There is a really huge difference between being alone and being lonely. The other day, a friend was talking about how she took a year off from relationships after her last heartbreak. Now that the year is up, she thinks she needs another year. Several people seemed to think that she was wasting her life and her time by doing that. They were encouraging her to get back out there. I agree that we shouldn’t hide away forever just to avoid getting hurt. Locking ourselves away to avoid hurt is a sure way to avoid love, too. I know that all too well! But there is nothing wrong with taking as much time as you need to heal. There is nothing wrong with being alone. You don’t have worth because of the person you are with. You have worth because you are you. Your time isn’t wasted by healing or by being single, but it may be wasted if you are in a relationship you aren’t ready for. It will be wasted if you are in a position that makes you miserable or causes further damage.
I am the queen of locking herself away. After the revelations of the last few years, I’m determined not to live like that any longer. It isn’t healthy. I wasn’t happy. And it’s a place where safe becomes subjective. No one could lie to me, cheat on me, hit me, annoy me, etc. They couldn’t do those things if they didn’t know I existed. That means they also couldn’t love me, help me, hold me, need me. Both of those scenarios hurt and are damaging to the soul, so tell me, which one is safe?
“What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden,
but this: I have only my own burden to bear.” -Dag Hammarskjold
People need people. We need them in many different roles in life. And we need to be needed by them. We are full of love and help and kindness and interesting thoughts. We have strengths and talents and skills. If we have no one to give those to, no one to share them with, no one to help in life, why are we even here? But that doesn’t mean we need them constantly. Nor do we need to be needed constantly.
As an introvert, I like to be alone. It does NOT mean I’m shy, it means that being around certain people or being around people for too long of a time, drains my energy. I need to be alone to recharge. I like books and movies and I don’t mind silence; though, you wouldn’t know that if you realized how much I talk to myself… out loud. The problem is that when you are alone too much, you get used to being alone, you don’t realize when it starts to slide into actual loneliness. It is hard to measure because you are numb to the process. Socializing is difficult because it doesn’t often feel good, and it’s a heavy gamble that this gathering or that event won’t feel bad. It’s a lot of work to find the people who don’t drain you, who maybe even energize you. And then, you wonder if you are a drain on them. You don’t want to use up those precious resources, so you don’t seek out contact. Then they think that you don’t like them and they stop contacting you. And then you are alone again and the cycle continues.
Even extroverts need some space once in a while. Especially when they are hurt, they need to retreat a little. Though for them, company and society are energizing. They don’t stay reclusive for long before they seek out the healing of being with other people.
Taking a break from dating doesn’t make you lonely, it makes you alone. There is nothing at all wrong with that. Even if you are an introvert, that doesn’t mean that you will spiral into loneliness and seclusion forever. Sometimes we have to rebuild ourselves, we have to let ourselves heal, and sometimes that is best without the pouring of ourselves into new people. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we need new people to help us see past our past so that we can look to the future and heal. It is a very personal call. It is something that only your soul can tell you. What energy heals and what energy drains? Go where there is healing, even if it means going where others don’t understand.
It’s quite possible that a “get back on the horse” mentality works for you. But is it always healthy? Can you not enjoy your own company? Can you not respect yourself enough to take the time to know you are ready to invest in a new relationship? I’m not a fan of being lonely, but not all time spent alone qualifies as loneliness.