I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. ~Henry David Thoreau
People are sometimes classified as ‘introverts’ or ‘extroverts.’ Commonly confused with terms such as ‘shy’ and ‘outgoing,’ these two types of people are different in one quintessential way, and it has nothing to do with shyness or otherwise. Introverts generally find the company of other people rather draining and need time alone to ‘recharge’ and re-energize. Extroverts, on the other hand, find that the company of others gives them energy and makes them feel more alive.
As an introvert, I love to spend time alone. I am rarely happier than when I am pottering around on my own – walking, watching a movie, writing or just day dreaming. I enjoy the company of others but I do not need to be surrounded by lots of people.
For extroverts, being alone can be a more difficult experience – it can be depressing and bleak. But in the fast paced world we now inhabit, some time alone is important for all of us. Society tends to see being alone as a negative thing, but with a slight change of perspective, being alone can have many benefits.
You can feel at ease with yourself. Few of us are free from caring about the opinions of others, and we all put on something of an act when in company. Being alone is a time when we can be truly ourselves.
You are free from pressure. When other people are not around, we can evaluate things more objectively – or, at least, from our own vantage point. By freeing ourselves from the opinions of others, we can become clearer about what is really important to us and what our next course of action should be.
You are able to do what you really want. One of the things I love about being alone is that I can please myself – I can do whatever I like without having to worry about someone else’s desires and feelings. To some, this might sound selfish, but it is what the great writer Anthony de Mello might call ‘the proper kind of selfishness.’ It does no harm – in fact, it almost certainly helps your relationships, since …
You’ll appreciate the time you spend with others. When you do get to spend time with your spouse, your kids, your parents or friends, you will relish the experience.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that, whomever might be in our lives right now, they are not permanent fixtures. Some people – business contacts, clients, colleagues – will stay for a short while, and others – spouses, parents – will stay a lot longer. But in the end, we will be separated, and a recognition of this basic ‘aloneness’ we all share can be immensely liberated. All relationships pass. We are all ‘ships passing in the night.’
For the introverts among us, time alone is essential. But even for the most extroverted, time alone can have many benefits.