From the time you begin to understand what cliques and groups are to when you are withering away in a rocking chair, most people are told that being alone is not good. In society, being alone tends to have a negative perspective, and people tend to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Loneliness, being antisocial, and not having friends are associated with being alone. But what if I told you everyone is wrong?
Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. They are not even on the same spectrum.
As Sharon Melin explained on Nystrom Associates, “Being ‘alone’ is a physical state where you are physically by yourself. Being ‘lonely’ is an emotional state where you are feeling alone or disconnected from others – even when they’re right next to you.”
However, both states can have both negative and positive effects. If you are physically alone because you just had a fight with your friend and they left the coffee shop you were sitting at, you might not feel too happy about being alone. If you go for a walk on the beach to escape the loud city, you can feel comfortable being alone. Moreover, you might feel lonely and uncomfortable at a party surrounded by people you do not know and do not like. If you are in your room watching tv and feel lonely, it does not mean you do not have friends or family; it just means you are sitting in your room watching tv. Think back to a time when you felt alone and another when you were lonely. Can you remember your emotions during both? Can you identify the difference?
The important thing for both of these concepts is your relationship with yourself. Society stresses humans’ desire for solidarity and a significant other, yet it fails to showcase the importance of the relationship humans should have with themselves. How can you expect someone to be comfortable and understand you if you cannot do that?
Many humans, whether they admit it or not, live in fear of themselves. They dread the dark nights when it is just them and their mind whispering things no one else can hear. Many dread the thoughts that reveal a piece of themselves they wish they could hide. Others dread the moments when they have to evaluate themselves and think if what they are doing is right or wrong and if who they are is right or wrong.
Although this is normal, many people fail to understand that. Instead of taking the time to understand themselves, they run away. And while running away may seem like you are problem-free, you eventually run into your problems. Either you run headstrong and prepared, or they catch you by surprise and make you fall. But it all depends on you.
This idea I have been describing is called autophobia. According to Cleveland Clinic, “autophobia, or monophobia, [is the fear of being alone and] makes you feel extremely anxious when you’re alone.” Cleveland Clinic also explains how this phobia is different from loneliness. “When you’re lonely, you feel unhappy or sad about the quantity or quality of social connections in your life. When you have autophobia, you feel anxious or scared when you’re alone or when you think about being alone. You feel this way regardless of how many loved ones and friends are in your life,” their website states.
Cleveland Clinic illustrates how this phobia can cause harm in several aspects of an individual’s life. “This fear of being alone can affect your relationships, social life, and career.” People can stay in abusive relationships out of fear of being alone, and people can obsess over other relationships causing harm to the other person and more.
If you know yourself, being alone and feeling lonely do not always have to be tied to negative thoughts and feelings. If you understand that both states do not always mean bad things, you can use that time to do more meaningful things instead of wasting time thinking if you have enough friends or look a certain way.
Until we abolish these ideologies that society shoves down our throats, we will not be able to embrace life fully. When you sit down and quiet your mind and listen to who you are, you will begin to understand yourself. Once you understand yourself, you will know what you want. If you want to go to a library and read a book by yourself or if you want to be in a room full of people meeting new friends and hearing new adventures, it is all up to you. Once you know who you are, you do not have to waste time doing things you do not like or feelings you do not understand.
The Jed Foundation emphasizes how beneficial and vital being alone is. Their website says, “one of the greatest benefits of spending time alone is how it helps you develop a better understanding of who you are. The more you know and understand yourself, the more likely you are to do things that you love, learn things that interest you, and spend time with people who make you feel good.”
When I was 15, I was terrified of being alone because I thought it meant loneliness. I thought being alone told me I had no friends and no one liked me. I quickly figured out that being alone was fun. I began roaming around the city, sitting in parks, and enjoying dinners by myself. I have many memories throughout my life where I have been happier alone than with people. As I was increasingly alone, I understood the difference between feeling lonely and being alone. I learned that I could enjoy my own company. I soon learned that even if I have friends, I can still feel lonely; that emotion can arise whether I am physically alone or in a room full of friends.
Being alone gave me time to understand myself. I focused less on how others saw me or thought of me and instead learned to enjoy the moment in time. I learned about what I like or do not like. I discovered that I sometimes want to be a wallflower, while others want to be a protagonist. I guess all of this comes with growing up. One thing I know for sure is that understanding who I am comes with being alone, and once I embraced being alone, I focused on more purposeful things in life.
So, yes, being alone and being lonely are two different things. Being alone can be wonderful and fulfilling, but it can be sad and boring. It depends on who you are and if you know who you are. Feeling lonely can be terrible but understand it is normal. Loneliness does not mean you are alone. If you know yourself, then feeling lonely should not cause a chain of negative thoughts. When you know yourself and feel lonely, you will not wonder if you are lonely because people do not like you; you will not wonder if you are lonely because of what you say or how you act, you are lonely because loneliness is a part of the human experience.
Humans are individual beings. We come into this world alone and leave it alone, so you might as well be comfortable being alone before the loneliness kills you
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