For me, one of the biggest paradoxes in life is society’s view of a person that is alone. The person is either viewed with pity and sorrow such as the poor old lady all alone on Christmas day. Conversely it can be seen as a great triumph, such as the stoic man bravely exploring the world all by himself. I find that often there is a very fine line between whether society celebrates of pities a person alone. They are either labelled a hero or a loner.
A friend shared a quote which prompted me to sit down and write this today. I have been pondering writing this post for so long and this quote so eloquently sums up my thoughts on the subject of being alone.
Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.
Paul Tillich, Theologian
The origin of the word alone couldn’t be more different from the negatively skewed view society often has of people being alone. The word stems from two words, ‘all (fully, wholly, entirely)’ and ‘one (one, unique).’ Which quite literally means ‘wholly oneself.’ I think this is a really beautiful, empowering way of looking at being alone. I usually feel the most whole and the most myself when I am alone. For me, being alone feels really free and empowering, nothing for anybody to feel sorry for. I often feel more alone when I am in the company of people that I do not resonate with than when I am actually by myself.
I personally spend what is probably seen by others as an unhealthy amount of time on my own. I love nothing more than venturing out on my own with a map, a flask of tea and my own thoughts for company all day. I crave alone time so much. Any person that has worked in customer service for as long as I has would surely crave a little alone time on a regular basis. When you are constantly surrounded by other people all day, it is super lush to seek a little solitude and quiet at the end of the day.
The older I get the less I seem to care about what other people think of me. However I sometimes still catch my mind getting stuck and pondering for a little too long about my love of being alone. Am I weird? Why do I prefer to be on my own so much? Do my peers think I’m a sad loner? Do people think I am depressed? Do people think I can’t stand them and I can’t wait to get away from them? I really hope not!
I love to spend time alone for so many reasons, maybe you can identify with a few of these.
- I have my best nature experiences when I am alone. I’m not making lots of noise chatting to a friend and I’m not distracted by another person. This means that I have been lucky to have some some truly amazing animal encounters whilst alone. I’ve also seen some beautiful and amazing feats of nature that I am sure I would have missed, had I not been all by myself. Whenever I see something breathtaking whilst I am alone I do often wish I could be sharing that experience with my nearest and dearest. On reflection however I think that had another person been with me we may have been so caught up in talking that we would have missed the spectacle completely.
- I get pushed outside my ‘comfort zone.’ When I am alone, I am the only one responsible for myself. I often go further than I would with company and take more risks than if I were with other people (in a perfectly safe way mum – don’t worry!). I get to truly know my limits and what my body is capable of.
- My interactions with other people are greatly enriched. When alone I seem to have many more conversations with strangers than I do when I am with other people. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet, right?! Last time I took myself off on a solo camping adventure I briefly met some people on the trail (they joked about stealing my waterproof jacket). I spied them in the pub later and boldly asked if I could join them for dinner. We had a really awesome evening and some amazing conversations. I would have missed the chance to interact with them if I had my own mates with me already.
- For me, being alone is a form of self care. It is time for me to decompress, clear out all of the thoughts that are so often swirling around in my mind and have a quiet moment of solitude. I’m not saying it is for everybody, I know self care is different for every person. If I do not have a good balance of time spent alone vs time spent with others I tend to get a bit overwhelmed. I cannot be a good friend, employee, daughter, sister or lover if I do not practice self care and make enough time for myself on a regular basis.
- I experience a feeling of self reliance. I trust in myself. I know that I am able to navigate through new experiences knowing that if anything were to happen I would be OK. I can get myself out of any tricky situation that I have gotten myself into. I feel that I can care for and nurture myself wherever I am.
I think that time spent alone is like marmite for most people. You either love it or you hate it. Even as a child I have always really enjoyed being alone. That does not mean that I have always embraced being alone. When I was a teenager I had the whole totally self conscious and very awkward thing going on. The fierce independence and confidence I once felt waned and I became hyper aware of my peers and what they might think of me. I worried they would think I was super weird. I didn’t want to be a loner or an outcast so I denied my urges of solitude for a long time. It has taken me many years to shake off those negative feelings about being alone. Now I really embrace alone time. I relish a day spent alone and for that I am unapologetic.
Of course, being alone isn’t for everybody either. Different personalities have different requirements for the amount of time they spend solo and with others. I have friends that absolutely detest being alone. Do what feels right for you. If you do crave more time alone however, give it a go. You might just really have a great time. Don’t worry about what other people might think about you. Life is far too short for that.
Questions for you;
- Do you prefer to spend time alone or with others?
- What do you like to do if you have a whole day off to yourself?
- Have you ever solo camped? Do you have any tips for people wanting to try it that might be feeling nervous?
I wish you some beautiful adventures in 2019, whether alone or with great people.