“Loneliness is dangerous. It’s addicting. Once you see how peaceful it is, you don’t wanna deal with people.” – Hedonist Poet
When thinking of someone who enjoys doing things alone, what words come to mind? Loner? Recluse? Mouse? Shrinking Violet? Hermit? All of the above? Or is there another term that you would use?
Unsurprisingly you associated these words with people who enjoy being alone. Human beings are seen as “social creatures”, meaning that people are more likely to be around other people and thrive in public settings. People view wanting to spend time and share experiences with other people as natural.
So, those who sit alone when eating, go to the cinema alone, who commonly fit into the Introvert personality type, quite often gain pity of people around them for being “lonely” as they don’t fit into the “Social Creatures” of what humans are expected to be.
People who don’t fit the category of a “Social Creature” are quite often pitied for being “lonely”. Another thing which quite often happens is that people try to “fix” them for their love, sometimes need, of solitude. It is key to remember that this is through no fault of their own. Those who fear to be alone quite often project the fear they experience onto people who enjoy being alone. They believe that everyone feels the same fear and sadness when alone and just want to help.
1. We’re Perfectly Fine Sitting Alone, Really.
The number of times random people, my only acquaintance is a single person who I have one lesson a week with and hardly speak to in that lesson, have offered me a seat at their table just because they have seen me sitting alone in the school dining area, or in the computer room is innumerable. They worry about me for being alone. Politely, I explain that I am perfectly comfortable sitting alone. I enjoy it. When alone I can complete any little mundane task without procrastinating. I can listen to my music whilst I work and I love just sitting there with my own thoughts. However, the people who offer their company seem extremely taken back and concerned for my wellbeing when I express my assurance on being alone.
“That’s so sad!” I get told because people “should want to socialize and be in groups.” This is despite a UK study which showed that nine out of ten adults are perfectly contented being alone with their own company, and 59% are comfortable living alone. Being alone allows you to drop social guard and allow you to think for yourself. You can make better choices for yourself when alone as when in a group setting, with so many opinions around it is uncommon for choices to be influenced by those around you. Which is why there should be an emphasis on being alone, especially for your own wellbeing.
2. Being Around People Too Often is Draining.
I enjoy the solitude which comes with sitting alone at a table for two in a café. When alone in a café, I love that I am able to look out of the window and look at those passing by. I love that I am able to order whatever I want without the judgment of it being too much or too little and I love being able to slowly stroll home with my headphones in and listen to my favorite songs.
As I mentioned in a previous article, feeling drained in public settings is a large problem for Introverts. It is quite often seen as rudeness, even though it is unintentional as Introverts and Extroverts differ in group settings. An Extrovert feels energized in group settings as they need the attention and feeds off of it, and Introverts, however, find group settings demanding and draining. We need to be able to be alone to recharge.
3. TV Presents Introversion and Solitude as a Hubris.
Why are people concerned about seeing people alone? I believe it is to do with the TV Trope of the ‘Loner Freak’ which you see as the outsiders, villains or anti-heroes. These characters quite often display introverted traits. However, the writing and directing of this style of character mean they exhibit Introversion as a fatal flaw. It is a hubris of the villain. They present it as the same as they would a jealous and lustful ex-lover in a Romantic Drama who unsurprisingly loses his quest to ruin his ex’s life with her new love.
Displaying the character sitting alone in a social setting, or insisting to be left to their own devices quickly implies the idea of something not quite right with this character. If this character is left alone for too long, they go mad, insane and become a threat to society. They present people who enjoy being alone as lacking social skills. The people expressing their personalities of being ‘loners’ are seen as refusing to conform to social standards they hate.
People often interpret this as a deep and angered rebellious act to “stick it” to a world which they hate with all their heart. However, there is actually no such deep meaning behind it, just rather Introverts not feeling comfortable when in group settings. Because of these representations, Introverts who enjoy being alone are assumed as being juvenile or having sly ulterior drives for their actions.
These TV Tropes have warped social and cultural norms of the world, making being alone in public a social crime as it is seen as a conscious challenge to the dominant social order and the values which go along with it.
4. The Social Stigma of Loving to be Alone
There is such a stigma around enjoying being alone, enjoying your own company, especially in public. But is it truly as devastating as you think? Of course not. People like to force the idea that being alone means being lonely, even if you don’t feel lonely when you’re alone, they impose the indication of isolation. You are more than entitled to refuse company if you do not want it. It does not mean you have no friends. It does not mean you are a pitiful soul filled with heartbreak. We’ve somehow begun to accept the Extroverted Ideal of to be happy and fulfilled you need to be surrounded by thousands of people. If they don’t find happiness in crowds, then they are something to pity.
But why is this is such a taboo thing to do? To enjoy being alone? Why do we socially punish them for their delight of separateness from the world? Particularly in public spaces?
Let’s say I spent my entire weekend at home on the sofa, binging Stranger Things for the fifteenth time with a Pizza that I ordered online. This would have been seen as “Me Time” as it’s inside. It is away from societal judgment where you can avoid making people uncomfortable with your seclusion.
Let’s say, however, if I was to walk to the Vintage Tearooms and treat myself to a nice little lunch there, sit by myself at a table for two and disengage from people then it would be seen as unacceptable. It would be viewed as disturbing for those around who feel their social interactions with loved ones as they have to see someone alone in a group setting.
5. A Love of Solitude is Seen as an “Issue” Which Needs “Curing”
When getting my nails done the manicurist engaged me into a conversation about being alone and Introverted. I told them how people, including teachers, have judged me for being able to do things alone. Explaining, I enjoy being alone, and that I am not lonely when alone. If I want company I spend with my best friend, Skye, in Costa to chat and occasionally going shopping. I told them how teachers had made me feel as though there was something wrong with me rather than the way they taught things. After this, the woman who just had her nails finished tapped me on the shoulder before leaving and said, “Take care sweetie, and remember, there is nothing wrong with you, do not change for anyone.” And I promised that I wouldn’t.
With the looming constant contact with social media, I personally think that everything should take time to be with by themselves as it is needed. For Introverts, spending too much time with people can be draining, it can be exhausting and irritating, and this can lead to grumpiness and, in turn, arguments.
6. You Can do Things Which You Solely Want to do.
I fully endorse spending time alone. Why not? If there is something you want to do but none of your friends or family want to do.
That film you want to see but no one else does? Go see it alone and you can enjoy something for yourself for a change. This way you won’t worry that you have just forced someone into watching a movie which they just hated.
There’s a place you want to visit but no one else seems interested in traveling to Paris, New Orleans, Vienna or Greece? Then book a solo trip for yourself. Plus then you won’t have to compromise on what you want to see with anyone. The trip will be purely what you want. You aren’t going to be rushing to the place which your sibling or your best friend wants to see. You can spend as much time as you want to look at the Eiffel Tower, walking around the Garden District, sitting in a Kaffeehäuser drinking coffee or strolling through Athens.
Enjoy your solitude, as in a world which is constantly running and forcing interaction. You may not get much alone time.
Remember, just because someone is alone, doesn’t mean they are lonely.