The difference between solitude and isolation: Loneliness vs inner growth

I am a person who needs a lot of time to myself. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being around people, I really do. But I am naturally introverted and find being around large groups of people (or even just one person sometimes) for too long, a bit draining. I pour a lot of energy into people when I am around them and am very sensitive to the atmosphere in a room and the group dynamics. I find it exhausting sometimes. So after spending too long running around trying to please everyone, I can reach a stage of feeling burned out. Mainly because I seem to do things in extremes. So every now and then I need to retreat and recharge my batteries and gather my own thoughts. I become far too easily distracted, so unfortunately the only way to really focus on myself sometimes, is to remove myself for a little while.

The problem was, the whole being alone thing never really worked well for me. Because I actively disliked myself. I didn’t use the time to be productive or to do what I wanted or needed to do. Instead I let myself feel guilty and worthless for not being around for other people, or not making enough progress, and all that time was wasted torturing myself with negative thoughts and my own self-hatred. So instead of giving myself some head-space and achieving some balance in my life, this would lead to me overthinking and fueling my paranoia. The only results it ever produced were to send me further over the edge.

This time wasn’t any different, in the beginning. However, something changed. For the first time I feel like I am taking something away from my inner reflection. I now understand the difference between isolation and solitude. The difference between being alone and feeling alone. What started out as me isolating myself, due to feelings of inadequacy, has surprisingly lead to me discovering a whole new sense of independence and self-sufficiency.

No longer do I crave the understanding and support of others. No longer do I base my self- worth on how ‘useful’ I can be to others.

At first I was hiding, shutting out negative experiences, settings and emotions I did not want to deal with. I was so worried about what people thought of me and of drawing any attention to myself.

I’m not sure how exactly it happened, but somehow I have learned to be entirely content in my own company. To the point where I do not feel lonely. In fact, sometimes I have to give myself a little push to go interact with people, and not because of anxiety, but because I am learning to enjoy my time my myself. To really use it. I do not need to escape from myself quite so much.

I’m appreciating the time I have to myself. Instead of using it to mindlessly scroll through different forms of social media (although I do still manage to find way too much time to do that, despite me deactivating the majority of my accounts), I am spending time making things, gathering old photos, taking new ones, going on nature walks, reading and studying up on the things that are important to me. I had gotten to a stage where so many aspects of modern society did not appeal to me. Much of it I found practically unbearable. I get sick of small talk, and gossip and listening to people talk about things that don’t have meaning to me. The only way to tackle this and make life more bearable was to stop complaining and allowing myself to get angry and frustrated and feel lonely. And instead focus on the things that add meaning to my life and keep me sane. I got sick of being resentful and bitter. Positivity is an important thing. I would never want to spread negativity towards others just because they don’t view the world the way I do. That is not the kind of person I want to be. I have a terrible temper and can carry a lot of quiet built up rage that can be very destructive to the unfortunate person, or people who happen to be around when I reach boiling point. The only thing I can really do is work on myself. There is no point in always trying to be there for everyone if it leads to you neglecting your own needs and feeling resentful, thus sending out negativity. That is helpful to nobody, least of all yourself.

Instead of berating myself for feeling different, or allowing my differences to make me feel lonely, I have learned to accept them. That’s the key thing here. Realising that it’s OK to just be you. You’re not hurting anyone by being yourself. People may not always agree with you, or your way of life, but it’s YOUR life, and it’s not up to them to decide, or to take offense.

Sometimes I find my idealism embarrassing. I find my writing embarrassing. It’s a vulnerability. But it’s one of the ways that I express myself. It’s what makes me me. And I don’t need everyone to approve of me or like me. Because I am starting to like myself. And that changed everything. I don’t need to seek that elsewhere. I don’t feel the need to overcompensate for my lack of self esteem. My insecurities still exist and bog me down, I’m just learning to deal with them without implicating others in my self-destruction.

It’s no longer about who I am, or what I look like. It’s about how I feel and what I think about and what I see in the world. I may not think I’m all that special, But the universe is so full of magic, that I would be foolish not to take the time to explore it. I owe it to the world and it’s beauty, to step back and admire it and appreciate it. I am thankful to be a part of something so beautiful, and I intend on soaking up as much of it as possible while I can.

Instead of constantly dwelling on the things that I don’t like and the things that hurt me, I’m realising how important it is to be grateful and to pay attention to the things and people who have made my world so wonderful. If you have ever just stopped and looked at the sun shining through the trees or the birds flying through the sky or felt a warm glow from the friendly smile of a stranger walking by, then you will understand the little miracles I am speaking of. They are always there. We just need to take the time to notice them. To really see, hear and feel the world around us. Being alone with the world does not have to mean feeling alone. Sometimes the moments that we cannot capture, or explain, or share with others are the most important. There is something precious and sacred about allowing yourself to be silent and still and marvel at the world around you. It is empowering somehow. We are all a part of the universe and the universe is a part of all of us. We are made of the very same atoms. It’s important to understand the connection we have with the world and one another. But first we must connect with ourselves.