By Clare He
“I love being alone.” Whenever that statement comes out of my mouth, it never fails to come with a slew of weird looks or comments like “That’s so sad” or “Aren’t you lonely?”, and honestly, I’m tired of it. The social stigma of being unstable, depressed, and unable to sustain positive relationships is profoundly inaccurate. Being comfortably solitary actually indicates having a lot of inner peace and stability. Additionally, the words “lonely” and “alone” may have some overlap, but they are vastly different. Loneliness is the emotion of feeling disconnected or uncomfortable when you are by yourself or with others. Alone, on the other hand, just means being by yourself. The two are not synonymous even though they are often treated that way.
Ever since we were children, these two words have been ingrained in us as one and the same. By punishing children to go to their rooms or sending them away to think about their actions, we have associated aloneness with negative connotations from a very young age. Rather, it should be treated as a reward: time for yourself is spent on your terms and that is an incredibly freeing feeling. In fact, the desire to be alone has always come naturally to me. I actually crave it sometimes. My definition of ultimate happiness is just knowing I can read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie, or simply think for as
long as I’d like, whenever I’d like to. Learning to love being alone is where I developed a true admiration for myself; I developed the ability to accept who I was, find confidence in that stability, and feel excitement for who I could become. Solitude creates space to reflect, dream, and open yourself up to all the wonders your mind has to offer.
While there is truth in the adage that “humans are social creatures”, Sara Maitland, author of “How to Be Alone” best sums up my thoughts. She says, “Everybody says it is natural for the human species to be social, yet we put enormous amounts of effort into training our children to be sociable. We tell them, ‘don’t fight, say thank you, share your toys… ’, we send them to a playgroup. We’re depriving them of the skills for being alone.” Just as society tells us to learn to work in teams, to collaborate with others, we also need to know how to build a bond with ourselves. And even though prolonged periods of solitude are proven to harbor harmful effects, I believe it is worthwhile to invest time in your relationship with yourself. After all, you are the person you spend the most time with—even the most extreme of extroverts will be alone at times. Learning how to feel fulfilled in the absence of company is essential to fully knowing and loving who you are.
It is challenging to go solo, but there are many ways you can get started. Limiting your social media and electronic device use is a great way to begin. This is especially helpful if you experience FOMO from social media posts. I’ll admit that watching a movie or tv show is quite relaxing, but investing time in technology-free pursuits can improve your connection with yourself on a deeper level. For example, many artistic pursuits like dancing, painting, and writing are great ways to spend your free time while exercising your creativity. It may even help you feel more accomplished or productive. If creative hobbies aren’t really up your alley, don’t worry – how you choose to spend time alone is not one-size-fits-all. There are also more physical pastimes like working out, biking, or taking a short walk to help you clear your mind and get more in touch with yourself and nature. Take time to pursue what you like or challenge yourself to try something new. Most importantly, think. It might not be so scary after all.
If you are just like me, a natural hermit who enjoys a bit of private time, know that you are not antisocial, loveless, or friendless. You can use your introverted nature to find a greater sense of inner peace and that is a priceless gift. Solitude is a privilege in the chaotic modern world. Cherish it and love yourself when you are in it.