Alone Is Not the Same as Lonely

Photo by  Caleb Frith  on  Unsplash

Photo by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

I like being alone.

This doesn’t mean I am lonely. This doesn’t mean I can’t connect with others. This doesn’t mean I am a misanthrope. Please stop telling me what it means. Your preconceived definition of alone is a product of how you feel, not how I feel.

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Difference Between Alone and Lonely

Alone is a choice. Lonely is a feeling.

You never have to be alone if you don’t want to. The world operates all the time. There are people doing something, somewhere all the time. You can choose to be alone, but you don’t have to be.

Even if you don’t want to interact, you don’t have to be alone. You can always be in the presence of other people. Maybe 4 a.m. at your local 24-hour diner isn’t full of your best friends, but you won’t be alone.

By definition, lonely is feeling sad because one has no friends. Because one is without companions. Does that mean that when your partner goes to work and you stay home that you should feel lonely without companionship?

So many people make the mistake of thinking that everyone who chooses to be alone must be lonely. Physical companionship is temporal. It does not exist in perpetuity unless you are conjoined.

Everyone has to deal with being alone at some point. It’s how you deal with it that separates alone and lonely. Are you going to read or are you going to wait for your partner to get home? Are you going to work or are you going to watch movies about lost love? What you do when you are alone has a direct impact on how you feel.

There are people who appreciate solitude. The quiet. The space.

They aren’t lonely.

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” — Paul Tillich

Why (and How) I Enjoy Being Alone

Everything is my choice when I am alone. I don’t need to run my decisions by anyone. I am in total control when I am by myself. Nothing can interrupt my thoughts unless I allow it to.

Being alone gives me room to grow. It stops the perpetual conversation of life. As an introvert I need my down time. I need silence. I need the solitude to recharge my battery. I need it to create. According to Susan Cain in Quiet, “introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.”

And I like spending time with myself.

Over the years I’ve learned to do things to take care of myself when alone. Instead of spending my time worrying about things, I turned to meditation to calm my mind. Instead of allowing people to define productive for me, I grew to understand that I am most productive in my bubble. On my terms. Using my playbook.

I remember telling people, when I was in law school, that I went to the movies by myself every Friday at noon to see the newest film that came out. They offered to come. They asked why I would go to the movies by myself. This still baffles me. No one talks during a movie, unless you are that a**hole in the center seat who can’t shut up, so why do I need someone there with me? It brought me joy. And it avoided the crowd of a Friday opening night.

There is something wondrous about spending an entire day by yourself. With your thoughts. With nature. With your pillow. While the world is moving all around you, you control your speed. You control your rhythm. You are in total control.

It’s our friends and family members who create the idea that if we are alone, we are also lonely. But that’s not their true view about us.

It’s their view of themselves.

Being Alone in a Relationship

Many partners are afraid to tell their significant other that they need some alone time. They don’t want them to think of it as a slight. But where does this come from?

Last year I finally admitted to myself that I require an enormous amount of time alone. I used to delve into relationships too quickly because I wanted the connection. The safety. The companionship. But the truth is, I always dug myself too deep. And lost myself in the hole. I did it to myself.

It’s a great feeling to have someone waiting for you at home. But some days you don’t want to interact with someone the second you walk in the door. Some days you want to get home and sit on the couch in your underwear without answering the most stale question anyone can ever ask you, “How was your day?”

How many relationships are wrought with peril because one partner feels trapped? Not because of something their loved one is doing, but because they just need some air. But they are terrified to ask for a breath. A weekend away. A solo drive. A brief interlude where choice is theirs again.

So many people are in relationships where they are rarely alone, but always lonely. That’s one of the easiest ways to see the difference between alone and lonely. Alone is a choice, lonely is a feeling.

Alone is not the Same as Lonely

I like being alone. It recharges me.

I like being alone. It gives me the freedom I need.

I like being alone. It understands me, without reservation.

I like being alone. It doesn’t mean I am lonely.

Alone is not the same as lonely.