Why We're So Afraid Of Being Alone — And How We Can Change

by Joana Ribeiro

When we were younger, we had no problem playing with our toys and sitting on the playground all by ourselves. Having a sandwich alone in the kitchen was not the end of the world and no one would like you less if you did it.

However, as we grew up, we began to dread the time we needed to spend by ourselves; we tried to avoid it at all costs.

I've tried it several times. I've had a restaurant date with myself, with nothing but my own mind with which to converse. To my dismay, my eyes always ended up drifting to my mobile phone to check social media updates, the latest news and the most random music gossip.

No matter how much I try, it seems that I panic every time I try to be alone.

Society prescribes that you must be popular; that people who are popular and who know the most people and do the most things are the ones who are successful; that anything outside of a traditional job is basically unacceptable.

If you are not joining the crowd, you’re strange. Breaking the status quo will force you to examine what you are doing with your life, to make peace with your choices and to think about what you are doing wrong. This will lead to change.

However, to manage to do this, you must be able to examine what is making you feel uncomfortable. What is making you so afraid of being alone?

Is it possible that society has so effectively drilled certain notions into our minds that we reproach ourselves and judge our own solitude as something that is bad — a sign of weakness, even? Or, has our brain wiring changed so much that our expectations render us unable to be patient and demand what we want when we want it?

Let’s first examine why this happens, and then learn how to change it:

If you’re alone, you’re lonely.

This is one of the oldest myths in the book, and to fight it, we must truly listen to what we want and need, rather than what other people think.

No one likes being cast aside or labeled by others. High school is over, but the primal fear of feeling like an outcast is very much present in our 20s and 30s.

We want the boys who didn’t give us the time of day to look at us differently; we want the teachers who said we would never amount to anything to see us thrive. But soon, we’ll learn that this isn’t enough. Something fundamental is missing and we’re not sure what it is.

We fight to not let it change us, but generally, outside perception weighs on our choices more than we would like to admit.

Only when we stop thinking about what will make others proud of us will we be truly proud of ourselves.

It is your responsibility to change your mindset and realize that just because you’re alone, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a lonely or sad person — you’re simply allowing your mind and body to focus on you.

Take time by yourself to understand what scares you the most about being alone. Afterward, face that fear directly.

Beware that this is not an instantaneous revolution -- I know I’m still working on it. Quite simply, it will allow you to just be you.

We’re wired differently.

There is also biological reasoning as to why we can’t just be by ourselves. When was the last time you were able to sit, sip on a drink and enjoy the afternoon, without company? For me, it’s been ages.

Today, information transmits faster than it ever has before; something that transpires around the world can be known instantly, thanks to the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle.

We are so used to having our senses overwhelmed with information, we become used to the fast pace of the world. We spend hours reading things online, and as soon as we look up, we don’t know where the time has gone.

Since we have become so accustomed to constant connectivity, it’s no wonder that being separated from an Internet connection leaves us feeling weird. Unlike us, our ancestors had no choice but to just be in the moment.

Being the first generation to have constant connectivity means that we are also the first generation to suffer from withdrawal in its absence. We feel it’s necessary to be constantly plugged in and updated; any other option is not even an option.

However, we must take a few steps back and learn to be without it. Only then will we be able to stand still and figure out what our inner selves have been working to tell us all along.


Given everything above, how can we unplug and enjoy solidarity without breaking into a cold sweat? There are so many simple ways to start:

-Take a notebook or a book or a newspaper with you to a café and sit, alone.

-Fight the urge to look at your phone every second and update your status or tweet about how good it feels to relax.

-Start by having a notebook or a book or a newspaper and then gradually, move on to having nothing.

-Take a walk. People watch and let time pass over you.

Another great technique, when you start to get confident, is to devote 15 minutes of silence to yourself. This will allow you to focus and to relax your mind and body.

Sit in a place where you know you won’t be disturbed, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. If you feel your mind begin to wander, let it. If you find yourself thinking about chores, bills, jobs, internships or work, stop.

Take another deep breath, count to 10 and start again. Focus on your breathing and your body; feel it start to relax.

Meditate and listen to music if you feel that it will help you.

Remember that when you start thinking, “This is stupid. I should be doing something useful with my time,” it’s only because society says so.

Remember that any time you devote to feeling comfortable in you or own skin is not time wasted. You are learning to cease the whirlwind around you and to really enjoy the present.

So many times, we see the present as a preparation for tomorrow or as a playground of regret from yesterday. We must learn to win back the present in order to enjoy it. By doing this, we’ll find what really makes us tick; what really makes us feel so uneasy.

By doing so, we’ll be able to bravely pursue what we really want out of life.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It