Society doesn’t want you to be alone.
If you’re alone, that means you’re too shy. If you’re alone, that means you don’t have enough friends. If you’re alone, that means the rest of us should feel bad for you, because you have no one to talk to and you probably have, like, 29 cats and three bottles of hard alcohol in your house.
I, however, want you to be alone. Why? Because it’s good for you.
For a second, ignore all the memes implying how lame it is to stay in on Friday nights, the TV and wine jokes that invade casual conversation, the inquiries from your co-workers about your big plans for the weekend. Sometimes, no plans are the best plans. Sometimes, hanging out with yourself is the most gratifying way to pass a Saturday. As an introvert, this is something I can attest to.
Fundamentally, my natural introverted tendencies conflict with our culture’s idea of how we should carry ourselves outside of the working hour. My favorite thing to do after coming home from the office every day is read a book, peruse the Internet, or watch Netflix by myself in the living room. Here and there, I’ll head to the park a few blocks away from my place and just sit on the bench and enjoy the view of the city and the people and the dogs playing fetch. I think one of the greatest simple pleasures is sipping hot tea in a cafe, the two-person table empty save for my coffee cup and paperback — surrounded, yet totally alone. And for the most part, culture thinks this is all sort of pathetic, because the socially acceptable thing to do in life is, well, socialize.
Make no mistake — I fully understand the importance of maintaining human relations. I simply don’t think our entire existence should hinge on it.
Thought I may be introverted, I still actively keep in communication with loved ones. I have a serious live-in boyfriend (he works longer shifts, allowing for the “me” time I crave). Every other day, I chat on the phone with my parents, who live in the Midwest. My brother and I talk about politics on messenger frequently. Any given night, my best friend is texting me about some random topic. Occasionally, I’ll have a meal with friends in the city. And if I’m feeling particularly carefree, I may converse with a stranger at the bus stop.
Yet solo-shaming persists, because being alone — even for a little while — is perceived by some as unusual or, in lots of cases, wrong.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned to simply brush if it off when someone makes fun of me or looks down on me for my choice lack of companionship, but honestly? I shouldn’t have to. As a whole, society could learn to be a bit more accepting of the lone wolves, because not everyone needs a pack to feel content. Anyway, there are about a million other things we can shift our concerns to, no?
Becoming aware of the bountiful benefits of spending time by yourself is the first step in educating the public. Being alone clears your mind, increases creativity, makes you work harder, and can even aid in getting rid of depression, especially in teens.
The biggest misconception of all? That alone means lonely.
“Although alone and lonely are often thought of as being one in the same, alone doesn’t equal loneliness,” writes psychiatrist Abigail Brenner in a thoughtful piece for Psychologist Today. “Learning to be alone may be initially scary, but once mastered serves as the cornerstone for your development and growth as a human being. There’s so much to be gained from learning to rely, and more importantly, to trust your own inner voice as the best source for your own guidance.”
And that’s just it — I’m able to deal with my own thoughts, which I believe is something many people aren’t capable of. I’m able to cultivate my independence, count on myself for anything and everything (including a good time!), and consciously reflect on my emotions and mental state. When people pity me for the time I spend alone, I find myself feeling a little sorry for them, because they don’t understand what it takes to uphold a healthy relationship with the self. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most important connections to preserve.
In the end, I don’t need to defend my well-being when sipping tea in a cafe by the company of my book and my book alone. I’m happy.