.

1) They’re insecure

When your self-esteem is low, it is harder to lean on people.

People with existing social anxieties are less likely to feel safe reaching out. But even people who don’t can still feel nervous and worried about the judgment of others.

We’re hardwired to be scared of rejection.

Sometimes this insecurity can lead us to hide away what we feel are negative parts of our personality.

We worry that unless we’re fun and happy all the time, people won’t want us around.

Of course, nobody can be happy 24-7. But whilst logic tells us this, on an emotional level it doesn’t always feel like that.

These sorts of negative beliefs and thoughts can lead to you telling yourself very harsh things, as we’re about to see.

2) They can be very self-critical 

Often those who isolate themselves when they’re unhappy in life are really hard on themselves.

They may be beating themselves up about the way they’re feeling.

Rather than know that we can all experience low points, they make themselves wrong over it.

This can bring with it a sense of shame and guilt over their unhappiness.

It’s a common experience for people like perfectionists who hold themselves to impossible standards.

One study noted that unrealistic expectations of being perfect often lead to depression, social disconnection, and a lack of belonging.

3) They worry about being a burden

Much like perfectionists, people pleasers also have a habit of keeping things to themselves.

They’re so used to being the ones who are there for everyone else, but they struggle to accept the same support.

That’s because they get their sense of self-worth from seeking other people’s approval.

When we rely too heavily on what we believe other people think of us, we become terrified of saying or doing anything that we worry may rock the boat.

So afraid of seeming like a burden to others, they hide what they are really feeling inside, as explained by therapist Ashley Hudson.

“People pleasing behavior is a defensive mechanism to keep your emotional distance from others and only share information that people want to hear. The root of the problem with people pleasing is fear of rejection and abandonment. Essentially, people pleasers deny they have any bad, painful, negative, or hard feelings in their life for fear of burdening others with their problems.“

4) They find it harder to trust

people who lack emotional intelligence phrases People who isolate themselves when they’re unhappy in life usually have these 10 traits

Those with trust issues are far less likely to lean on people when the chips are down.

And for obvious reasons. In their eyes, they feel that the risk of turning to other people for help far outweighs any potential benefit.

Instead, the safest option seems to be to keep it to yourself.

When someone finds trusting difficult, they tend to be more suspicious of others. This doubt they feel towards people means they naturally pull away.

As highlighted in Psych Central:

“Chronic distrust can affect how you view yourself and all the relationships in your life. You might find you frequently doubt other people will come through on their obligations, for example, or you may be afraid of getting too close to others or feel suspicious when someone is kind to you.”

5) They’re hyper-independent

We’re often told about how important independence is.

That’s because it can make you self-motivated, boost your confidence, and reduce your stress levels.

But independence can go too far, and fall into hyper-independence.

Rather than being born out of strong self-esteem, it often springs from unhealthy detachment styles. It can also happen as a stress response to certain traumas.

When someone is hyper-independent, no matter what’s going on, they tell themselves:

“I can deal with this on my own.”

When someone sees themselves as self-reliant to the extreme, they will avoid going to others for help.

Although it’s a defense mechanism to try to cope, as cognitive psychologist Amy Wardell explains, it often has some undesirable side effects.

“It can lead to social isolation and hinder our ability to form meaningful connections with others. The walls we construct to protect ourselves can become barriers to the support and warmth that human relationships offer.”

6) They might be natural introverts

Our personality dictates so much of our communication style and how we approach our social connections.

That’s why whether someone is extroverted or introverted can make a big difference in how they deal with feelings of unhappiness.

Extroverts are generally more inclined to seek out others. But introverts find it easier to gather their thoughts when they’re on their own.

Because it takes them longer to process social interactions, they can find it more overwhelming to be around people.

So instead they withdraw to focus their energy on their inner world. This isn’t always a bad thing either.

As an introvert myself, I know that when I am feeling unhappy I often need to take some time to sit with my emotions before talking to others about it.

So I will isolate myself a little as I reflect upon and seek to understand my feelings.

However, in some circumstances being introverted can put you at greater risk of social isolation.

7) They may be quite cynical

Our overall worldview is another factor that deeply shapes how we interact with others and the world around us.

Cynicism has been linked to poor health, poor habits, chronic depression, and even heart attacks.

This negative belief system leads people to think that others are only interested in themselves.

They may increasingly see people as insincere, or even as a threat.

It stands to reason that if we have little faith in others, we’re far less inclined to open up to them.

Sadly, cynicism can take hold over time after negative experiences, as pointed out in Psychology Today.

“Cynicism grows. It seems contagious. It is often a reaction that involves feeling hurt or betrayed, which grows into distrust, pessimism, and then cynicism.”

We may mistakenly believe that nobody really gives a damn about us, so pull back.

8) They are highly sensitive people

signs youre a highly sensitive person who feels things others dont People who isolate themselves when they’re unhappy in life usually have these 10 traits

Much like introverts, highly sensitive people are another group that might be more likely to isolate themselves when they’re unhappy.

Being highly sensitive is far from a bad thing. It holds many benefits such as increased empathy, creativity, and depth.

However, feeling emotions this intensely can have its drawbacks.

When you’re a HSP, you can also

  • Overthink
  • Become overwhelmed more easily
  • Feel misunderstood
  • Want to avoid conflict or other people’s emotions and judgments

All of these things mean that it can feel easier to isolate when you’re not feeling your best.

9) They can’t fake it but they’re afraid to open up

It takes vulnerability to share how we’re feeling with others.

It can be difficult to admit that we are struggling, not only to people close to us but even to ourselves.

So it may be tempting to try to hide yourself away instead.

Some people aren’t prepared to talk about it, but they understandably can’t bring themselves to put on a “brave face”.

Faking it when we are hurting inside is the worst.

So instead it feels easier to be alone, where they don’t feel the pressure to pretend that they are happy when they’re not.

But as pointed out by vulnerability researcher Brené Brown, when we can’t open up we cut ourselves off from connection and support.

“How many of you want more love, intimacy, joy, in your lives? You can’t have that, if you don’t let yourself be seen. How can you let yourself be loved if you can’t be seen?”

10) They feel misunderstood by those around them

It can feel like you were born a natural loner. But very often, lone wolves are created too.

Certain life experiences or traumas can make you feel like you cannot rely on others or that you are better off alone.

The more you withdraw into yourself, the harder social relationships feel to make.

Sometimes being a loner is driven by a strong belief that you’re an outsider and different from others.

This tends to lead to a belief that nobody understands you.

True loneliness doesn’t come from simply being alone. Plenty of people experience it when they are surrounded by people.

At it’s route, it’s about feeling disconnected.

When someone is unhappy but they feel like others won’t understand, they are more likely to withdraw into themselves.

They may feel like nobody really gets them or what they are going through.

But this can be an assumption. Rather than try to lean on those around them, they prefer to internalize it.

It’s good to talk

As someone who needs alone time when dealing with uncomfortable emotions, I know it’s not always a bad thing to withdraw a little.

At the end of the day, it can simply be a coping strategy that helps us to feel better.

But we also have to be mindful. When you start to cut yourself off from others you deprive yourself of potentially vital support that you may need.

That’s why learning to open up more and becoming more comfortable with vulnerability can help you bridge the connection gap.

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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