Why it is possible to be alone without being lonely

Unless talking to yourself counts as being sociable, I am an introvert. An introvert who has decided to write this piece because one side effect of this wonderful but lengthy summer has been a specific amnesia where I have forgotten the social pressures of being at university.

In today’s society, it seems we are terrified of being seen alone; I know that I am guilty of denying I’ve spent an evening watching Netflix by myself. Many of us are ashamed of being alone. It seems that admitting we want time to ourselves immediately makes us loners, while simultaneously, a constant desire for the company of others creates the impression of self-hatred. Nobody can win, and honestly, I’m sick of it. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to apologise for enjoying our own company, for it is in fact possible to be alone without being lonely. We are all aware of the damaging nature of labels; up until recently, a major source of shame for me was the label ‘introvert’. The stigma attached to introversion is incredibly strong, even when subconscious.

While extroverted individuals are often viewed as the life of the party, it seems introverts have been treated to the adjectives everyone left at the bottom of the celebrations tin – quiet, boring, and (a personal favourite), “personality-less”. Just look at cats – while their canine counterparts are lovingly dubbed ‘man’s best friend’, cats’ independent tendencies are notoriously considered cold, and (ironically) ‘bitchy’. So, it seems that no matter how badly we may need it, introverts must never surrender to the temptation of a ‘quiet night-in’.
Although it should be obvious, it is important for the introverts among us to know that there is no shame in needing to unwind and coming out of that crowded, noisy closet just to breathe. When did we start associating taking time for ourselves with being antisocial? Personally, I prefer to think of myself as ‘pro-solitude.’

The categorisation itself is ridiculous: introversion and extroversion sit at completely opposite ends of a spectrum, on which apparently everyone travels. Our social tendencies are something that can’t be helped and certainly shouldn’t be hidden. No matter how hard I have tried to bury my introversion in the past, for me it’s more than simply “a lack of desire to socialise” – in truth, I find myself physically and socially drained after a night out. Take Freshers’ Week, for example. I probably socialised more in that one week than I had in a year, and I wasn’t even going out every night. But it doesn’t stop there: during the semester, there is a constant pressure to be ‘out and about’, which for me meant a constant need to make sufficient excuses explaining why I wasn’t going out that night. What many of us don’t realise is that we shouldn’t have to apologise for deviating from the social norm. Introversion is as natural, and just as common, as extroversion. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the whole ‘experiences are better shared’ thing, I’ve seen the Kodak ads, but that doesn’t mean we have to share every experience.

We all need time to ourselves, and some need more time than others. It’s important for concentration, self-reflection, or maybe just to catch up on Netflix – what better way to recharge our batteries, literally. So embrace your introversion, be a cat, and chill like no one is watching. And if you really hate cats, then be a lone wolf. But if you take one thing away from this, (other than the fact that I’ve called myself a loner in print and can’t take it back), please let it be the knowledge that it’s ok not to want to go out. It’s that simple. And anyway, we can’t be loners if we’re not alone, so introverts assemble (in separate locations, of course).
If we can free the nipple, then by God we can free the introverts!

Image credit: Nguyen Hung Vu @ Flickr

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