solitude is fine

Solitude is Fine…

“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.” -Honoré de Balzac

Loneliness and Solitude

I’m thinking about the differences between loneliness and solitude right now. The first thing that strikes me is how both feelings are driven by other people. Whether or not other people are there, and whether or not we want them there.  

So much of our human experience involves other people, doesn’t it? How we feel in relation to how they’re acting, or in competition to what we perceive they have, or in harmony in the flow of teamwork, etc., etc.. 

Loneliness is how we feel when we’re not getting the connection we need from another person. Solitude, however, is where we go to find the connection we need with ourselves. I think. I’m no expert on feelings. If you’re looking for emotion expertise, I refer you to Brené Brown’s book Atlas of the Heart. (It’s really great in audiobook form.)

I love being alone

I’m a person that thrives on solitude. There’s a state of relaxation I can achieve when I know I’m completely alone that isn’t accessible otherwise. I don’t know exactly why, but if you’ll continue to allow me to think out loud…I think it has something to do with control. Being alone means I can give myself the time I need without having to suddenly people please.  

It might be because I habitually track other people’s feeling states closer than I track my own (not that I track them with any consistent accuracy, just that my focus is first external.) So, when other people are around, it’s like my nervous system can’t help but try to attune to theirs before it tunes into itself. It’s like I’m a cell phone that has no airplane mode. I can’t not receive the call, when in proximity with another human being.  

Or, I actually can totally ignore people…but the effort to ignore bleeds into ignoring myself as well, and it’s not terribly kind to anyone. So, to be in solitude, for me, is to be connected with myself without signal interference. Solitude is as necessary as food and water. Or else how do I know who I am?  

Lonely with company?

The weird thing about loneliness is that I feel it most when I’m around other people but not getting the connected feeling I need. I feel lonely when I think I don’t belong, or feel unwelcome, or when I can’t figure out how to fit in. I feel lonely when I feel insecure and socially anxious. It’s probably more driven by going into the social situation with anxiety than it is about other people being unfriendly. I’m happy to report I’m mostly around A+ human beings. I still sometimes feel nervous and uncomfortable and lonely.  

Social anxiety, my old friend

Why is being social so challenging sometimes? I am 100% certain every single person on earth has social struggles from time to time, and I know now that we’ve pandemic’ed, social anxiety and mental health are (thankfully) hot topics. I have a vague recollection there used to be a stigma about this kind of thing. That’s lonely-making, isn’t it? For all of us who feel socially nervous from time-to-time (or most of the time, or whatever), to feel like we’re the only ones who experience it. It’s just not true, my awkward friends!  

What about you?

Are you more comfortable alone or around other people? Why do you think that is? Are there exceptions, times when you feel the opposite? 


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