Be Alone, Not Lonely

Loneliness is what most of us are afraid of and most of the time we act out of this fear. The present-day activities are designed in a way that keeps us distracted by large, it lets us pass our time so that we can skip to the good part. The good bits are when we surround ourselves with people, even if we do not appreciate it. We do not want to be with ourselves for long periods of time. Why is that so? What is it that we are so scared to face? Is the pandemic responsible for our sooner realisation of this fear? Possibly.

March 2020 onwards, India witnessed an unprecedented virus whose contagious nature made life possible only at a distance. Danger was to be close to other people. Social activities were shut, so was social life. We were forced to be on our own and live meticulously. Excessive time on our hands and limited exposure with the world outside, made us question and reflect on many things. In a situation like this, it is so easy to feel lonely, having left on one’s own assurance. With the company of no other but our own selves, we become victim to self-loathing than self-awareness. It is easier to be critical of one’s own self because it is not possible to overlook our actions or give benefit of doubt to oneself. We are much more accommodative to the other person. We are harsh to ourselves especially when we are lonely, we overthink to the point it threatens our self-image and gives in to anxiety. What is important to understand here is that it is not an abominable thing to be alone, it is rather depressing to be lonely. But what is the difference? Let us try and apprehend.

To be alone is to not be in the company of others, but still be in the company of one’s own self. It is grounded in a self-awareness which does not lead to self-loathing rather takes one to the road of self-acceptance and self-love. It all starts with a healthy mental attitude. Loneliness does not encompass such mental awareness of one’s well-being. Instead, it starts with a negative notion that being ‘left on one’s own’ is bad, that ‘being alone’ is to be always avoided which is far from the truth. We often focus so much on our social image that we forget to work on self-image. Self-image is how one sees oneself. What most people fail to understand is that self-image is not supposed to seek validation from one’s corresponding social-image. Many a times judgements that others make of us and analysis that testing situations do of us, are mistaken. Sometimes all we need is one’s own approval and it is for times like these that building an honest self-image is crucial. Being alone helps develop a healthy self-image. It is because we get the opportunity to watch and observe ourselves in the rawest moments. We do not have to pretend before ourselves, we can take off the burden of meeting expectations or facing possible judgements. We can be ourselves. That does not come without its challenges.

Our perceptions and opinions are not formed in a vacuum, rather it is within the context of social and cultural roles. Similarly, our expectations from our own selves are largely influenced by what is expected by these roles. That is the reason why we often regard ourselves lonely than being alone. We are made to get scared of ‘being lonely’, as if we will be left behind in a time that changes fast. Partly, it forms our herd mentality and the feeling that it is secure to remain within a majority. Even if that costs us a part of our own authentic selves. Living then becomes an act of pleasing the majority and constantly seeking its approval. Another reason that we are afraid of loneliness is because it gets us face to face with our honest self. And that is not always a rosy picture. The reason we have a hard time accepting our flawed selves is that we are not taught into this. If we have at least that one person who accepts us and love us for who we are, loving oneself becomes easy. But in a hate-stricken world, it gets trickier. There are given standards of how to become worthy of love, even how to show self-love these days. I am not against positivity campaigns, but what about the unrealistic expectations? Small steps towards healthy thinking are important, but they should not be made another quest to conquer. Often, we unravel the problem and set a solution to it, and in no time the solution becomes another problem. Why so? Because we like dealing in clear cut permanent solutions when there is none. Instead, we should be accepting the complexities of existing and leave it at that.

So, there can be many things that I just do not understand about myself or there may be times when I behave ironically, dunked in human folly. But it is okay not being able to uncover every mystery. When we understand that we are not commissioned at a routine job of untangling ourselves, life becomes simple. And we begin to like our company. Humans are simple, they get attracted to places where they feel relaxed and unjudged. All we must do is provide that environment for ourselves to replenish and rejuvenate in spirit. Hence, being alone is what I am arriving at. To be alone is to know how one must live with oneself and it is the most important lesson of life. Because we share the most time with ourselves. A French philosopher named Michel de Montaigne once said, ‘The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself’. And to know that we must strive to discover who we are, each day. And we should start with believing in our insanity just as we do believe our sanity. By that I mean, we must accept ourselves fully and wholeheartedly.

Some aspects of us are logical and reasonable and so, they are easy to get while other aspects are messy and inconsistent. Wisdom is to know both and bear with them. We can never become the clean ‘customised’ version that we want to be so badly. Even if we worked towards it ceaselessly, we would never become flawless. The truth is what we are at this moment, at this hour. Such a mindset does not get hooked to the fear of being alone. Being alone gives us the opportunity to set our path straight with our most important relationship. It also makes us self-aware to the point that we could distinguish good company from bad company. Being with others then looks like a mindful decision to spend our time and is not a mere distraction. In the present age, we also must account for technological distractions like the internet. The hours spent on social networks and OTT platforms are not a part of ‘being with oneself’. Instead, these guised forms of entertainment are taking our space of self-belongingness. And we shall think of separating our ‘alone time’ from such overwhelming activities. Only when we have a grasp of reality, can we learn to pace ourselves with it. It is a patient process, and we must not rush it just because we live in a time with hasting trends and hashtags. So, make it a habit to sit alone and do nothing for some part of the day; to be in the present and be aware. This would make you consider and acknowledge everything that is right in front of you. It will also make you recognize and accept your own being, breathing and living as another day passes by.

– Tanya Yadav

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