Why You Should Spend More Time Alone

I’ve found that I cannot spend any time alone without someone thinking there’s something terribly wrong with me. I'm always met with a feeling of social condemnation. This has manifested itself into what feels like crippling social pressure. I find myself at times treating socialising as a chore I tick off a list. As something I need to get out of the way so I can get to the things I really want to do. The purpose of this blog post, however, is to encourage you to see why you should embrace solitude.

Most of us are afraid of being alone. A journal called Science found people would rather give themselves electric shocks than suffer their own company for just fifteen minutes.

I've always been taught to fear being alone which isn't completely difficult to grasp in a society where solitary confinement is considered a harsh punishment and a torture device. Apparently, we hate being alone. Or is it, we hate being lonely.

“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.” - unknown

There seems to be a bit of confusion surrounding loneliness and solitude. Solitude is vilified, mistaken far more detestable loneliness. In my experience, loneliness and solitude are on complete ends of the spectrum but If solitude isn't loneliness, what is it?


There's a difference between being alone and being lonely. Loneliness isn’t exclusively felt in solitude, in fact, it’s often within the eye of a crowd that its presence can be most potent. It's a feeling, a negative and painful reaction to a lack of connection. It's been described as 'social pain'. Loneliness doesn’t develop on its own, it’s a reaction to the world around us, and our sense of belonging to it. Olivia Lang says loneliness is “ an interplay between the individual and the society in which they are embedded,” a description I’ve come to agree with. 

Loneliness is not an absence of friends or social engagements. It’s not a lack of places to go or invitations, at least not me it isn't. Loneliness isn’t about physical proximity to other people, it’s a state of being. It’s a result of being rejected and ostracised from the norm, from society. It's what happens when you try and squeeze yourself into that rigid mould society constructs and realise that you don’t quite fit, that there isn’t quite enough space there for you. It can be found in the many miscommunications we have every day. In a slight inflection of language, a small note of difference.

I've always found it strange, the fear of being alone. I always wondered what people were so afraid of. I found the answer in John Paul Sartre, a French philosopher.

"If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company."

Most people are scared of who they will be left with if anyone at all. Perhaps the best descriptor I can muster up is loneliness isn't physical, it takes place in the mind. It's often underpinned by trauma. feelings of loss, a lack of self-esteem and insecurity.

Olivia Lang believes the loneliness is a result of exclusion from society.

"I don't believe the cure for loneliness is meeting someone, not necessarily. I think it's about two things: learning how to befriend yourself and understanding that many of the things that seem to afflict us as individuals are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, which can and should be resisted."


As loneliness can be described as the pain that comes from being alone, solitude is the joy. It is the art of being physically alone. If I'm terribly honest, I'd say solitude is under-appreciated, the misunderstood middle child. I'd go as far as to say it is a dying art. Solitude has become something I cling onto for as long as possible. I relish the feeling. It's only when I'm alone that I feel real freedom. When I'm alone, the only person I need to answer to is myself. I can forget the world, my many obligations and for once, get rid of all the deadlines, expectations and fears of the world outside and think for myself and focus of the things I want to do. And so, I'm feverishly protective of these quiet moments of peace. 

Nietzsche thought that Solitude brought us closer to ourselves, and saved us from becoming slaves to society.

I go into solitude so as not to drink out of everybody’s cistern. When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think I really think. After a time it always seems as if they want to banish my self from myself and rob me of my soul.

Solitude can be an important vehicle for reaching a higher consciousness, for getting in touch with ourselves, harnessing our creativity and stopping impediments to our humanity. It switches off the distractions of the culture industry and allows us to reconnect and reflect. To search inside ourselves and to grow. People have done brilliant things because of solitude and there are remarkable things in this world that can only be experienced in deep solitude.

Being alone for extended periods of time forces a person to confront themselves. To ask themselves who they really are without all the smoke and mirrors. As Nietzsche says, “Your bad love of yourselves makes solitude a prison to you.” People try to make up for their shortcomings with other people. Often we try to lose ourselves in another person. We should never let our happiness depend on another person. We should place it only on things we can control.

I'll end with a final quote from Nietzsche:

In his lonely solitude, the solitary man feeds upon himself; in the thronging multitude, the many feed upon him. Now choose.

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