It is human nature to want to be around others. People feel safe within a group. They feel protected. However, sometimes our desire to be surrounded by others can hinder our ability to feel comfortable while being alone.
I have always been a social person. I enjoy being around my friends, and I am not scared to meet new people. But over the years, I realized I was using my peers as a way to avoid what I thought to be “socially unacceptable”: being alone.
In the past, I never wanted to go out to lunch by myself, for fear of people seeing me and thinking I did not have any friends to go with. I did not like to walk down the halls of school without someone nearby to talk to. I would avoid going into places where I didn’t recognize anyone. I spent all my time with other people in order to avoid having to do anything alone. But then, I started to see how little I actually knew myself because I had never taken the time to separate myself from everyone else.
My fear of being alone was stopping me from getting to know someone very important in my life: me.
Often, I think people are much more interested in me than they actually are. Everyone has felt the nerves of thinking the whole room is staring at you and judging when in reality, no one is paying attention.
In high school, one of the hardest things to deal with is feeling judged or ostracized. In the age of social media, we have constant access to see what everyone else is doing. We can see who someone is with, where they are, and how much fun they are having at the click of a button. The growth in social media further pressures students to feel as though they have to be with others at all times in order to fit in.
Sitting alone in your room on a Friday night is not an escape from the hectic world of school, because as soon as you turn on your phone, you see the party that you were not invited to all over Instagram. Sports might not be your thing, but as soon as you open Snapchat, you can quickly see how much fun everyone is having at the football game.
So how does one become comfortable with being alone? In short, there is no clear answer. I still get uncomfortable when I go out alone and see my peers. I still feel that nervous churning in my stomach as I awkwardly look at my phone, pretending to be preoccupied as I wait for them to walk away. I still wonder if they are judging me, and laughing as they walk away.
But over time, I have also realized that I care more about truly getting to know myself rather than what strangers think of me.
I realized that I like driving around listening to Glee reruns and singing at the top of my lungs, even when there is no one else listening. I discovered that I enjoy taking my time at the gym and watching cheesy movies while running because I do not have to worry about making small talk and doing workouts that my friends want to do that I do not.
These small realizations are what motivate me to continue to go outside of my comfort zone. The more time I spend alone, the more I realize what I actually like, and what I pretend to like in order to appease the masses.
Even though it might feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, being alone can actually be extremely beneficial. It is good for one to take the time to get to know themselves outside of a social setting. Being comfortable with your friends is a great thing, but being comfortable with yourself is a trait that you can take with you for the rest of your life.