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Being alone isn’t always lonely

Learning to let go of unnecessary people, codependence
Photo by Meredith Bill

With so many people in the world, dozens of which you interact with on a daily basis, one would assume being alone would be a breath of fresh air. So, why do teens feel suffocated by the idea of it?

You can’t be caught dead in the cafeteria sitting alone. A Friday night should be a night out. Running an errand is never a one person job.

All of this, I’ve found, ties to codependency.

The characteristics that define codependency include seeking approval, a distortion of identity and purpose, rescuing, and low self-worth, according to a study conducted by Diane Jean Ausilio for California State University. Inherent in the basic message of codependency is a dysfunctional pattern of relating to others, Ausilio explained.

In other words, teens just want to belong and feel, and a need for friends becomes a part of that, finding its way into how you approach relationships.

Friends are what shape your high school experience, for better or for worse. In my case,  I’ve had to cycle through my fair share of friend groups. What I found in leaving each group, was no matter how bad they were for me, I could never let go of these “friends”. 

My friends became a form of Stockholm syndrome, a psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor, according to Merriam-Webster.

The translation of this for me became a need to keep them in my life, even if being around them felt suffocating. I would base my value on how much value I had in their eyes. I could never be my real self around them. I wasn’t happy.

But, all of this felt better to me than being alone. 

What I’ve finally been able to learn in recent months is if you have to prove your worth to your friends, they shouldn’t be your friends. And, if this leaves you alone, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost everyone: you haven’t lost yourself. 

Spending time alone can prove a multitude of benefits, psychotherapist Amy Morrin reports for Forbes. It can increase one’s empathy, productivity, creativity, and build mental strength. Most interestingly for teens to note, alone time can help one know themself better.

People often say that you can’t love others until you love yourself, and I always played that off as a cheesy #self-love phrase. But, I’ve now found it keeping me grounded. “Love yourself”, doesn’t mean waking up every morning, looking in the mirror, and forcing affirmations onto yourself, it means finding a genuinely happy person looking back at you. 

Others won’t always be there for you, but you’ll always have yourself, so don’t let yourself down.

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