On Being Alone

Our culture makes us hate spending time alone. We’re pushed to be constantly surrounded by a horde of friends – frequently people we aren’t even all that close to, but that we’ve sucked in to our lives to fill free evenings that we don’t want to spend by ourselves. People run errands with other people, they go to meals, study, exercise – every experience is somehow improved through a warm body next to us.

Human beings are pack animals, yes. We are made to function in families, friendships, groups. We need social interaction to be successful. But we don’t need it all the time. Many people experience depressed feelings or intense loneliness whenever they aren’t surrounded by others – a feeling that potentially stems from the fact that they make themselves uncomfortable. They don’t understand how to exist inside their own heads, because they are constantly talking and listening without every actually thinking. As much as you think going to the mall with friends or chatting over lunch gives you time to reflect and be comfortable with yourself, it doesn’t. Even if you’re an extrovert, which is great (props to you), you still need time to become comfortable in your own skin, in the silence, with your own thoughts. Don’t wait until you’re alone one day for the first time in months and you realize that you’re brain is filled with the chattering of your friends, family, coworkers – and there’s no room left for your independent thoughts.

Being alone shouldn’t make you feel inherently awkward. There was a girl I absolutely detested in high school (she was very pretty, very popular, a little empty headed, and definitely not my type) but I had a lot of respect for her because I once heard her saying that she liked to be alone sometimes and didn’t feel weird going to the movies or out to dinner by herself. The girl she was talking to made fun of her – but likely only because the thought made her uncomfortable. Being alone in public isn’t sad, it isn’t pathetic, and it doesn’t mean that no one wants to hang out with you. It means you know and accept yourself.

It also gives you the opportunity to experience things fully. If you’re at a restaurant, eat slowly. You’re not just going out to eat as an excuse to meet with ten of your best friends, you are there to experience some seriously good food. So let yourself. If you’re on a walk, look around you. You don’t have to glance at some else’s face every five seconds to gage their reactions, you can take in all the details you never noticed. At a concert – dance. Dance really hard because you aren’t going to be worrying about embarrassing your friend or boyfriend or sister. You are going to be having a damn good time

Spend some time alone, whether it’s laying on your bedroom floor or having dinner at the restaurant you secretly love but all your friends don’t care for. Don’t feel like you need to strike up a conversation with someone else – but it may lead you to meet some interesting people. Just relax. You know you’re cool – and that’s what counts right now. Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.

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