Lately I’ve come across a few articles about how to deal with alone time. Either it’s advice for single people lacking a partner, or for ladies who find themselves without a husband for a night. Tips to keep you busy rather than twiddling your thumbs when you’re alone. Or how to contain your embarrassment for being seen in public without even a friend. So I have to ask: is it just me, or does anyone else actually crave alone time?
Growing up as the youngest of 5 girls, I was rarely by myself and always in the shadow of my older sisters. My opinions and moods were often stifled by their louder and more assertive ones. This made me the observer, the tag-along, the follower-but-never-the-leader kid. So it was playing alone as a child that I found a lot of happiness and self assurance. I’d hide in my room with a pound of clay and sculpt beads for hours in silence. It is alone that I found out how much I loved to make things with my hands, to do origami, and daydream. It’s by myself that I discovered things I loved, rather than seeing what those around me were doing and following along.
Humans are social creatures, yes, and we rely on our tribes for nearly everything. But I believe we should all be okay when we are alone. It is a testament of emotional strength to be alone. I’m not talking extremes like solitary confinement, or loneliness from loss or depression. I’m talking about being alone and still knowing what you want to do, what you want to eat, and how you wish to spend your time. It’s when I’m alone that I seamlessly accomplish things, that I know what’s right, that I listen to my gut. My compass is straight when I am alone – it’s just a little wobbly when I’m around other people.
I’m generally an introvert, an empath, and occasionally a sensitive person. I mean that in the sense that other people’s energy has an effect on my own. My energy is usually zapped via a draining or demanding person, and I need time to myself to recover from that. Over the years I’ve built defenses, but I still prefer to work alone in a hidden space and to have peaceful mornings where I gather my thoughts.
So I guess I’m wondering, are we talking about being okay when you are alone? Or are we talking about loneliness?
If you find that being alone scares you, ask yourself why. Often when you’re by yourself your mind is busy, searching through your brain for recent anxieties, worries, and problems that perhaps you might want to bury. It’s hard to be alone if you have a lot on your mind and it’s especially hard if you have problems you don’t want to deal with. If you have trouble being okay by yourself, take a moment to analyze your feelings. Do you simply like spending time with people? Or are you avoiding dealing with a problem? Do you not know what to do with your time because you’re used to someone else dictating it? Knowing the difference can help you move forward with any challenges you are facing. These are places to push through, to ask more questions and to dig deep to find out what is really going on with yourself.
I chose to live in a single my junior and senior years of college. It was the best decision for me and fostered great independence. I learned a lot about myself, how I spent my time, and what was important to me. Sure I missed out on funny bedtime conversations with friends, but that alone time taught me a lot about myself. It gave me space to work and come up with ideas, which for a creative person is like breathing.
When you’re used to having people around you most of the time, it can be hard to adjust. But I find that slipping away unnoticed yields the best results. I’m less likely to get roped into a project if my husband can’t find me, and I often take my time when replying to texts or emails so I don’t get overwhelmed. It’s hard for those who can’t get away, like caregivers and moms, but you have to try. Even if it’s just five minutes, it can feel like a complete refresh to your day – a centering of your thoughts so that you can better accomplish your goals.
I know I’ll be slipping out of my office to a quiet nook this afternoon…so what are your plans?
How do you feel about being alone? Do you crave social experiences or thrive on creative solitude? What are some of your tips for taking time for yourself?