24 Important Things You Learn When You Spend Time Alone

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Solitude, isolation, seclusion – whatever you like to call it, spending time alone can teach us many valuable lessons.

Being in one’s own company comes more naturally to some than it does others, but regardless of your predisposition, you will take a great deal from the moments you spend apart from people.

When you are disconnected from the rest of humanity, you can expect to discover many things about yourself, not least the 24 things that follow.

1. Being Alone Is Not The Same As Being Lonely

A misconception held by many people – especially extroverts – is that when you are alone, you automatically feel a sense of loneliness.

As an observer, when you see someone by themselves – dining in a restaurant, sitting in a park, or going to the movies – you might instinctively assume they are lonely and that they’d like company.

Yet, when you spend time alone, you realize that this is often far from the truth.

You can be perfectly content without the company of others; in fact, it is very possible to feel lonely even when surrounded by people.

2. You Can Discover Who You Truly Are

If you imagine your mind as some great lake, then every interaction you have with another person causes ripples on the surface.

It is only when you remove yourself from the distractions and energy of other people that the lake becomes calm, allowing you to see your own reflection in it.

Separation from the constant mental turbulence caused by a world full of people is the only opportunity we have to look inward and get to know who we are.

3. Only You Are Responsible For Your Own Life

When all physical connections are broken and you are alone with your thoughts, a fundamental realization falls upon you.

With nobody other than yourself as a guide, you are completely and utterly responsible for the path you take in life.

Even when you are with a person or people, you are ultimately in control of your actions, your choices, and your attitude.

4. You Are Complete

Cut off from the companionship of others, it becomes apparent that, despite the lack of human connection, you continue to exist.

Your breath is unrelenting; your mind is active; you are still alive – all without the input of an outside influence.

The more you focus on this point, the more you come to recognize how complete you must be.

If you were incomplete in any way, how would you be able to function properly?

There is nothing that anyone can give you that you do not already have.

All they can do is help shine a light on something that was previously hidden in darkness.

5. Happiness Comes From Within

Once you understand that you are complete, the obvious next point is that happiness can only grow from inside of you.

It can never be given to you by another.

Of course, you may feel great happiness when in the company of other people – even more so than when you are alone – but this happiness will have been sitting within you as a potential, just waiting for the right time to become a reality.

Never believe that your happiness depends on the will and whim of someone other than yourself.

6. You Don’t Need The Approval Of Others

Seeking the approval of others – your family, your friends, your colleagues, and your teachers – often causes you to lose touch with yourself.

With such great effort and energy going into being what other people believe you should be, there is little left to just be the person you are.

You suppress your genuine dreams and desires in order to have your ego rewarded by the congratulatory nod of your peers.

But solitude turns things around and proves that the only person you need to impress is yourself.

When there’s nobody else around, it is your own approval that matters most, and by always trying to please others, you may never feel completely satisfied.

7. Nobody Will Ever Fully Understand You

When you are alone with no company but your own, you fully appreciate how utterly separate your existence is.

You are the only person who hears your thoughts, sees what you see, and feels what you feel.

This leads to the realization that it is impossible for anybody else to truly understand you in your entirety.

As much as you are connected to everyone and everything else, you are also detached from them in so many ways.

8. Always Be Honest With Yourself

Beyond all the noise and distractions of everyday existence, when you sit silent in the company of your own thoughts, you are forced to confront the realities of your life.

With nowhere to hide and nowhere to run, you come face-to-face with your demons, insecurities, and other issues.

At this point, the only option left is to be completely honest with yourself, and while sometimes painful, it can also feel extremely liberating to address the things that have been weighing on your mind.

9. Introspection Is A Valuable Tool

Being by yourself gives you ample time to turn your gaze inwards and observe your own thoughts, feelings, and mental processes.

From this, you learn a great deal about yourself, such as where your moral compass is pointing, how satisfied you are, and what pain you carry.

Through this self-discovery, you are able to make changes in your life to better reflect the person you really are.

This might apply to your relationships, career, spiritual beliefs, or dreams among many other things.

In essence, self-reflection becomes a conduit through which you awaken the true you.

10. You Can Have Unhealthy Attachments

It is only when you pull yourself away from something that you are able to fully appreciate how strong your attachment to it is.

If you find that you are unable to enjoy your seclusion because of a strong urge towards something or someone, then you might want to consider why this is.

Have you grown so dependant on the influence of an external entity that you no longer feel comfortable without it?

If so, you have might have an unhealthy level of attachment to it.

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11. You Are Capable

When you spend time alone, you are utterly dependent on yourself and this forces you to tackle any obstacle that lay in your path.

It is when you meet these challenges that you realize just how capable you are as an individual.

The false belief that you can’t cope without the help of others is washed away and you gain a renewed trust in your capacity to survive anything.

12. Independence Is Empowering

Being alone and realizing your innate capabilities, you become empowered to make positive changes in your own life, and to be a positive force in the world at large.

You feel able to strike out on your own when necessary in order to pursue the things that really matter to you.

Your fear of the unknown diminishes and your self-belief blossoms.

13. You Realize What’s Important And What’s Not

Isolated from the rest of society, you begin to figure out what the important things are in your life – the people you cherish, the activities you enjoy, and the possessions that hold meaning to you.

It’s only when you have time to quietly sit and ponder that you can separate the essential from the superfluous.

14. Life Is Chaotic

When you are actively engaged in the ceaseless performance that is everyday life, you can’t see it for what it really is: chaos.

You are so entangled in myriad interactions that you are unable to recognize its true form.

As soon as you remove yourself from the system and become an observer, it becomes apparent that much of life is unpredictable and messy and that this is not something to fear.

15. The Quality Of Your Interactions Matter More Than The Quantity

When you are removed from the world of small talk, niceties, and forced friendliness, it soon becomes obvious that what matters is not the number of people you interact with, but the quality of those interactions.

That’s why it is better to have a small group of close friends whose company you genuinely enjoy, rather than a greater number of friends, many of whom may be little more than acquaintances.

16. Comparing Yourself To Others Is Futile

The curse of envy stems from your need to compare your life with those of your peers.

You idolize others, believing them to be blessed with a life far more satisfying than your own.

Yet, when you peel away and spend time by yourself, you realize that making comparisons is a futile exercise.

When you are alone, the lives of others become but faded fantasies and you feel less need to judge yourself by the perceived standards you have of others.

17. You Have Nothing To Prove

Not only should you refrain from making comparisons with others, you ought to drop any compulsion you might have to prove yourself worthy.

Again, it is in the solace of solitude that you come to appreciate just how little the opinions of others matter.

When there is nobody there to cast judgement on you, the need to assert your inner value to the world disappears.

18. Creativity Is The Gift Of A Quiet Mind

When surrounded by other people, it can be hard for your mind to perform at its best.

You become distracted and disinterested in tasks to the point where you are unable to utilize your full potential.

As soon as you put some distance between yourself and others – when you manage to find a small refuge of peace – your mind is free to dream up whatever it likes.

Thus, creativity flows more easily from the singular state than it does the connected one.

19. You Already Have The Answers To Most Questions

When you are by yourself, still, and able to engage in genuine contemplation, you find the answers to all sorts of questions.

Whatever doubts you’ve been wrestling with, escaping from the demands of other people frees up the energy to work on your own problems.

When you know the answers to life’s questions are already within you, and that they reveal themselves in moments of isolation, it comes as a great comfort.

20. Being Alone Is Better Than Being With Just Anybody

After spending time alone, you won’t look at friendships and relationships the same way again.

No longer will the company of just anyone do; you’ll find that you will prefer to be by yourself than spend time with those who you don’t really care for.

This also applies to situations and events that you don’t find appealing.

So, if you are an introvert, you might prefer to be alone than spend time at a party, even if close friends will be there.

21. Every Relationship Comes With Expectations And Pressures

Whether a friend, partner, or family member, every single interpersonal relationship generates its own expectations and pressures.

You may not be consciously aware of their existence, but they are there nonetheless.

It’s only when you are free to spend some time alone, and when you can notice the absence of these things, that you become aware of them in the first place.

22. Authenticity Requires Far Less Energy

Being truly alone means you can revert to your natural, totally authentic self.

During these times, it is plain to see how little energy is required.

In comparison, when you are being social, you inevitably act out a slightly different version of yourself and this takes a degree of effort.

Only in solitude, or in the company of those closest to you, do you really show your true self.

23. Human Interaction Is A Wonderful Thing

As nice as it is to spend some time alone, by doing so, you realize just how amazing it is to be able to enjoy life with other people.

You appreciate that we are social creatures who have the ability to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

You understand that a life of complete solitude would not provide quite the same zest and zeal as can be enjoyed in the company of others.

24. You Have To Be Selfish At Times

Perhaps more than anything above, spending time by yourself shows you that it is ok – even necessary – to put yourself first once in a while.

You may have responsibilities to others, but taking time out to relax and take care of yourself means you’ll be better able to meet those responsibilities.

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.