Loneliness is not a new experience, but it is one that seems to be increasing as time goes by, especially with the recent pandemic lockdowns, social media, and isolation a lot of us have experienced.

On top of this, we have a world that’s increasingly connecting people through technology, and while that in itself has some great benefits, it doesn’t seem to be able to completely replace old-school face-to-face contact with other people.

These two things, among others, have contributed to a growing feeling of isolation in a lot of people, and these feelings can be difficult to deal with if we don’t have the tools to lean on when it’s tough.

But there are tools. There are methods we can learn to lessen the impact loneliness has on our peace of mind, and we’re going to go through them now.

I will say, before we jump into the philosophy, that if you’re lonely, there’s a good chance you’re having difficulty finding good people to spend your time with and connect with. Good people who treat each other well, care for each other, have common interests, and make an effort to make time for each other—all those kinds of things.

We know that making these kinds of connections is harder for some than others, and our personalities play a role here, but the best way to fundamentally tackle those deep feelings of loneliness is to find your people, not any people, be selective about it, and find your group.

The second best thing you can do is learn to be comfortable alone, learning to manage the feeling of loneliness, something that’s easier for some than others, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.

The only person you’re with 100% of the time is you. Some of us don’t like being in our own company, but it’s not only possible to get ourselves to a place where we’re comfortable in that company; it’s necessary for a resilient life.

Being uncomfortable in our own company not only makes it difficult to be alone, it also makes us depend on others for distraction, or on our phone, computer, or TV. It’s not a good place to be. It will undermine our peace of mind.

This isn’t to say we’re better off alone; we’re still social animals and need companionship, friends, and community, but learning to be comfortable in our own company helps us manage the time we are alone.

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.

Seneca The Younger

Loneliness and Stoicism

We’ve all, at some point in our lives, experienced the uncomfortable feeling of loneliness. We might have been in a room full of people. We could have been in a crowded city. Or we could have been physically alone, craving company.

There’s a certain heaviness that loneliness imposes on us that pulls down on our wellbeing. Yet, while loneliness is universal, how we navigate it varies massively from person to person.

There are people who let it sink into them, let it weigh them down, and pull them into deeper despair. If we notice this in ourselves, we have to be honest and address it, not point fingers and blame the world around us for our behavior.

Sometimes it’s easy to blame the world for how we feel because it makes us feel like we don’t have to change anything about what we’re doing or who we are. This is often a trap. Our thoughts and actions are within our control and ours to leverage.

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.”


Others take the feeling and use it to create art, poetry, or music.

Others still see the feeling of loneliness as an indicator that they need to work on some part of themselves, look for ways to lessen the feeling, or even use it as a path of self-improvement. This last option is what we’re going to work on.

The ancient Greeks had a word for loneliness, “Eremia” – indicating a state of solitude, but they also developed a philosophy that was potent enough to limit the negative influence it can have on our peace of mind.

We’ll explore the Stoic approach to loneliness, drawing from the wisdom of ancient Stoic philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca, and learn how to apply it to our own day-to-day experiences. Our exploration of Stoicism is not designed to offer a magic remedy for loneliness—no philosophy can promise that—but rather to equip you with tools to better understand and navigate the complex emotion.

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What is Loneliness?

So what is loneliness? It can be a difficult feeling to try to articulate.

It’s not just the absence of company; it is a pervasive feeling of being disconnected, of being separate from the people around you and often not knowing why. Whether you are at a party buzzing with chatter and clinking glasses or sitting in silence in your own living room, the feeling can creep up on you, slipping into your mind and making you feel like an outsider peering into a world where everyone else seems to belong. It can seep through the cracks of bustling conversations and the spaces between laughter, making you feel out of sync. It’s a state of estrangement—an aching void that people and things cannot easily fill.

Robin Williams once said:

“I used to think the worst thing in life is to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”

This feeling is not unique to any individual. Every one of us, regardless of age, nationality, or social status, grapples with loneliness at various points in our lives. The CEO in the corner office and the janitor in the hallway, the famous movie star and the manic fan, the elderly widow and the teenage outcast, all share this experience. Despite being an emotion that isolates, it counterintuitively unites us. We all know what it feels like to be lonely, and this shared understanding can form a thread of empathy between people.

With this information, what can we do about it?

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The Virtue of Stoic Wisdom

The Stoics believed that one of the fundamental virtues needed for living a good life was wisdom. A skill that we can develop and that has two parts:

The first part of wisdom is the ability for a person to see the world around them clearly, to put aside their biases, judgments, and preconceptions, and to look at the world for what it is, not how they wish it to be.

Socrates believed that wisdom was simply our ability to see the truth in things. To see truth, we have to tear down anything that warps it – these are the things we’ve just mentioned, our judgments and biases, etc.

The second part is to put this knowledge to use and make reasoned judgments and choices based on the information we have available to us.

In this way, the Stoic virtue of wisdom can help us deal with loneliness. How? Through working on ourselves.

In the spirit of this virtue, you have to face the reality of who you are, what kind of person you are, and, after you’ve been honest with yourself, whether or not you are happy with what you see. Are you happy with the person you find yourself to be, and are you happy in their company? If not, it will be difficult for you to be comfortable by yourself.

No one else is going to figure this out for you; you have to look within and figure out your own answers.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Marcus Aurelius

It’s important to note that this is not an exercise in beating yourself up and flogging yourself with your past. Look at yourself honestly, but with compassion and understanding. At the end of the day, this is about self-improvement, not blame, guilt, or self-hatred.

I do this activity pretty regularly, and I never blame other people, make excuses, or beat myself up about the things I’m not proud of. I accept it as a reality, understand that past me didn’t know any better and people are works in progress, and try to learn a better way so present and future me can improve.


This self-examination highlights something about the way we speak to ourselves that I think is important to note: if you can’t be compassionate with yourself and you’re always beating yourself up about the things you’ve done and the person you are or were, you are not going to want to be alone in your own company. You will not be a good companion for yourself and will likely feel guilt, remorse, frustration, self-pity, self-hatred, and a host of other counterproductive emotions.

If I gave you the option to spend your time with a person who points fingers at you, blames you, shouts at you, and dislikes you, or with a person who encourages you, lifts you up, works with you to find a better way, and forgives you if you’re making an effort to change, who are you going to want to be with?

You have to be that second person for yourself.


The Stoics are famous for their approach to life through the lens of control. They accept what they cannot control and take ownership of what they cannot.

Epictetus once said:

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions. The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.”

If we take this principle and apply it to our own lives, we’ll find we only have control over our thoughts and actions. The behavior of other people is not something we have control over.

In the context of loneliness, this means that we have to take ownership of a few things:

  1. If our loneliness is born from our inability to sit comfortably in our own company, we are responsible for how we feel about ourselves and becoming the kind of person who is comfortable in their own company.

  2. If our loneliness is because we struggle to make social connections, we are responsible for becoming the kind of person that others feel comfortable being around. This doesn’t mean faking or acting like someone else in order for people to like us; it’s about becoming the kind of person who can be a constructive part of a group, be a good friend, and be a good partner.

  3. We also have ownership over finding our group. It may well be that our difficulty with being part of a group is because we are trying to fit into groups that don’t share our values, interests, goals, or view of the world.

Epictetus also said:

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”

We have to take ownership of the choices that are our own.


So, if we develop the wisdom to see ourselves clearly and be honest with ourselves about who we are, we can develop the compassion to be a good companion to ourselves, and we can be responsible and deliberate in the way we improve upon the things we’re not happy with in who we are, we have a very good chance at becoming more comfortable in our own company. In addition, we’re probably going to be better company for others and, as a result, form stronger social connections.

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