People often confuse being alone with being lonely and vice versa. I’d like to argue that they are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Being alone is something one is by choice to separate themselves for a moment from other people. Being lonely is usually unpleasant; a sense of emotional detachment when one feels isolated and lacking in companionship. At times I find myself the loneliest when I have gone much too long without being alone, without the company of just me.
We all play a kind of charade where we consciously put on a mask for an audience who are usually our friends, family and co-workers. We exhibit a person who we want to convince them that we are. We go that extra mile to be supportive and caring. We display higher levels or ambition and confidence. These are all positive traits to have but we are acting according to our environment and expectations our audience has of our performance. But when one is alone we tend to drop these acts, hanging up our mask and putting our scripts away, leaving us with having to find comfort in our skin alone. These roles we play as the ‘good’ friend, ‘obedient’ son/daughter or ‘hard-working’ employee can feel quite draining. Expectations and obligations are indeed draining as we are constantly being held to the standard of what they feel we should be.
Humans, like cats and dogs are domesticated animals. In order to have been domesticated, certain roles and morals are assigned to us. Like cats and dogs are assigned the role as pets, human assign various roles to one another such as parent, best friend and student. These roles ultimately become to define who we are, what we can or cannot do according to the specific role in which we are playing. Each identity comes with a set of values and also sets of relationships. Most often, our worth is based on our social relationships with other people, the more social the better, right? Although we go through life performing these different roles and constantly seeking validation from our audience, are these roles killing our true selves? In a society where individualism is set as a model for future success–‘survival of the fittest’—humans amongst other participants of this system become increasingly interdependent. We praise independence yet most of us don’t know how to be alone.
We are taught what to believe in, whether it was at home, school or church. We develop certain characteristics we copy from family members and mimic some of their mannerisms. We are taught what appropriate behavior is and what we should value. But when do we have time to decide anything for ourselves without interfering opinions? As I grow older my love for books, coffee and being alone grow stronger. My solitary moments enable me to become closer to people and develop genuine relationships. From Solitary to Solidarity. I’ve realized, as many of you will, that even some of our closest friends don’t know us as well as they like to think so. Our beloved ones hold us to the standards and habits we have shown them as a part of our performance. Their expectations of us are really based on the familiarity of our habits. There are many moments and thoughts we wish to keep to ourselves. As trustworthy and reliable as our relationships are, there are things that do not need to be explained. The issue with sharing every moment with our audience is the sense of entitlement they feel for an explanation. It creates a sort of dynamic in which we are constantly answering to someone’s inquiries about our actions which leaves us open to more judgment, more unwanted opinions and having to validate who you really are or who they think you are. In times of solitary, I allow myself to take a break from all my different roles and just be.
In times of reflection, getting to know oneself and learning that we are ever-growing beings makes certain duties easier to fulfill. When we come to understand that what we do for other people is not definitive of whom we are but a small part we share with someone. Our deeds should not be done as a key to someone’s acceptance of us. As much as we play roles for other people, others also conduct in acts to impress us. Once we grow closer to ourselves, disappoints from others seem less severe because we know to never hold one on such a high pedestal. We also learn to not depend on the expectation we are ‘supposed’ to have of someone. We are human beings and therefore we are entitled to be selfish with how much we choose to share and compromise of ourselves as well as being anything other than perfect.
Like our good friend here at S4TB, Sam Albert, I believe in investing in YOUrself. Along with physical activity, meditation and good sleep, being alone is much a part of self-care. Looking good on the outside is important as it’s said to be a reflection of our self-respect but working from within is just as necessary and rewarding. We are the dominators of our actions and it is inevitable that we will have to do things that we would rather not do like accompany a friend to social gathering or washing dishes before your roommate or mother comes home. But the more time I spend alone, the less these duties feel like a burden because I know my worth comes from how I see myself and not by how others rate my performance.
So, I urge you to take some time alone. Cultivate the habit of taking an hour or two out of your day where you have time to reflect alone, read a book alone or even have a meal out alone. You will find just how rewarding a building a relationship is to all aspect of your present and future.