We live in a culture of FOMO. Frequently cramming schedules to overflowing, whether said appointments truly nourish and fulfill us or not, because busyness feels important. Being busy can lend one a sense of feeling worthy.
On a slightly separate though similar thought, rarely is one ever truly alone. Our lives are those in which everywhere and anywhere we go, we are continually surrounded by others. At home, with our family, roommates, friends, or romantic partner. On the bus or train, crowded by people. At work, a continued clustering of others, ever around us. Potentially spending a significant portion of our day on the phone, or communicating and navigating interactions with others in all manner of other modes (whether email, social media, texting, etc). The majority of our time is spent in communication with and around other people.
Anywhere we might go, even if deciding to enjoy such on our own (without bringing along a companion), is still overflowing with others. Whether the library, a restaurant or café, out on a walk, to the park or gym, there will be a plethora of other people abound.
For a significant number of people throughout our culture, aloneness is associated with being a “loser.” As though if one chooses their own company, it must be because there is simply no alternative. That this could never possibly be a preferable choice if one had a truly fulfilled and awesome life. As if ever being surrounded by others is the only ideal, normal, and best way of being. Many people feel depressed at such a thought (as spending time with oneself), distressed, or even afraid to be alone with themselves. As though this indicates a deficit or lacking in us somehow.
One’s own company tends to be perceived as a last resort, or a sense of settling, as if there were no alternative. Though in truth, for a not insignificant number of others, hanging out in ones own company is far from settling and in fact, can frequently be a first choice- feeling one of comfort, respite, relaxation, and generally wonderful.
But because our culture is so shaming with regards to such, most people do not feel comfortable even admitting, nor pursuing aloneness. Instead, ever saying “yes,” even when at times, they would rather say “no.” Our society lays it on thick that something must be “wrong with you” if time spent by oneself is enjoyed and not loathed. This is a damaging thing for the emotional health of a lot of people.
Quick side note: this article is in no way a dig on those who love to socialize and prefer spending much time around others. Everyone has different temperaments. Some love to be in social situations most of the time. Others enjoy socializing but equally love their own company and spending time alone often as well. And then there are also people who tend to prefer being alone the vast majority of the time to hanging out with others. There are all different graduations of such preference, and varying types of social temperaments. Every one of which are 1. good, and 2. completely normal.
Contrary to the narrow ideas our society attempts to feed us about what it may mean (always negative) when people prefer their own company to tons of socializing, there is absolutely nothing unhealthy or negative about this. Read on to find out why.
The point of this article is that cultural misconceptions and judgments regarding those who like their time alone are: incorrect, lack truth, are misunderstood, silly, judgmental, and even hurtful.
Introvert is just as good as extrovert- both offer differing pros and cons.
Enjoying aloneness is just as valid and healthy as enjoying being around people. In fact, some studies even show that those who revel in and spend time alone often tend to be more mature, insightful, and thoughtful than those who do not ;-).
Our culture has become one in which we believe that the busier one is, the larger and shiner this figurative badge elicited by such appears on their invisible lapel. Busyness has become the ultimate status symbol. We equate busyness with popularity or likability. As though “busy” is synonymous with being important, liked, even loved. When in reality, it correlates with none of those things.
People can be incredibly busy, and yet, have little to no meaningful, truly close connections in their life. There is very much a thing of filling ones life with shallow busyness. Things and people to fill their time, but which dont especially fill their souls.
Just like conversely, a person may have only a few relationships in their life, and be incredibly happy, feel closely connected to those few, be well like and loved, and feel quite fulfilled.
Relational satisfaction, and further, life satisfaction, is about quality, not quantity.
Someone can have a packed schedule with things that are largely uninspired, exhausting, and obligatory. Being busy in no way connects to the authentic fulfillment and satisfaction with ones life. Some people with busy lives certainly lead incredibly fulfilling ones, of course. Many though, are just filling it to fill.
Instead, its the quality of the plans and people in which we invest our time, which determines the satisfaction and fulfillment of our life.
Ask yourself, in full, open truth (without denial or excuses): do these things in which I invest my time truly lift me, excite me, and make my heart sing? Or are they obligatory, or things I am doing simply to avoid loneliness, or a means of taking what I can get?
Do the people with whom I partake in their company inspire and uplift me? Truly listen to me? Show genuine interest and focus in me that is equal to mine in them? Are they warm and kind? Fun to be with? Trustworthy? Or am I just killing time and taking what I can get socially?
And then, whichever things/people are obligatory, disheartening, or do not excite or fulfill you? Reduce these as much as possible, or even ax them altogether if able. This will improve your life, and your sense of satisfaction, significantly.
Refer to the graph below to help you with figuring out what to ax (aka, become an “Essentialist”):
So. What is the result of all this busyness? As well as not learning to feel comfortable in ones own skin, and to enjoy and even relish ones own company from time to time? (A crucial thing because the one relationship that is certain to endure and be ever constant throughout your life? The one you have with yourself. So it best be one you love).
–It robs us of the chance to actually think and ruminate at any real length or with any true depth.
–It keeps us from ourselves, preventing personal growth, self examination, consideration of both who we are and wish to become.
–It distracts us.
–Even at its most extreme, overloads and distresses us, though we may not know it (this can be very subconscious).
Alone time is an eliciting of something deeper and an invitation. It’s a beckoning and enticement to engage in the things which you’ve longed to. The world, or even simply the realm of your mind, is your oyster.
One can ruminate all they wish, without fear of boring their companion, or being silent for too long a period of time and thus, “awkward.” One can write, read, or ponder till their mind is content. One has the freedom to say, go on a jog, cook a meal in whatever fashion or for any length of time they choose. To pause in a bookshop and comb the shelves without fear of being dull company. One can sew, watch their favorite guilty pleasure TV show, paint, stare out the window, drink tea, do yoga on a mat in their bedroom, make a piece of jewelry, go for a walk in the snow, you name it. Talk about an outstretching of arms, in offering of the ultimate freedom and choice.
Few people wish to be isolated or reclusive entirely. This is not what enjoying time alone means or indicates though. Time alone, when chosen, can be a luxury, a respite, and an awesomely freeing experience to have regularly. Plenty of us enjoy time spent with close friends, all while equally reveling in time spent apart from them. This is normal and totally alright. Some 85% of adults, both men and women and across all age groups, reported to Pew Research Center that its important for them to be completely alone sometimes.
And yet, even while its clear that a majority of us long for alone time, many of us are reluctant to do certain things on our own, for fear of the perceptions of others.
What we frequently forget though or even fail to realize altogether is that this is largely an inaccurate perception. “People overestimate the extent to which their actions and appearance are noticed by others,” Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University wrote.
This avoidance of pursuing something for which one actually does yearn (their own company) due to the worrying of what others may think most certainly causes us to miss out. On certain enriching, potentially even life changing, rejuvenating, and awe inspiring experiences. Ones that can be felt and experienced only in the scenario of your own company.
Another main reason people tend to be tentative with regards to spending time alone: being left with only ourselves and our own thoughts freaks people out.
Many people find their own thoughts and emotions a challenge to face, tending to avoid such because some of what they might uncover or realize can include painful realizations about their life as it currently stands. Maybe with regard to a relationship, or a job that’s reached a dead end- begging for a change, or even discomforting realizations on aspects of themselves that need shifting and growth.
Those who fear their own company avoid feeling any of these things though, and thus, nothing can ever truly change within their situation or selves over the big picture of their life. In avoiding oneself, we avoid not only pain, but change and growth. We avoid doing the work of addressing ourselves, and then eventually, coming to truly enjoy and relish ourselves.
People who cannot stand their own company, avoiding such at all costs, are insecure with and afraid of themselves. Uncomfortable with their own feelings and solitary selves. And this is an crucial issue to surmount, if one is to come to the other relationships of their lives as a full, confident, and joyous individual.
Learning to face ones own company, and thus, thoughts and the state of ones soul is of paramount importance. Serving as the lighthouse beacon towards the creation of your best life. Showing and leading you toward the spots in which you might most need change or growth.
We also avoid solitude because of the stigma attached. Those who tend to spend their time alone, or “loners” if you will (the more negative connotation of such), are typically correlated with negative or even evil impressions. This can include psychopaths, hermits, depressives, desperate or lonely individuals with supposedly no friends, witches, deranged or creepy creatures, you get the idea. Our culture makes aloneness our to be a disease, untrustworthy, suspect, flat out “wrong,” and even icky.
We tend toward seeing aloneness and sociability in very black and white terms.
Sociability is seen in a positive light, this being the ideal and no-brainer longed for scenario. The one that must, no doubt, mean the person is happy, fulfilled, and with a good life.
Aloneness, the other side of the coin, is typically imagined as an image akin to a lonely person, hunched over on their couch every Friday and Saturday night. This person spending time alone, most certainly living a life void of love, friend, and happiness. Their life, surely one of wanting and within which a gaping void most certainly lives.
We tend to view these situations as either/or. A person fitting into one or the other. No one can possibly be social, likable, and fulfilled in their life, while still loving to be alone. And no one who spends copious amounts of time alone can possibly have quality relationships too, as well as be happy.
Silly of course, since while social interactions can be nourishing, joyous, and heart rending, tons of social interactions are also vapid, boring, can be a total waste of time, as well as exhausting and unfulfilling. Just like being alone can be dull or lonely- if it isn’t desired in that moment, or it can be incredibly freeing, nourishing, exciting, liberating, and rejuvenating.
Sitting for hours, writing the book you have so longed to eventually write. Or watching the TV series you’ve been dying to see, while eating your favorite snack. Or sitting in a cafe with a book within which you are gripped, and a delicious drink and sweet. Or spending an evening cooking and baking while listening to music. Or walking your dog while ruminating, thinking, and just relaxing in the breeziness of nature.
So socializing is not synonymous with better or more satisfying then ones own company. Not even by a long shot. Neither one is ever better than the other. Its all relative and depends on many factors. It depends on both the mood of oneself at that time, as well as ones own personal temperament (we all have varying needs for amounts of alone time or not), as well as depends on the quality of that company and those interactions.
For years, common belief has been that if you spent a great deal of time alone, something must be wrong with you either socially or mentally. And while certainly, people do tend to withdraw when depressed or socially anxious, prizing alone time is not synonymous with such. Many choose to spend time alone because they find it pleasurable. Maslow said that mature, self-actualizing people are particularly drawn to privacy and aloneness.
When one is alone, the time is entirely their own. Whatever you might like can have your full attention and engagement. One is suddenly caught up in an exciting inner adventure, said psychologist, Marie-Louise von Frenz.
Being comfortable with and even drawn to time spent in ones own company can be a cozy, refreshing and rejuvenating respite. The only sure, constant, and truly guaranteed lifelong relationship in ones life is with oneself. Thus, its quite crucial to make peace with and even come to love time spent in your own company.
One is, absolutely, company. For some, its preferred more frequently than others. There is no black and white answer to what amount of this is “good” or “normal.” Everyone differs. But the takeaway is: there is nothing wrong with people who love their own company. In fact, there are numerous ways in which people who love going solo excel and live incredibly rich, fulfilling, and emotionally satisfying existences. Think quality over quantity 😉