How to go from being lonely to a lone wolf

Stop romanticizing social interaction and reevaluate what it means to be alone

Call it being woke, spiritual or cynical. The fact is, you read past the title, which tells me you’re likely on a different wavelength than most. Everyone else seems to see the world in technicolor. You see it in hues of grey.

Indeed, people who are most in tune with the complexities of human existence are often the loneliest. We speak half as much as we think, and even then, other people only understand a fraction of the things we say. This can make us feel like we don’t quite fit in anywhere.

But feeling lonely isn’t healthy. It can lead us to dark places. In order to escape the crevices of our own mind, we often opt for… dear Lord… a social life.

We go to parties. Get coffee with a new friend. Hookup with our latest Tinder match. After all, life is short, death is scary, and other people can help us forget all that, right? Not quite. When you’re sensitive to the world around you, loneliness can creep up whether you’re in a room full of people or in bed by yourself.

Which is why we’ve got to stop romanticizing social interaction, and start re-thinking what it means to be alone. As singer Alessia Cara melodiously puts it, lonely people often go out only to find themselves asking: “What am I doing here?” Just moments into something that’s supposed to be casual, loneliness pushes us to surrender, and we find ourselves hanging onto Sia’s metaphorical chandelier (that’s right, “Chandelier” is actually a song about feeling sad while at a party!).

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to undermine how hard it can be to be alone with your own thoughts. However, I am encouraging you to remember that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side; because it’s also sad to look into another person’s eyes, and realize you’re trying to be something you’re not. Or that you’re exhausting yourself in the process of explaining your perspective to people who don’t think like you.

Pop culture has fooled us into believing that a full social calendar is the antidote to loneliness. Not true. It all depends on who you’re with—and because most millennials have equipped their hearts with bullet-proof walls, it can be really hard to connect.

When you stop romanticizing social interaction, you realize that lousy company isn’t actually better than no company. So how can you work through loneliness on your own? First, get creative. Write, draw, go ham on an instrument. Bake a delicious treat you can indulge in later. Once you start creating worlds of your own, you’ll no longer be experiencing solitude, but privacy—a much healthier, and entirely valid way of understanding what it means to be by yourself.

Second, remember that people are generally a bit lonelier, or sadder than they appear. Nobody’s life is perfect. Don’t compare yourself to fronts, especially not those you see on social media. Often the biggest smiles hide the deepest pains.

Finally, remember that loneliness is temporary. Right now, it may seem like you’re destined to be forever alone—but as new chapters emerge in your life, so will new people. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to be a lone wolf. Use moments of privacy to explore your personality. As you delve deeper into your hobbies and interests, you’ll find your true self—the you that will attract better relationships in the future.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

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