Being a Loner in a Social World
I'm Nobody - Who are you?
Are you - Nobody - Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise - you know!
How dreary - to be - Somebody!
How public - like a Frog -
To tell one's name - the livelong June -
To an admiring Bog!
Being Unsocial in a Social World
My whole life I've been told that if a person doesn't want to spend time with other people then there is something wrong with them. My family forced me to socialize with my classmates, and I believed that that is what I was supposed to do. For decades I was depressed and just accepted that as part of myself, believing I couldn't really be happy. Then one day I decided to spend a few weeks away from people, just to hide away for a little while and rest. I was so happy. I never thought anyone could be as happy as I was while I was alone.
Why Am I Writing This?
Social people make up far more of the population than loners do, so some people reading this may wonder why I'm writing to a social world about being a loner. Society tells everyone that they have to be social, that the only way to be is to interact with other people in meaningful ways. That's a lie. It's a lie that everyone has to be social and is supposed to enjoy being social, and it's a lie that kept me from happiness for twenty-seven years. The lie is so pervasive in society that people may find it unbelievable that a person can be happy being alone. So I'm getting the word out. While most people won't be happy being alone, some will - and the ones that will are being told that they won't.
The truth is, being a loner is a preference just like everything else - some people like eating meat, others don't; some people like playing sports, others don't; some people like being around other people, others don't. If being alone is a preference that you have, it is beneficial to accept this and build your life around it as soon as possible.
Benefit of Discovering the Joy of Being Alone Early
Some loners accept early on that they enjoy life more when they're alone. Other loners are born into social families that have trouble understanding that they want to be alone and they like only having a few friends. This society is made for people who are social, so navigating the world as a loner is sometimes difficult. But if a person discovers their preference early, they can develop skills to make living as a loner easier. For instance, there are several jobs that require socialization, whether as part of the job description itself or as a function of the work environment. The earlier a loner discovers their preference the sooner they can begin developing skills that are useful for professions that require little interaction with other people. Writing has been called the loneliest profession, being a pathologist or a lab technician limits the worker's interactions with people, working in information technology is notorious for being loner-friendly. I work nights to limit my people time.
My Journey to Becoming a Proud Loner
I didn't easily come to the conclusion that being a loner is the life for me. My whole life my family told me that I had to be around people otherwise I wasn't normal, there was something horribly wrong with me. I believed the lie for a long time because it's a message that society spreads as well. For years I agonized about spending time around people, stressing myself out over having "enough" friends and spending "enough" time with them. It took almost three decades before I realized I wasn't stressed out because I wasn't spending enough time with other people, what was stressing me out was the time actually spent with other people. I wasn't living my life the way I wanted to live it, I was living my life the way I was told I should live it.
For those who are loners and for those who aren't, always remember that you are in charge of your life. What people think doesn't matter unless you are hurting them. Whether you're a loner or gay or Wiccan or atheist, this is your life and you should live it the way you want to.
Why I Love Being a Loner
Being a loner has definite perks for people who can stand to be alone for extended periods of time. Nearly all of my free time is spent only doing activities that I love. I have plenty of time to read and write and listen to music. I don't have to worry about making time for all the activities I enjoy, the time is when I'm not at work (and even sometimes when I am at work). My family would accuse me of doing "nothing" while I was alone, but the truth is my life is filled with joyous and mentally-taxing activities whether other people are there or not. Sure I watch television, but when I'm alone I also do puzzles and read and play chess against a computer. No activity suddenly becomes meaningless because there's only one person doing it.
Being a born loner I was never too concerned with what other people think of me. I was never the most popular person in school, so I had no status to lose. This set me free to do what I enjoy and not worry about being viewed as a dork. I watched Garfield and wore whatever clothes I wanted. I didn't really think about it then, but looking back I'm really glad I was never popular. I would have missed out on a lot of activities that I enjoy if I had been obsessed with how people view me. I'm also more independent than the average person due to my plentiful experience with getting along without other people.
What Not to Call This
One of the reasons loners are viewed as "wrong" by society is a lack of understanding about what it really is. People use the word "antisocial" to describe loners without understanding what it means, just knowing that it's bad. Antisocial is not the same as unsocial. Antisocial means harmful to society, unsocial is just not wanting to be heavily involved in society. There is a big difference. Antisocial Personality Disorder is the psychological disorder that is colloquially described as psychopathic, and being unsocial isn't actually a big part of it. People who are Antisocial usually ingratiate themselves into society and are, in fact, very sociable. If a true psychological term is to be used to describe loner behavior, it would be Avoidant. This won't be completely accurate for all loners, though, because Avoidant Personality Disorder is distancing oneself from society due to anxiety. While some loners have anxiety disorders, not all do.
Recommended Reading - Here are some great articles about being a loner.
- Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insiders
Loners are pitied in our up-with-people culture. But the introvert reaps secret joy from the solitary life. By Elizabeth Svoboda
- How to Be a Loner
How to Be a Loner. Are you a natural hermit, a seeker of solitude, the kind they call a "lone wolf"?
- Caring for Your Introvert
The habits and needs of a little-understood group.
The Loners' Manifesto by Anneli Rufus
For prospective loners who aren't sure if the loner life is the life for them, I highly recommend this book. If you're already one of us and proud about it, you are sure to like this book as well.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Marigold Tortelli