Have you begun to accept your aloneness?
Maybe in the past you’ve made attempts to find friends, girlfriends, and people to spend time with. But that’s the past and today you’re ready to acknowledge the truth:
“I’m going to be alone forever.”
Or maybe you’re still rationalizing. Assuring yourself that you just need to get comfortable with being alone in the present before you make another attempt at finding friends and significant others in the future.
And besides, isn’t there a lot of people who live alone these days? There are newspaper articles every so often that write breathless articles about how men and women these days are less likely to marry and more likely to live alone. Maybe this is just how life is these days?
Well I’m sorry to burst your bubble. If any of that sounds familiar to you then it’s likely that you’re fooling yourself. If you want to keep deluding yourself that you’re okay with being alone then close this article immediately.
Still here? Good. You’ve recognized that if you were actually truly at peace with being alone then you would never have opened an article titled “How To Cope With Being Alone”. The fact that you’re here tells me that you’re not satisfied with how your life is going and you’re looking for solutions.
Some of us need some time alone now and then. I personally get tired after hanging out with people for too long and I crave just shutting myself off in my apartment and binge watching something on Netflix.
Sometimes I’ll even go a couple of days without speaking to anyone!
But there is a difference between a little temporary alone time that you choose and being alone because you feel as if you have no other choice.
And even if you’re an extremely introverted person sooner or later you’re going to get tired of hiding in your room and you’re going to long for some social contact. I know this because I’m an introverted person.
And if you’re an extrovert being alone for too long will be akin to torture for you.
Being Alone Is Not Human
There is a very small number of people who are hermit material. I’m talking people who shun any sort of human contact and who dream of owning a shack in the woods.
Have you ever heard of a book called “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau? It’s a very famous book and often cited when talking about things like hermits, voluntarily decreasing social contact, and becoming content with living by yourself.
The book describes the author’s experiences living in a small simple cabin on a lake. Often when people mention the book they highlight how he was self-sufficient and went long periods without any human contact.
But read the book and you soon realize that Thoreau has regular contact with all sorts of people! Sometimes his cabin is filled with friends or family! He would go into town regularly and would even have supper at his mother’s house quite frequently.
Thoreau lived in his cabin for a little over two years before deciding to rejoin the town.
The point of bringing up this book is not claim that no one can live by themselves. Instead I want to impress upon you how rare these true hermits are! Even the most famous example of hermitage had a decent social life!
Humans are social animals. Being alone isn’t the nature state of the human.
I’ll skip all the evolutionary reasons for this here except for one point: for ten thousands years of human civilization, and a hundred thousand years of hunter-gatherer tribal existence, humans have lived extremely close to other people.
For most of human history to be alone meant almost certain death. You couldn’t survive without being in a close-knit tribe all fighting for each other. Because of this our brains have evolved to produce certain feelings to discourage us from doing things that would make us be alone.
And that’s where the fear, in the form of social anxiety, comes in.
Anxiety can kick in when you think you’re doing something stupid that could gain you the disproval of the people around you. Getting people angry at you could result in banishment which the brain still thinks means death (since it hasn’t caught up to the 21st century yet).
If you think you often do stupid or socially awkward things then you’re going to feel a lot of anxiety. This will cause you to avoid other people since you don’t want to feel anxious.
After all if you’re alone there is no one to make you feel anxious.
You Aren’t Alone Because You Like It
Your aloneness isn’t caused by a personal preference. You’re not “just someone who likes being alone”.
Being alone is what you’re doing to avoid the unpleasant feelings of anxiety that you experience when you’re around other people because you fear their negative judgement of you.
So it’s no wonder that you’re reading an article about coping with being alone. Aloneness is a state of being that you experience because you feel as if you have no other choice.
So how do you cope with being alone?
I’m sorry to say that the solution to being alone is to stop being alone. It seems completely paradoxical but once I explain it will be obvious.
In my early twenties I spent years being alone. I tried to delude myself into thinking that I was alone because I chose to be alone. I proudly claimed to my parents and anyone who would talk to me that I didn’t want to be saddled down with a girlfriend and that other people were just too uninteresting to bother with.
I almost fooled myself. But after years of aloneness I became aware of my true feelings: I was depressed all the time, I gained 60 pounds in under a year, and the only thing I looked forward to was visiting my family. In fact I began to keep calendars pinned to my wall with a countdown to whenever the next holiday or other excuse to visit my family would be.
I wasn’t okay with being alone. I was alone because I felt that no one (but my family) wanted to spend any time with me.
If you’ve been alone for some time then you’re going to need some time to get rid of the thoughts in your mind that have convinced you that you’re not good enough for other people to want to hang out with you.
You can read more about that process from the other articles on my website.
But what about for now? You’re alone right now and you need to know how to cope with it. Long term strategies are all well and good but they don’t make you feel better right now.
I’ll share with you what I did to cope with being alone all those years ago. Back before I went through the long and difficult process of overcoming my social anxiety.
Go To Religious Services
You don’t have to be religious (but you can be) to spend an hour or so among friendly people. Services at churches are often filled with people you can surround yourself with and you can choose the level of interaction that you want. If you want to talk to people you can, if you just want to just sit in the back listening to the music you can do that as well.
I would make it a habit to go to a different church every single week. Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, it didn’t matter. It was just a way to get the positive feelings of being around other people while not triggering my anxiety through social interaction.
Go See A Movie
This is very similar to the church activity. Once again you’re in the midst of a lot of people but you don’t have to talk to them. This isn’t as effective as the church option since you’re not really participating in any sort of group activity, you’re just sitting in front of a screen. The other people may as well just not be there.
But it does keep the loneliness at bay.
Explore The City
I’ll bet you’ve never really taken the time to explore the city that you live in. Or if you have how about the next city over?
Make an entire day out of walking around your downtown. Take a look down all the interesting little alleys, and stop by the quant shops. Definitely visit some of the bakeries and get a small treat from each one (but mind your calories!)
Attend An Art Gallery Opening/Show
This is a suggestion I would never have dreamed of giving a few years ago. I’m not really the art gallery type. In fact most modern art baffles me.
But if you live in a decent sized city (or near one) there is probably an art gallery near you. Art galleries provide an opportunity for you to be around people and you can choose how much interaction you want! If you just want to look at the various art pieces you’ll be left alone to do so, but if you want to try talking with people you’ll find willing conversation partners.
Important Points From This Article To Remember:
- You’re probably not one of the the rare people who actually want to be totally alone
- You feel as though you are alone not though personal choice
- The fact that you are alone is causing you anxiety because you think others have rejected you or will reject you
- The only way to cope with being alone is to stop being alone
- Working to solve your feelings of anxiety and inferiority is the correct path
- But in the meantime there are several types of activities and events you can attend and participate in as a short-term solution