Do you hate being alone? That’s not unusual, given that humans are inherently social creatures.
Even the most isolated of people typically crave companionship sooner or later.
Having someone to talk to does wonders for your emotional and mental health. Conversely, being alone for an extended period can have dramatic, negative health consequences.
It’s worth pointing out that there is a difference between “alone” and “lonely.” That difference matters in the context of this article and for you as you try to figure out why you hate being alone.
Being alone isn’t bad, even though it may feel like it is right now. That’s totally okay and valid.
On the other hand, being lonely is rarely good because loneliness is an emotion telling your conscious mind that you have a need that is not being fulfilled. And that need is other people and socialization.
So being alone can be time for self-improvement, personal hobbies, or relaxing, so long as you’re okay with being alone.
But what if you’re not? Why do you hate being alone? And how can you be okay with it?
Why do I hate being alone?
What is it about being alone that you loathe? Chances are the reason revolves around one of the following things:
1. You require external validation to be okay.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little external validation occasionally. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who love and support you enough to want to be proud of you.
Unfortunately, that can cross over into unhealthy territory where a person requires external validation to feel okay.
You may be a people-pleaser who quickly jumps to a task because you’re craving external validation.
Like many things, external validation is okay in small doses. However, if you depend on external validation, you’re likely to hate being alone. After all, if you’re alone, then there’s no one around you to validate you.
People who require external validation often have trouble with their self-esteem and self-worth. They may not be able to see or find any value in themselves on their own. That may be the result of childhood trauma or surviving domestic abuse. Both can leave a lasting impact on the survivor.
2. You feel lost without direction.
Some people have an impossible time charting their own course through life. If they find themselves alone, they are confronted with needing to choose their own activities and direction.
Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety and ADHD, may cause you to become overwhelmed by too many choices.
Being around other people means you can take social cues from them or even ask for their help picking a direction. For example, “What should I do? Can you recommend a book to read? Should I tidy up? Do I need to take a shower?”
But when left to your own devices, you may find that too many options cause you to shut down and do nothing instead.
It isn’t that people who struggle with feeling lost are lazy—far from it. Instead, it’s more likely that something is disrupting their executive function, which is a set of self-regulation skills that help you plan, focus attention, and juggle multiple tasks.
These skills may be further impeded by mental health conditions like anxiety and ADHD.
3. You have trauma associated with being alone.
A traumatic experience is defined by the American Psychological Association as an event that causes an extreme emotional response that is typically outside of your control.
That can be anything from living through a hurricane to a car accident to being trapped in an abusive relationship.
Trauma, in turn, can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—where your brain is conditioned to be vigilant against similar threats to the one you faced. And quite often, your brain will find those threats whether they exist or not, which is part of what makes PTSD and trauma so devastating.
What happens when you have trauma associated with being alone? In that case, you may find that your mind is hypervigilant and anxious while you are by yourself.
As a result, you may feel like you can’t rest or relax because, if you do, something bad will happen. But, of course, that’s not true, even though it feels true.
4. Being alone leaves you alone with your thoughts.
Not everyone’s mental landscape is a good or healthy place. Many folks use socialization as a distraction from what happens in their head.
If they are focused on other people, they don’t have to stop and think about themselves, their problems, or the negative thoughts creeping into their minds.
That is a hard thing to deal with if it’s something you struggle with regularly. Years of dealing with those thoughts can wear you so far down that it’s almost impossible to struggle through it on your own.
Silencing one’s thoughts is one of the many reasons why people might turn to substance abuse.
After all, if you’re drunk or high, the landscape of your brain changes for better or worse. Typically, the change will be for the worse the longer you use substances or unhealthy habits to cope.
5. You struggle with co-dependence.
Co-dependence may also be thought of as a “relationship addiction.” A co-dependent person is someone who never feels comfortable with being alone. They require a relationship to feel okay, much like someone struggling with a substance abuse disorder needs their substance of choice.
This person is rarely single; if they are, they aren’t single for long. They may also keep other people “on the back burner” to hop to the safety of another relationship should something happen in their current one.
A co-dependent person is someone who forms a lopsided relationship with another person. They invest 200% of themselves into the relationship and the other person, often to avoid their own problems. They may see this as a romantic act of sacrifice and love instead of the unhealthy martyrdom that it is.
And why is it so unhealthy? Because a person who hinges their personality, validation, and beliefs on another person will be disappointed or hurt by it sooner or later. No one can live up to those expectations.
An emotionally healthy person doesn’t want to be around their partner constantly. It’s normal and healthy to have boundaries with a partner.
How do I learn to be okay alone?
The good news is that several strategies can help you grow more comfortable with being alone.
Granted, these strategies aren’t likely to help with loneliness, which is often solved by being around others. But, as we’ve established, loneliness and being alone are two different things.
1. Look at alone time as self-care time.
Instead of dreading your alone time, convert it into something that will benefit your well-being and self.
For example, you can use this time to take a bubble bath, exercise, meal prep, read a book, or do something else to help fill your cup and ease your stress.
Rather than dreading or fearing alone time, try to view it as a positive experience. With time, you will learn to enjoy your own company!
2. Get off social media and reduce your screen time.
Although the internet brought the world together, it also has the potential to negatively impact personal relationships.
Social media provides the illusion of socialization. That is, you can socialize, but it’s not stimulating the same parts of the brain that in-person socialization does.
You are essentially providing the illusion of socialization to your mind, which can worsen your mental health while making you think that you’re helping yourself.
Frankly, sometimes it’s healthier to be alone than on social media.
3. Get to know yourself.
Alone time is ideal for exploring who you are. So how do you do that?
A great way to go about it is through journaling. Many view journaling as just sitting down and writing about their day. And while it certainly is that, journaling for self-improvement and understanding is quite different.
Instead of just writing or talking about your day, you want to explore different parts of yourself and why things happened.
For example, let’s say you argued with your partner. Why? What happened that drove the argument? Was the argument actually about the argument, or was it caused by some other stress? What emotions were you experiencing? Did they feel rational or reasonable about the situation? How close are you getting to a solution? What kind of solution is going to work for you?
And then, you can use those records to look back on different things that happened in your life to uncover patterns and healthier ways of doing things.
For example, suppose you notice you are more prone to conflict when you’re not sleeping well. If this is the case, then make a point of having important, sensitive discussions when you are well-rested.
A journal works best when you read previous entries to better understand your patterns and why you do what you do. That can help you learn to be your own best friend.
4. Allow yourself time to be alone.
As an end dawns and a new beginning is on the horizon, it is tempting to want to jump right back into things.
Don’t. Take some time to transition between the different stages of your life.
Everything comes and goes—relationships, friendships, jobs, life situations. It doesn’t matter. Everything begins, everything ends.
The space between these beginnings and endings is a healthy place to be. It allows you to reflect on the situation you just left while also using that time to improve yourself for future success.
Once you’re back in a relationship or new life situation, the dynamic changes. Instead of just focusing on yourself, you now have to account for additional factors that may be outside of your control.
And while you can do that for yourself when you’re alone, you can’t do that in a relationship without alienating your partner.
5. Adopt a creative pursuit.
People tend to be at their most creative when they are alone. There are so many distractions from technology, other people, and responsibilities that it can be impossible to get into the flow of an artistic endeavor.
On the other hand, alone time is ideal for finding your groove, staying in it for a while, and creating something fulfilling.
And no, we’re not suggesting using it as a side hustle. When you attach money to your passions, it becomes a job, ruining the joy for many. Take the time to focus on the art instead of thinking about the money, marketing, or whatever else it brings.
Pick any art and dive into it. If you’re struggling with loneliness, you may also want to consider looking at local craft stores or community centers for art classes. It can be a way to meet some people with at least one mutual interest and give you a good foundation for your creativity.
6. Talk to a professional.
Your discomfort with being alone may be something greater than just an adjustment of perspective. You will likely need professional help if it is tied to trauma, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
Addressing the underlying issues causing discomfort with being alone should help you become more comfortable.