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Being Alone Versus Lonely

My baby tortoise, Malti, is very comfortable being alone. But when she wants Mommy-time, she lets me know!
My baby tortoise, Malti, is very comfortable being alone. But when she wants Mommy-time, she lets me know!

Ahhhh…..alone time.

I used to simultaneously crave and dread it.

(This was because I was such terrible company to spend time with.)

Today, I just crave it.

Sometimes I crave it so much I struggle when it becomes clear it is time to go be with people again.

As an introvert, I do most of my recharging by being alone, but every so often that balance swings so far to one side that I need to go do a different kind of recharging by being with people.

Often, the signal I get that this is what is needed is depression (yuck).

I start to notice falling self-worth, fearfulness about the future, dread of being lonely (as opposed to being alone – in my life today, these are two very different experiences).

When “alone” turns to “lonely,” it is time to step out.

But unless I am in one of those rare cycles, I gain so much from keeping company with myself. 

I learn to speak less and listen more.

I more carefully measure what needs sharing when I have the opportunity to be with a loved one again (i.e., I tend to find myself steering clear of recalling that morning’s tiny passing tempest in favor of sharing bigger news on a more lasting level).

I am better able to listen to my own gut and make decisions from that intuitive place, rather than racing from one person to the next to ask for advice.

I am less apt to be hard on myself if I wake up into a “creating” day (the kind where you float around and occasionally get some work done as you dream up new and interesting things).

Also, I am more deliberate about who I choose to keep company with when I “come out” to be with people again.

I tend to seek company from those – and only those – who can support me and add to the gains I’ve made from spending time alone.

Perhaps my natural respect for and enjoyment of alone-time has arisen out of my many years of devotion to meditation.

My meditation mentors have often shared about the power of silence and alone-time in deepening the inner connection, the intuition, the ability of the soul to shine through.

They also talk about developing the ability to be “alone in the midst of a crowd” – that is, to maintain the feeling and perspective of alone-ness even when surrounded by many others.

I crave these abilities and want to be like them, which makes me appreciate alone-time more than avoid it.

Sometimes I even seek it out during times when it can be very hard to endure, such as when I’ve gone through a loss or breakup, or when I am very anxious about something in my life.

By resisting the urge to distract myself, to dissociate in more predictable ways (drinking, whining, diving into “helping” others from my own weakened state), I often discover it takes less time to heal and re-emerge feeling strong and vital again.

In the past when I’ve blogged about alone-time, many comments have referenced feeling lonely.

So I really want to emphasize the difference.

I spent years feeling not just alone (as in, I would look around and I was the only one there) but also lonely (as in, even when caring people were there, I felt a deep unfillable gnawing emptiness inside).

As well, while being alone with myself has opened doors to explore insecurities and fears from a place of inner surety and strength, being lonely has tended to create the opposite – feelings of weakness and insecurity that are immobilizing rather than empowering.

In today’s culture, the terms “loneliness” and “aloneness” are often used interchangeably, which can cause confusion in determining which is which.

I am still fearful of loneliness – and I intensely dislike the sensation when it arises. Perhaps that is the human instinct for survival at work….since being isolated, rejected, abandoned, or otherwise without companionship in the wild often spells disaster.

But being alone with myself – being able to keep good, quiet company with myself in a sustained way – that is a state that has truly become a haven and a trusted sanctuary I hope to always keep with me.

Today’s Takeaway: What is your relationship like with being alone? What is your relationship like with being lonely? Do you see value in both or either one? How can you tell the difference between when you are simply keeping company with yourself alone and when you have become lonely? How do you react when this is the case?

Being Alone Versus Lonely

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2015). Being Alone Versus Lonely. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Apr 2015
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