There is nothing wrong with a little alone time. We all need to be alone from time to time, and it varies from person to person. Some people need more alone time than others to recoup from the day or time with others. The American culture naturally encourages people to be outgoing, group oriented, and to want to spend time with other people ALL THE TIME, but for most people, especially introverts, that just isn’t realistic. That takes me to my first point in this. You may just be an introvert.
Are You an Introvert?
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not outgoing or friendly. It just means that you get tired when you spend time with people. You aren’t energized by other people as an extrovert would be. There are some introverts who can spend hours on end with people and then recharge at night. The bottom line though is that others are not recharging. For an introvert, your best professional and other ideas may come during times of solitude. You have a small group of close friends, and you feel you have quality relationships. Then again, you may keep your friends at a certain distance, but that’s comfortable for you.
When it comes to big public event, an introvert may go out often or infrequently, but they may still come home glad that they went out depending on the frequency. Personally, being an introvert, I can go hours without talking to someone who is in the same car as me, and it doesn’t bother me. I can go to dinner with a friend and not really talk, and it doesn’t seem odd to me. For an extrovert or someone who believes that you have to be somewhat of an extrovert though, this may seem extremely odd or even that there is something wrong.
Personally, I take weekends alone. Sometimes, I go out to a local coffee shop, put in my headphones, and just work or read. While popular magazines claim that introverts are a small minority of just 25% or less, there are some experts who would suggest that introverts actually make up half of the population or even the majority, depending on how you define it.
As found in the book
Quiet The Power of Introverts, introverts have a rich inner life, and they may even be more brilliant and introspective. They may listen, observe, and according to bestselling author Susan Cain,
There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers. There are other healthy types who may just appreciate a little time alone as well.
Taking Off the Mask
What does this mean? There are plenty of people who have heard about how
undesirable introverts are, how they always get stepped on and taken advantage of, and at one time in my life, I really struggled with this. My mom in particular likes to talk about what a sweet little girl I was, how I was so quiet and they could barely even hear me sometimes, bla bla bla. A fine example was when I ended up pouring a whole pitcher on the floor, because at 2, I found no one was listening when I tried to ask nicely. So I thought I’d to it for myself. The only problem was how to get that stupid pitcher upright again.
As an adult, I have found that sometimes, it’s better to put on a mask, be someone else, be gregarious and part of the
group. You put your game face on, talk to your coworkers, put on your smiles, and engage with customers. Working in just about every area of the customer service industry, this has been necessary at times. By the end of the day, it’s truly exhausting and you just need to go home and have some time to yourself. In part because of this, outside of environments where I have to do this, people often don’t hear a whole lot from me.
You have your
social self, and this is actually quite common. It allows you to be
part of the group and get more of what you want. Too much of this though can be exhausting.
As you may have imagined based on the criticisms though, there are situations where you might start to worry.
Social anxiety is something that has been trivialized in popular culture. There are those movie or TV characters who are extreme weirdos when in reality, a lot of people suffer social anxiety. They still go out, and some may just assume they’re shy. It depends on how severe it is as to how much it handicaps the individual. The display of social anxiety may be as simple as just not getting up in front of your class, not contributing in meetings, eating more by yourself at lunch, etc.
Social anxiety is ultimately a fear of social rejection or situations in which you may be embarrassed, judged, criticized, or rejected. Some go the extremes, actually believing that others are judging or criticizing them, even laughing inside, even though no one has noticed what they did
wrong. We all have those awkward or embarrassing moments, but for those with social anxiety, it can be suffocating.
Social anxiety affects 3-13% of Americans, and it becomes officially diagnosable when it actually becomes more distressing or even debilitating. If it is persistent and interferes in one’s life leading to avoidance, it may be social anxiety. It may not occur every time there is one given situation, or it may sweep across one’s entire life.
Post Traumatic Stress?/Abuse
In this situation, many want to be alone and yet fear being alone. They may have suffered severe abuse or neglect as children, or they may have suffered a negative experience with abuse as an adult, in which they were made to feel alone or helpless. They believe, because of this, that the world is an unsafe and dangerous place, because it has been in the past for them.
If this sounds like you, you should seek a good therapist to help you to address the abuse and other issues in your past. It should be someone you feel you can be comfortable around or could be in the future, someone you may be able to trust. There may be plenty of other symptoms to go along with this.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
The schizoid personality was thought at one time to be caused by overbearing mothers, distant fathers, or otherwise bad parenting. It distressed quite a few parents at one point. However, schizoid personality disorder is very serious, pervasive, and it’s something that can be hard to address. It is extremely rare, affecting less than 1% of the population, typically never married men. This is not schizophrenia, though some suspect they may be on the same spectrum. Specifically, they do not want or seek out close personal relationships.
They come across as cold, aloof, apathetic, and they are not touched by praise or criticism. They don’t seem to enjoy anything to others, and they often don’t care to be part of the family unit. They may also be asexual by choice. They are the definition of true loners.
Of course, some of us have reasons not to want to be part of our families, and some choose not to or don’t enjoy sex for other reasons. For a schizoid individual, they do not have other reasons. They simply don’t care.
If you have depression or you are in the depressive stages of bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder), this may be a point at which you just want to be alone. You can’t handle being around others.You may feel overwhelmed by life in general. If you are depressed or in the depressive stages of bipolar disorder, chances are wanting to be alone is one of the least of the symptoms you might be experiencing. This is accordingly a situation where you will definitely want to seek out professional help.