Do you feel lonely?

Do you feel lonely?

By: Sydney Young Woman Lead Highland participant
Published on:
  • Social isolation
  • Young Women Lead

Content Note: Descriptions of loneliness and social isolation.  

In this post, Young Women Lead Highland participant Sydney discusses the group’s project on young women’s experiences of social isolation in the Highlands.

On a grey November morning, a small group gathered, slightly self-consciously, in the backroom of the Royal Highland Hotel. The plush red carpet and gilded mirrors were the backdrop for the first meeting of the Young Women Lead Highland Programme, a leadership programme for women and non-binary people aged 16–30 years old, which provides participants with free training opportunities to help them engage with local democracy and tackle local issues. 

Over packets of biscuits and large scrawled sheets of paper, we began to explore our experiences of living in the Highlands; both the things that brought us joy and our frustrations. We spoke about being outside in the forests and beaches, but our frustration with public transport. We shyly shared our fears around loneliness; our families living far away, our difficulties in meeting new people and friends moving away to other parts of the country.


It can feel embarrassing to admit. Loneliness is a heavy feeling, weighted with shame and self-scorn. In an article for The Guardian, DJ Annie Macmanus admits “Loneliness isn’t attractive and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.” Even writing this, feels a bit embarrassing. I’m squirming in my seat, imagining people who know me reading this and pitying me for feeling alone.   

This was exactly why, as a group, we felt loneliness was an important issue to address. There was a power in the simple act of admitting feeling lonely and hearing other people say, “I feel the same”. Our shared understanding of loneliness brought us together, and we wanted to take the opportunity to draw attention to the issue, and in doing so, hopefully show people they are not alone in their feelings of social isolation.  

Planned over various evening Zoom sessions, in community spaces and hotel backrooms, we developed a project to bring together a range of voices and experiences, highlighting young women’s feelings of loneliness in the Highlands.  

The submissions we received made my heart ache:  

  • Feeling like a shadow in a dark room. You can be seen but no one looks for you.” 
  • “It means living in the most beautiful place with no one beautiful to share it with.”   
  • “Life has completely passed me by.” 
  • “Social isolation doesn’t always look like a hermit. It’s not always crying into pillows about how long you’ve been single. Sometimes it looks like a person forcing themselves to look comfortable being on their own.” 

I think my heart ached because these descriptions resonated with my own experience. And it’s ok to admit, whether quietly or loudly if they resonate with you too.  

To share these stories with the people who need to hear them, we have pulled together a zine, Young Women’s Experiences of Social Isolation in the Highlands, which we will distribute across the Highlands. By giving voice to these feelings, we take away some of their power. Yes, we all feel lonely, but it shouldn’t be embarrassing to admit. Going back to Annie MacManus’ article (I love her okay), she describes her first step in taking control of her loneliness was to admit it, which came with an instant relief when her experience was also shared by others – she wasn’t alone after all.  

At the end of this month, my partner who I’ve lived with for the past three years is moving back to London. I feel very scared that the feelings of loneliness which have haunted my life in the Highlands will grow stronger. I’m trying to be hopeful that just admitting this is the first step to keeping it firmly at bay.   

Sydney Henderson, Young Women Lead Highland participant

Related posts

  • In this article, originally written for The National to mark our 100th anniversary, tartan designer Emma Wilkinson discusses being a young woman in one of Scotland’s most traditional industries, and the process of creating our 100th anniversary tartan.

    • Heritage
  • In this article, originally written for The Herald for International Women’s Day 2024, our CEO Jenni Snell explores International Women’s Day and its role in the fight for gender equality.

    • Heritage
    • Leadership
    • Rights
  • In this blog, programme participant Neave Townsley shares a brief introduction to the Brave Lassies Blether campaign. Brave Lassies Blether is part of Young Women Know, a partnership programme between The Young Women’s Movement and NSPCC Scotland, delivered with Angus Council.

    • Education
    • Leadership
    • Violence prevention
    • Young Women Know
  • As I celebrate my one-year milestone as a young woman CEO, I reflect on the journey that led me here, the challenges I’ve encountered along the way, and the work that still needs to be done to create space for more feminist leadership.

    • Leadership
    • Top tips