"I don't want you to turn into a loner."
This comment was made to me the other day by a well-meaning person after I told them that I liked being alone. What I meant by that was that I typically enjoy my own company.
I think this person simply misinterpreted what I meant. I think when someone says that they like being alone, people impulsively think it means, "I don't like being around others."
When people think I'm a loner, it kind of hurts me for a few seconds. Because once upon a time, I was one. And I don't like slapping labels on anyone but myself, so I can comfortably say that there was a time when I felt like an awful loner. I would've licked a hot stove top before I went to a social function or greeted another human being.
But one of the main things I've been working on this year has been finding a balance between enjoying my own company and enjoying the company of others. And I, like many other people, feel a bit deflated when people don't seem to notice my progress. Or when I feel misunderstood.
When I gradually started easing my way out of my depressive state last year, I decided to spend more time alone in an attempt to reconnect with myself, get to know myself and figure out what I really wanted.
I did that. It worked, and it was a wonderful decision.
The problem? I got extremely comfortable with my seclusion and could not seem to pull myself out of it for the life of me. I became addicted to my solitude.
I alienated almost everyone who cared about me. I stopped picking up the phone. I faked illnesses to get out of participating in family functions. I turned down invitations to hang out with my friends. I never made an effort to meet or greet people. I was about as closed off as a metal door with four thousand chains around it. Getting me to come out of hiding was close to impossible. I pretty much never left my home.
You get the idea. I stuffed down feelings of loneliness because I didn't want to risk giving up my comfortable, solitary lifestyle.
But this year, I have made a lot of progress. Especially in recent months. I've been opening up more. I've started being nicer to people and seeing the good in them instead of assuming that they want to judge or hurt me in some way. I've started realizing the sacredness of love and friendship again. When someone I care about takes the time to invite me to something, I go. I've spent more time with people in recent months than I ever would have in my "loner" days.
But with all of that said, I still enjoy my solitude. And that's okay. I'm still working on maintaining a healthy balance and being able to recognize any resistance to spending time on either end of the spectrum, but I'm making progress one step and one social situation at a time. That's all that matters. All progress is good progress.
You can't define yourself based on what another person says or does. People usually mean well, and we're all misunderstood from time to time anyway. As long as we don't lose ourselves in the opinions of others, it's okay.
I have a solitary job. I would rather curl up on the couch with a good book or a good movie than attend a high energy social event. I only have a handful of close people in my life, but they're all I need and everything I want.
I'm an introvert, and I enjoy spending time alone. It's who I am.
And for the first time in a long time, I'm genuinely happy with who I am. :-)