How an Extrovert Learned to be Alone

By Michelle Vo

I am an extrovert. And I believe that being one has limited me in the ability to be comfortable in certain environments. Namely, one with just me in it.

I absolutely hate being alone. If I can avoid being alone in public, I will. I would rather be by myself in a closed setting than solo in an open one. I would rather do most anything with company than without.

It’s not that I need to constantly socialize–I get tired of talking too! It’s just that the presence of other people is comforting to me. I’d rather be in my apartment and doing nothing with someone else around than all on my lonesome.

But lately, I’ve felt the need to be more comfortable with myself as company. Maybe it’s the combination of growing up and running into the video at the top of the page, or maybe it’s realizing that being alone isn’t such a bad thing after all. So in the past few months, I finally understood the benefits of having time with just yourself.

You begin to understand yourself more through introspection. Being alone gives you time to reflect and see the day without the influence of being with others. Being comfortable with being alone gives you a touch more independence. And being alone eventually makes you comfortable in your own skin.

Drawing from my own experiences, here are a few tips to keep in mind when learning to be comfortable with being alone:

Why are you afraid of being alone?

This is the hardest question to tackle, and the very first one to confront if you are serious about learning to be alone. The answer could be a simple one, in which you just happen to prefer the company of others. But for some people, including myself, it might be a far more personal and taxing reason. For me, it’s my own personal insecurities and their emotional manifestations. But once you figure out why you don’t like being alone, it’s possible to take the steps towards being comfortable with yourself.

Understanding what being alone means.

I was afraid of being alone because being in the company of others was comforting and reaffirmed my place in society. I thought that being alone meant that you did not have friends to keep you company or the skills to make friends in that setting.

However, I learned that being alone does not mean that others don’t want to be around you–it just means that you want to be with only yourself for the time being. Sometimes, the best company is your own!

Become comfortable with silence.

As an extrovert who loves to talk and engage in conversation, I am extremely uncomfortable with silence. Blank pauses feel awkward to me and I would always say something to fill the conversational void. However, learning to be comfortable with silence is imperative to learning how to be alone. When you become comfortable with silence, you leave more room to consider your own thoughts and feelings within the situation. Silence facilitates introspection, which is a positive result of having alone time.

Take Baby Steps:

Being comfortable with being alone doesn’t happen all at once! You have to take small steps in order to acclimate to being alone. Start off by doing things that aren’t so scary solo.

For me, it was shopping in a large mall during the holiday season. Like Fitzgerald pointed out in The Great Gatsby, “I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy.” Get yourself lost in a crowd at first. Eventually that crowd will get smaller and smaller with every time you venture out alone.

If you aren’t comfortable with starting out in highly populated areas, go to the library by yourself, or a coffee shop. There’s no judgement in enjoying your own company if everyone else around you is doing the same! Seeing many other people venture to these places by themselves will help you realize that you can too.

Challenge yourself to just be with yourself.

My ultimate goal is to be able to eat at a restaurant by myself. I’ve always thought of eating as a communal experience, and would never have chosen to eat anywhere by myself. If I don’t have somebody to eat lunch with, I’ll take my food to-go and eat at home by myself.

But lately I’ve been taking my lunches and eating them by myself in the middle of UCI’s Aldrich Park. It’s a therapeutic experience and one I highly recommend. Yes, some people look at me weirdly but it’s okay! I’ve been working to get to this point and even though self-doubt kicks in at some points, I understand that I shouldn’t avoid things because they’re uncomfortable.

The eucalyptus trees actually make pretty good company.

The eucalyptus trees actually make pretty good company.

When it comes down to it, I will always be an extrovert. I’ll always enjoy the company of others and have fun in large groups. And there’s absolutely no shame in that! But I must admit that my extroversion led me to avoid being alone and disregard the benefits of solitude.

Spending time with yourself is something both therapeutic and eye-opening. When you take the time to ponder your own thoughts, you begin to understand yourself in ways that you never did before. You realize that your own mind is a stranger and that maybe, you should get to know it a little better.

In fact, sometimes the best friend you can make is with yourself.

What do you think about being alone? Have you struggled to be alone or does it come naturally and easily? Let us know in the comments below!

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References:

How To Be Alone by Andrea Dorfman

io9: The Science Behind Extroversion and Introversion

Boston Globe: The power of lonely

zenhabits: The Lost Art of Solitude

Media sources:

YouTube, UCI Official Flickr

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