Above just about everything else, humans are social animals.
If it wasn’t for the complex societies we form, we wouldn’t dominate the planet the way that we do – for good and bad.
Maybe that’s why people often struggle to understand those of us who prefer solitude.
I’ve always been the kind of person that needs to spend lots of time alone. But I know that in an extroverted world where we are all supposed to be constantly transmitting to one another, that makes me unusual.
The thing is, I don’t really care.
What other people think of me is their business, not mine. I know what makes me happy, so that’s what I do.
That’s a trait you often find in people who enjoy being by themselves.
And there are other traits we solitude-seekers share. Here are some behaviors that demonstrate someone likes being alone and doesn’t care what others think about it.
1) Solo activities
This is definitely something I notice in myself.
Just about all the things I most enjoy either can be done solo, or have to be.
I love reading. I love writing. I love hiking, travel, and solo sailing. Really, anything that gets me away from the constant chatter of other people and lets me focus is likely to be something I enjoy.
And that’s a trait you’ll often find in people who are comfortable being alone.
While more extroverted people prefer activities that bring them into contact with other people, like team sports or socializing in bars, we lone wolves prefer to do things by ourselves.
Lots of people don’t understand that. I know plenty of people who would never consider traveling by themselves, for instance.
But doing solo activities means we can have everything the way we want it. You don’t have to compromise when you’re by yourself. And you can fully engage in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing.
Self-awareness isn’t immediately obvious. But as you get to know someone better, you may notice that they have a higher than average level of knowledge about themselves.
Signs of self-awareness include:
- Expressing your feelings well
- Asking questions about your own behavior
- Having good emotional control
- Appreciating other people’s perspectives
- Acknowledging when you’re wrong
- Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses
These are the outward signs of someone who knows themselves and their own thought patterns and behaviors very well.
People who spend a lot of time by themselves cultivate a deep understanding of their own minds. All that time alone allows us to analyze our thought processes and understand our strengths and weaknesses.
And eventually, that starts to show.
3) No fear of missing out
How much of what you do is driven by FOMO, or the fear of missing out?
“FOMO includes both the perception of missing out, which triggers anxiety, and compulsive behaviors, like checking and refreshing sites, to maintain social connections,” writes psychologist Natalie Christine Dattilo. “It is closely related to the fear of social exclusion or ostracism, which existed long before social media.”
In other words, worrying about what other people are doing and whether they are living more interesting and glamorous lives than you is directly related to the fear of being cast out from wider society and losing the social connections you have.
So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why someone who enjoys being alone wouldn’t be bothered by that fear.
If you don’t need other people around you, being ostracized from society loses a lot of its threat. That means people who are happy in their own company do what makes them happy, without worrying for a moment what other people are doing.
Maybe it’s not surprising that people who are happy by themselves also display a high level of independence.
And this independence can show itself in many ways.
One of the most obvious is that these people don’t need to be around others all the time. They’re perfectly capable of entertaining themselves, and are rarely bored.
Another sign of independence maybe that they prefer to do things by themselves. They may rarely reach out for help from others, always trying to see if they can fix a problem alone first.
There’s a cultural stereotype of the tortured artist who is cut off from society, working on their obsessions alone.
As with all stereotypes, there’s a lot of nonsense and exaggeration to this idea. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely untrue, either.
Think about it. People who spend lots of time alone have more time to analyze their own thoughts. This can help them come up with big ideas that other people haven’t thought of.
Also, people who enjoy creative pursuits, whether it’s writing, painting, or inventing, are predisposed to spend more time alone while they work on projects they are passionate about.
This study by Devon Proudfoot and others is just one of many that demonstrates a link between time spent alone and greater creativity.
So if you know someone who always has new ideas, whether it’s at work or in artistic pursuits, it might be a sign that they are not self-conscious about spending time alone.
6) Limited socializing
Everyone has a different tolerance for socializing. Although I enjoy my alone time, I do have a small group of friends that I like to spend time with – as long as it’s not too much.
Turns out, that’s true of lots of people who enjoy solitude.
It’s not that we are incapable of relationships with other people. We may even enjoy them.
But we tend to focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to socializing.
Instead of having lots of superficial relationships with many people we don’t know all that well, we tend to have deeper relationships with only a few people.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other.
What I am saying is that if you know someone who prefers deep conversations to small talk and is selective in how much time they spend around other people, it’s probably safe to assume that they are comfortable spending time alone.
7) Enjoying nature
Here’s another box I tick.
Often, people who are comfortable being by themselves and don’t care what others think about it choose to spend a lot of time in nature. Whether that means going for walks in the forest, climbing mountains alone, or sailing solo on the ocean, solitary people often like interacting with the natural world.
After all, in these natural environments, you can escape the chatter and noise of human society. Being around nature, whether under the whispering trees or on the undulating waves of the sea, allows you to come to terms with your thoughts while enjoying the beauty of the world.
So if you know someone who can’t wait to get out and enjoy the natural world, it might be a sign that they are comfortable alone.
8) Avoiding attention-seeking behavior
Being alone or doesn’t necessarily mean being shy.
But it does often mean not seeking attention.
That’s because many of us loners don’t really care what other people think of us. In fact, we may not spend much time at all wondering about other people’s impressions and ideas about us.
Generally, people who engage in attention-seeking behavior do it because they get their validation from other people. They want others to like them or be impressed by them, so they go out of their way to bring attention.
They may do things like:
- Overuse social media
- Be overly dramatic or emotional in public
- Seek compliments
- Exaggerate things that have happened to them, whether good or bad
- Say controversial things to get a reaction
- Create drama between other people
All of this, quite honestly, makes me cringe.
Loners aren’t interested in the attention of others. So they often fly below the radar.
9) Being comfortable in silence
Some people are afraid of silence. Others love it.
In silence, you can come to terms with your own thoughts. You can understand your own feelings and sensations and be mindful.
And this tendency toward silence is something you may notice when you’re around people who are comfortable being alone.
They don’t feel a need to say anything just for the sake of making noise. They may allow conversations to lapse into long silences that some people find awkward.
But to them, it’s anything but.
Signs of a loner
Besides just the fact that they like to spend time alone, many signs can tip you off to someone who is happy in their own company.
And generally, these people don’t care who knows it, either.
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