I find it fascinating the range of comfort levels people have with being alone. It’s pretty much guaranteed that we will all need to spend at least some time in our own company, yet there are many, many ways in which people experience this. While I know that for some people alone time is quite a negative experience, that feels really quite foreign to me.
Can you be alone without being lonely? Or lonely without being alone? I would say yes on both counts. Google gives this as the primary definition of lonely: “sad because one has no friends or company.” A secondary definition is “without companions; solitary.”
For both definitions “alone” is listed as a synonym. Google’s definition of alone is: “having no one else present.”
Loneliness has a certain emotional charge and judgment attached to it. Aloneness, on the other hand, is more of an objective observation about the immediate social environment. Being alone also has a temporariness to it; you can stop being alone by walking into a space where there are other people. Loneliness, though, can be a persistent state of mind, and changing it requires mental adjustment rather than simply changing the environment.
Loneliness can easily be triggered by falling into the trap of comparing one’s own life circumstances to others. I’m usually able to avoid this particular trap, but it still lurks around in the background sometimes.
There’s also the issue of feeling lonely while around people. Being around others and feeling completely disconnected can be a strong reminder of my level of isolation. I’m not anxious and I’m not worried about what others think; I just feel like an alien life form with no shared language of meaning or experience. That kind of loneliness isn’t eased by being around people; in fact, the more contact there is, the worse it gets. I only feel better when I’ve settled back into my cave. More alone, yet less lonely.
Personality is obviously a key factor in the experience of aloneness. Introversion lends itself better to alone time, but most people aren’t at the extreme ends of the introversion–extroversion spectrum. I was always sufficiently introverted that I was comfortable with my own company. However having some social contact used to be a good thing, whereas now, it’s the opposite, at least in terms of in-person contact. Depression + introverted me = über-introvert firmly ensconced in my fortress of solitude.
However, introversion and loneliness aren’t mutually exclusive. We all need social support in some form or another; it’s just that introverts and extraverts might prefer different styles of social support.
Patterns of thinking
Another factor is the kind of thoughts swirling through our heads. If there’s no distraction from negative thoughts and a pesky inner critic, I can see how being in one’s own company could be a rather uncomfortable situation. My particular version of illness is much more likely to produce slow mind than busy mind, and I think slow mind is much more alone-time-friendly.
I think it also helps to lock the should monster outside or at least shove it into the back of a closet and not let it nag at you about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Should-free alone time is much more bearable than alone time with the should monster’s claws digging into your butt the whole time.
A sense of control also matters. Being alone by choice (internal locus of control) is far easier than having alone time forced upon you (external locus of control). For me, the pandemic hasn’t brought the same sense of loss of control that a lot of other people are experiencing, as it’s just not the rate-limiting factor that determines what and how much I can do.
Surroundings matter. Spending time alone in public places where people don’t normally go alone can take some working up to. Travelling alone built up that comfort level for me. In a lot of places I’ve visited, I was quite obviously a tourist, either because of appearance or lack of language ability, and no one seemed to blink an eye at a backpacker chick doing her own thing. That made it much easier when I started doing more things on my own back home in Canada.
The home environment also matters. Is home a safe haven? It’s hard to be comfortable at home alone if simply being home isn’t comfortable. My home is definitely my safe space. The whole decor theme is mellow and comfortable, with guinea pig-related debris scattered rather liberally throughout. When it comes to my home, the should monster is locked out and not allowed in the front door.
I find that having some routine and structure helps to avoid feelings of aimlessness and find greater mental ease. Not much happens when I’m home by myself most of the day, but routine helps to keep things flowing. It also keeps the guinea pigs happy.
Forms of connection
We all connect best with others in different ways, and with most things being virtual in pandemic mode, it’s nice to try and get the most bang for your figurative buck. WordPress is a really good fit for how I feel most comfortable connecting with people. I like that it’s focused and doesn’t involve a lengthy back and forth. I use some social media for other connections, but I don’t get the same benefit. When I feel the need for connection, I tend to just focus on good old WP, my online comfy couch.
For me, the guinea pigs are the best form of companionship there is. It’s a lot harder to feel alone when there are furry little ones giving you love. Having the piglets makes a massive difference in my life. I’d certainly much rather have them around at home than another human.
I am by far the most comfortable when I’m at home alone with my guinea pigs. I’ve been with myself my whole life, and being by myself is kind of like wearing a cozy flannel onesie—perhaps one with a butt flap. (BTW, I spent a rather inordinate amount of time looking for a freely available photo to illustrate said butt flap, but unfortunately, you’ll just have to use your imaginations.)
How do you feel in your own company, and is there anything that makes it easier for you?
Resource: The Expressions of Being Alone Workbook from Concordia Counselling and Psychological Services
38 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Your Own Company?”
It’s a bizzare one for me this.. I used to be very comfortable on my own, before my mental health took a hit. Even now I will say and probably tell myself that I need to be alone, but in reality I struggle if I don’t have interaction to ease my head a little. My cat is my best mate at the minute. I tell him all sorts of stuff and he just ignores me but 🤷♀️😂 still nice to get things out. Xx
I’m glad you’ve at least got someone to talk to, Pets are so great about listening and ignoring all at the same time. 😉
I am an introvert as well, so I generally like being in just my own company. With the anxiety and depression thrown into the mix I usually like it even more. I feel far more comfortable with just myself than with other people, and paradoxically I often feel more lonely around others than by myself, the lonely in the crowd feeling is in my opinion far worse than just alone, or even than lonely while alone. My Mum always says that thing that makes me laugh: “I like my own company, because when I’m with myself I can be sure that I’m spending time with someone smart”.
There are also reasons why I don’t like my own company though. One of the forms of anxiety I experience that I call “sensory anxiety” makes it difficult to be alone, especially in silence but not necessarily. I simply feel sort of less safe, more hypervigilant when I’m alone when I’m having a really bad time with this form of anxiety, it can be really mentally exhausting. So it can get a bit confusing and tricky when I’m both scared of being around other people and scared of being on my own. 😀 Music that sits right with my brain or some really good distraction helps, but the best solution is Misha! But I didn’t have Misha not that long ago and things could be really tricky sometimes. This anxiety likes to hit me particularly badly at night or when I’m home alone so Misha’s presence really saves me and that’s why I particularly like to have him with me at those times.
Also there’s stinking monkey Maggie – my inner critic – who is hard to be around, and I have such periods when as I call it my AVPD brain is more active than normal and I feel a lot of self-loathing, emotional overload and other such things quite intensely and then it’s not fun to be with myself. But at such times being with other people is usually even more of a torture.
My overthinking and ruminating brain can be difficult to deal with when I’m on my own too and then other people’s company can be helpful as a way of distracting myself.
But overall, as I said, I like being alone, it’s the best way to charge your brain, I may feel anxious in just my own company or I may hate myself but I hardly ever feel lonely. And if there’s Misha, there’s no way to feel lonely, and my anxiety is usually lower then as well. Misha seems to be the perfect solution for everything. 😀
Yay for Misha!!!
I’ve always liked my own company. E. and I have spoken about both of us needing alone space if we ever live together. That said, I do like having other people in the house. I complain sometimes about living with my parents, but if I’m alone for too long, it can become difficult. The agitated, self-critical, angry thoughts come out too much. It’s quite nice being in my room and knowing that my parents are downstairs.
It definitely makes things easier if other people in the home are willing to respect alone time.
Interesting reading. I too like my own company and actually feel a bit anxious at the thought of heading out socially now. That’s more to do with sobriety than the lockdown though. I enjoy being in work with my work friends. They are such a lovely bunch and I feel very relaxed with them. When I’m at home I do keep in touch with people via messaging and blogging which perhaps shows I need connection. I prefer that to face to face get together in many ways but I haven’t really worked out why!
Leaving the ‘should’ outside the door is such a great way of thinking about it. No one can ever relax if the ‘should monster’ is hanging around. X
I can certainly see how socializing and sobriety could be a difficult combination. xo
In the main, I love my own company and I know how to fill my time in positive ways. Like you Ashley, I love WordPress blogging and spend more time here than on any other social media platform. Caz x
It’s such a lovely place to be!
I mostly like to be alone. I get very anxious when I don’t have enough alone time. That said, this enforced alone time is not pleasant for me. I miss seeing my family occasionally and going out to dinner once a week.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before things open up enough to allow that, or at least the family time.
I love to be alone and I can do it very well but at some point too much can be too much for me. It’s like you said, the monster in my head gets too much airplay without interruption.
A home needs to be safe and as mine was there were a lot of arguments from neighbors (not with me!) and I could hear everything going on for hours and hours. And my heating didn’t work for more than a year, it’s still broken. I’m glad I moved out of that place.
What I do enjoy about the confinement is that there are no social obligations; no birthdays, no drinks, no were-such-a-long-time-together-lets-have-drinks obligations. I like to party but not when it becomes a ‘must’. So now I feel like I can spend my time as I please.
That’s so good that you’re out of there!
We love, treasure, our alone time. This is new—just the past year or two since (1) we learned to meditate in ways that explore our inner experience and since (2) we have started to learn what feelings are, what sensations are, how to identify them and the difference, their temporary nature, etc. The inner experience is new for us—we used to avoid it at all costs due to traumas—and we find it is like looking through a box of mementos instead of trying to remember what might be in that box. When we look, the anxiety of the unknown decreases, understanding increases.
When we are around people, we adapt, hide, stuff our feelings and sensations, ruminate, should all over ourselves. Maybe we do some of that when we are alone. Maybe we are romanticizing alone time since we’ve had 45 minutes alone (house empty) since shelter-in-place began.
Until we started learning some meditation and about our inner experience, we could not stand to be alone. Especially as a kid. Trauma lurked. Now, we are trying to learn that traumas are not happening all the time, even though most of our me’s think they are.
We feel and experience things cumulatively instead of as they happen. That makes life too heavy. It puts us at high risk for violence and instability. So the learning is important!
Love you, Ashley 💕❤️💕❤️
It sounds like you’ve been making wonderful progress with the learning. Love you too. 💖💞💖💞
It does sound like progress in learning. Thanks 😊
WordPress is all I use too. A lovely community as we have both mentioned before.
I am an introvert as you know and I am hapoy to be in my own company, or share it with a fur ball, then even better. I have no plans to live with another human. I like ny own space.
But over the last couple of years I have mingled with people more than I have done for an introvert. It can be tiring, so I do make sute I still get my space.
Where I live, I am pals on different levels with some of the neighbours.
Obviously I am on a different level with one of them now, by not mixing on the level I used to, after his alchol incident last year. I will say hello and chat on passing, but I have no intentons in doing coffee, or lunch with him, whether at his mine, at his, or out.
But the other neighbours, I still keep on same level as I have done, inviting them both for a cuppa.
One works, the other doesn’t due to his health.
They have been sharing their dvd’s and cd’s with me to listen. One worries he will lose touch with me when I move one day. I said to him, we won’t lose touch. You’ll both know where I move to. I will still be in same area.
I can still be happy in my own company. But it’s nice know I have friends I can talk to, whether near, or far.
Yes it’s certainly nice to have people who are available but not pressing you for more contact than you want.
Yes. That’s one thing my neighbour who lends me his or his wife’s cd’s is always wary of. He doesn’t want to outstay his welcome and his wife is the same. I have got good friends there for life I reckon.
I’ve always struggled with my own company. I think it stems from being a twin. In essence I’m a duo part of a pair. It’s only really been after the end of my abusive relationship that I learnt to enjoy me. I went abroad for the first time in 20 years on my own and it was a game changer!
Five-star sentence: “Should-free alone time is much more bearable than alone time with the should monster’s claws digging into your butt the whole time.”
There’s definitely a difference between aloneness and loneliness. I don’t often feel lonely when I’m alone (which isn’t often, these days), but if I’m surrounded by noise and chaos and crowds, I can feel lonely, in a way.
I like being alone, except for when that monster claws at my rear.
It’s interesting that you find WP easiest for connecting with people. I enjoy interacting in comments, but I find myself feeling more disconnected on WP than on Instagram, where you can chat, send voice notes and videos, and see the other people’s profiles.
On WP, I feel like I know less about others. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m still pretty new to blogging or not. I love blogging itself, and reading blogs, but the comment section feels a little more like trying to raise my hand in class (i.e. a little shyness-triggering).
I’ve never felt much connection on Instagram, and it’s hard to say how much of that is because I don’t spend a lot of time on it, and how much is that I tend ot think of it as a place for images and not so much for words. It’s good that there are options available, though—something for everyone!
This is definitely a thought provoking question How comfortable am I with me. Now I am much more comfortable me. I actually enjoy my company.I can blast my music and sing and dance to my hearts content. However before becoming comfortable with me I hated being by myself because I felt very low of myself and I constantly needed people around to make me feel worthy and ok.
That comfortable with me feeling is such a valuable thing to be able to find.
Love the butt flap, I could use one of those for the tent life 😉 I love being alone and while raising my kids told them to enjoy it too. I taught them that most adults can’t stand their own company and that would suck!
Yes it would! And butt flap would be so perfect for camping!
“WordPress is a really good fit for how I feel most comfortable connecting with people, in part because it’s focused and doesn’t involve a lengthy back and forth.” So appropriately true Ashley! If l wasn’t going to write another word – your quote would be ample!
Sitting on the spectrum … l don’t mention my Aspergers that often, occasionally if needed for a comparison point or a landmark or l know what you mean remark – mostly it is used as a relatable content point.
I have loved this lockdown … l ‘ll not deny l was pretty terrified at the beginning like most of us were and especially in countries with high and ever rising death tolls. But once l calmed down, l was really eager to enjoy it and l have … l am still enjoying the peace and quiet of Lockdown Limbo. But l was not that social to begin with … l am more of an ambivert than an introvert but less of an extrovert – l joke selectavert. I choose to be social when and how l want which is why your WP is so apt. But l have never ever had a problem with my own company – l am used to being alone and if l have ever experienced loneliness l haven’t been aware of it – which is where my Aspergers might step on board with the ability to compartmentalise various emotions when needed.
Suze who was NEVER that social before LL has suffered terribly during this period and l in turn have suffered and not entirely sure if l will even have a relationship in a year’s time because of this. The honest truth is l am a little disappointed with Suze’s weakness concerning this lockdown period and thought she had more endurance than she has displayed so as much as she looked at what she wanted from her life – l too started to look more deeply at us as a couple.
I love her without question and yet with everything ongoing and going on with her insecurities and not liking her own company l did have to wonder if l am more of an introvert than l initially thought?
Mostly she is missing her family and just people connectivity and mostly l am not missing anything … with all the levels and platforms of communication we have at our disposal … well l must be missing something poignant! I guess what Suze truly misses is the freedom of choice to do as she wants … sure l do understand that and second it, but my wants and desires are minimal – people in real life to me are more MEH than OH WOW!!
Excellent topic, ps just bought a copy of your new book 🙂
Thinking of sliding it under Suze’s door.
It’s interesting how for some people face-to-face connection is a need that other means of communication can’t satisfy. It doesn’t seem to be exclusive to extroverts, either. I’ve seen a number of bloggers write about strugglig with the lack of in-person connection even though they’re normally quiite introverted.
Thanks for getting the book!
Always a pleasure and l know what you mean. I think about Melanie [Sparky] who even though Utah is quite out of it, like you in Canada – it has really affected her day to day perspective on connection quite profoundly.
I think it’s about choice and when the option is there to be left or right or middle that’s great BUT when it is taken away from you, then it becomes a different storyline.
I have done too good at being home. We have created a good routine with homeschooling, house work and my husband being here working from as well. We seem to handling very nicely. The issue we have is our freedom being taken away… not being able to go anyway as a family and visit our family in other states. It’s hard not to fell trapped and controlled.
Yeah that makes sense.