I am really bad at being alone, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Why is the company of other people such a pressing issue on my mind? It’s completely natural, of course, for an “extraverted” person (more on that later) to seek the constant company of friends. If being with a group of people provides energy for an individual, it makes sense for that person to surround themselves with others.
At its healthiest, my desire – maybe even my need – to be with other people enhances my social circles and helps me be a blessing to the people around me. At its worst, though, I begin relying on other humans to grant me meaning and validate my worth as a person. Something tells me that this isn’t fine and okay, it’s unhealthy and corrosive to my relationships with others and to my relationship with myself.
If I believe that my identity as an individual goes beyond my ability to entertain other people and manage a full social calendar, if there is anything unique and specific to my personhood that goes beyond how I define myself through my relationships with others, then maybe it’s worth it to spend time getting to know myself, by myself. Actually, it is vital and necessary to spend time alone. We often draw a false dichotomy between extraversion and solitude, as though the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Just because I draw energy from crowds and social interaction does not mean that I am exempt from exploring who I am without other people. To a large extent, solitude is necessary for personal reflection and introspection. If I want to know myself, I need to be alone. It’s not selfish, it’s healthy.
For a long time, the thought of purposely doing anything sans people was stupid and unthinkable. Being in a college environment makes it too easy and too logical to always be around others; changing the status quo doesn’t immediately make a lot of sense to my mind. It wasn’t until I found myself walking to church alone through downtown Chicago early one Sunday morning that I realized that, maybe, it would be a good idea to carve out some time to spend by myself, so I decided to make Sunday afternoon my “alone time.”
A certain degree of freedom exists in the intentional solitude I experience once every seven days. The thought of being completely untied to another human for a given period of time was uncomfortable at first, but granting myself the ability to make my own decisions and perform my own life for nobody but myself teaches me more about who I actually am as a person. Solitude is also necessary for people who expend energy in social situations. If somebody wants to make the most of the time and energy they choose to spend with others, they must first learn to be themselves, for themselves.
I want to get better at being alone. Spending one afternoon per week by myself was a tall order when I started, but I am slowly learning to explore my own desires, my own thoughts, my own person. Everybody needs some regular measure of time by themselves to stay healthy – I guess it just comes easier for some than others. Knowing oneself is an important thing. Sometimes, the only way to genuinely figure yourself out is to be the only person there.