Q. I am 14 years old and often feel lonely. I don’t really have any friends. I’m socially awkward and I can’t open up an interesting conversation no matter how hard I try. Is something wrong with me? Name supplied
A. Thank you for asking this question, because it’s taught me something new. The immediate answer is no, you aren’t wrong to feel this way – you are not the first, and you won’t be the last.
In my first year at university, I was living with my aunt, not in a hall of residence like most students. I came home from a party and said, ‘They all knew each other, I felt really boring.’ My aunt asked, ‘Are you sure you were boring? Perhaps you were just bored.’ It was a total light-bulb moment that switched me from focusing on my personality (boring) to the temporary state of being bored.
I invite you to look at the times, even the shortest times, when you are not feeling lonely. What is capturing your interest then? Who else seems to be interested in similar things? Where do people who like those things hang out? It might be helpful to find somewhere that you are not expected to interact straight away, like a class in which everyone is focused on an activity, or a website where you can read about other people’s experiences of loneliness.
The new thing I’ve learned is that there is a UK-based charity that offers free, confidential support for young people under the age of 25 via phone, online chat or discussion boards. It’s called The Mix and is open from 11am to 11pm every day. What I like about the website is that a lot of it is written by young people, for young people. The other members of the ‘often lonely’ tribe will be delighted to hear from you because you have the courage and the ability to put your difficult feelings into words.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.