How to Be Okay with Being Alone: Reflections from an ADHD Extrovert
“I learned the differences between being lonely and being alone, but at peace. The ability to be alone is a learned strength. You must make yourself so vulnerable that you are forced to face your fear of loneliness and discover how to thrive.”
I’ve always been a people pleaser. I was a funny and cute, showy and loud, somewhat odd kid. This still rings true today. I’m an ADHD extrovert — someone who feels energized surrounded by friendly people. I find comfort and security in others, and I try to return the favor in volumes. I love to hug, share, and joke with people, especially when they’re sad. (I even love listening to people’s break-up stories.)
But there’s also a tougher side of extroversion: I have had to overcome a colossal fear of being left out and truly alone. I grew up thinking that a solo night at home was not okay. Compound this with the negative effects of social media (which I avoid), and I feel like disconnecting means missing out on something awesome.
Can I Be Alone — But Not Lonely?
I am currently buying my first apartment; it’s a listed second-floor fixer-upper. It’s in a converted 1800s mental asylum, which counted the Queen’s cousin as a patient (I might even have her room!).
While having my own space is much needed, for the first time in six years I will live alone. Sure, I can handle my own company, but I’m accustomed to the background noise of housemates, pets, and family. Replacing my reliably social lifestyle with empty time and space scares me. I imagine myself sitting alone and hungover on a down day, dwarfed by vacant air under tall Victorian ceilings in the bitter cold of winter, suffocated by a sour turn in life and bills I can’t afford, with only echoes and silence available to comfort me (that and the Queen’s cousin’s ghost).
In spite of this fear, I know that I can thrive alone once I overcome my jitters and open myself up to the idea that it’s actually very healthy.
How I Practiced Being Alone, But Not Lonely
At 25, I took my first solo trip. I was on a boat with 50 strangers, barely any of whom spoke English. I couldn’t receive a phone signal. The only distractions were the loud chugging noise of the boat’s engine and the stunning views of eastern Indonesia.
I learned more about myself in those few days than I had in years because I was forced to deal with my own company. I rapidly made new friends, but I also took time for myself for the first time. I learned the differences between being lonely and being alone, but at peace. The ability to be alone is a learned strength. It’s important to make yourself vulnerable so that you are forced to face your fear of loneliness and discover how to thrive.
A little solitude offers peace and new opportunities. My wants become clearer when I find that personal space. I will soon get to rule my home and not worry about my housemates’ feelings, there will be no house politics. Any mess in my house is mine alone and only I will get annoyed if the house is untidy (and my mother when she visits).
Taking that new perspective that solitude actually provides space to breathe rather than feel like I’m in detention helps dispel that fear of loneliness.
Also, I’ve pretty much promised everyone I know a key, and the apartment comes with a pool!
How To Be Okay with Being Alone: Next Steps
- Read: Are You Feeling Lonely?
- Understand: How Can I Learn to Live on My Own?
- Learn: Why People with ADHD Need Downtime
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