Emily Caulton discusses the negative stigma surrounding being alone and ways to beat the idea that it automatically indicates loneliness. By valuing time spent by yourself, being alone can be an incredible opportunity for self-care and self-discovery, and ways to make the most of this are suggested in this article.
I write this while I sit on my own on a Friday night with my two companions for the evening, Ben and Jerry. I decided to pull a Bridget Jones-style night in when I asked my friends last-minute what they were doing tonight, and discovered that they were all busy. Funnily enough, it was after I talked to them that I realised I didn’t actually mind spending the night in, and in fact I was warming to the idea, especially since I had been out a lot over the past few weeks.
But even so, something still niggled at me as I thought about being by myself for the whole evening tonight, and I wasn’t sure what it was.
We’ve all been taught that being alone – particularly on a Friday night and not entirely by choice – is pretty pathetic, and on some level, it’s not difficult to see why. The image of a twenty-something-year-old girl dipping into ice cream in her pyjamas doesn’t exactly scream ‘socialite,’ and if you throw in a bottle of wine and a weepy romantic film, you can’t avoid the label ‘pity party’ cropping up. But that’s not the sort of night lined up for me tonight: I have some work to do, and I’m going to take it as an opportunity to relax as well.
So why is it that I felt bad at the prospect of my own company? Why are we so scared of being alone, with just ourselves? Why does being alone have such a stigma around it, as though being by yourself in the evening means that you’re always by yourself, and having one night in means that every night is an ice-cream-and-pyjamas party for one? I must say that I don’t feel particularly pathetic tonight because I’m enjoying myself, but at the same time, the idea that I’m by myself on a Friday night does make me feel a bit ashamed, and I think it’s because of the way that people view being alone.
A lot of the time, the idea of being alone is actually worse than being alone. I quickly discovered tonight that it wasn’t being by myself that was bothering me. It was the idea surrounding it – that pathetic image of a girl crying into her homemade cosmopolitan – that made me feel like somebody who hasn’t got any friends at all, and this is a feeling that so many of us have.
A way to combat this negative thought is to acknowledge that just because you’re by yourself doesn’t mean that you’re lonely. Regardless of how many friends you have, they can never be at your constant beck and call to go out with whenever you like. So, as a result, everyone finds themselves on their own at some point, whether we like it or not. To acknowledge the fact that being by yourself doesn’t indicate that you’re a lonely loser, even when you had no choice in the matter, is a big step towards realising that there’s nothing wrong with spending some time with just yourself.
Another way to beat the stigma around being alone is to actually treat yourself as a person, and not as just plain old ‘you’. Take being in your own company as an opportunity to find things out about yourself, and discover exactly what you want. Making choices without consulting another person can really help you to get to know yourself, and help you tune in with your own needs and desires. By looking at yourself almost as another person, you’re also more likely to want to treat yourself with love and respect, whether that’s buying yourself a nice dinner, pampering yourself, watching a film or making unnecessary online purchases (we all do it). By actively doing something for yourself, you combat the depressing myth that you’re sitting on your own doing nothing, and you’re proving to yourself that the occasional night-in alone is time well spent.
Viewing nights in alone as an opportunity to refresh and relax can be a challenge at times. But it can also be an incredible opportunity to try new things, care for yourself, do what you love, and discover what you want and need without the influence of anybody else. The way that you see it is an active choice you make, but as I sit here with a glass of wine tapping away at my computer, I’d strongly encourage you to treasure these moments with just yourself, whether you only have an hour or the whole evening ahead of you. You’ll reap the benefits of these precious moments with just ‘me, myself, and I’.