Social Question

jazzjeppe's avatar

Why is "being alone" considered to be something..."bad"?

Asked by jazzjeppe (2598points) December 26th, 2009

I couldn’t find a good word, hence the “being alone”. Loneliness could work, as could solitude, but I am more or less talking about a kind of loneliness that is more or less chosen. Or perhaps ultimately chosen because of current situation. But whether the loneliness is chosen or unintentional, I still get the feeling that people consider it to be something that is almost taboo. Especially around Christmas.

I can’t help but feel a bit sick about how society actually creates some kind of alienation around Christmas. Everywhere you go people talk about how Christmas is ment (?) to be celebrated with your family and loved ones. “Think of those who are alone at Christmas!”. Now there might be plenty of reasons why people are alone on Christmas, but still I can’t help but think that we are very good at making them feel worse about themselves and we aren’t really helping.

This year I spent Christmas alone, not that I wanted to but managed to get a nasty back injury and couldn’t move around. So I was at home while the rest of my family celebrated down south. In a way I missed being around my family, but I also enjoyed it. Not the not being able to move around part and the pain I had, but just being alone and seeing that it’s a day like any other day.

My mom used to preach about the importance of not being too comfortable about being alone and single. She stopped doing that when my sister had her fist kid. I guess she was happy when she got her first grandchild. But I am single, I am 35 years old and I haven’t been in a relationship for the last 8 years. Sometimes I do wish I had someone to come home to. But I also think that I am, well, happy the way I live now. Perhaps I have gone to comfortable with being alone which results in me not being interested in relationship, love and all that.

So, I guess I have a couple of questions grinding my gears now after I have given you some background.

1) Being alone on Christmas, why is that considered to be “wrong”?

2) Isn’t it time that we stop putting all these bad conscience on people who live alone by always talking about and setting up some kind of “normal standard” where being alone isn’t an option?

3) Should I keep feeling happy about my single life? Am I fooling myself? Has it gone too far, the comfortable thingy? How do I know if this is my choice or if I am a victim of bad self-esteem?

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39 Answers

JustPlainBarb's avatar

I’ve seen that approached from the angle you mention and also that it’s healthy to enjoy being “alone”—enjoying your own company. Often times we depend upon others for our happiness… we can never be completely happy by doing that. True happiness comes from within ourselves .. part of that comes from liking who we are and enjoying our alone time too.

We all need to stop worrying about what others expect of us or feel is correct. No one knows what is right for us but US. If someone enjoy spending time alone .. Bravo. That doesn’t make them weird or a recluse. My happiness isn’t necessarily yours.

Berserker's avatar

Humans are pack animals, social creatures so to speak, so most people probably feel a subconscious disturbance when they imagine the notion-especially around Christmas where the idea of togetherness is amplified.

But no, there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you know to keep a balance, and don’t go mad from uber solitude, I’ze be supposin’.

phillis's avatar

GQ! People let their fears rule them and make their decisions for them. They are afraid of being apart from the crowd (ie – I’m the ONLY one without a mate), so a cascade of bad ideas results. This makes them hate themselves, so they seek immediate gratification in order to make those feelings “go away”, which, in turn, leads to more bad decisions and actions. By the time it’s said and done, years have gone by and they still don’t feel any better. Let’s go buy something!

chyna's avatar

Happiness is what you make it to be.
You could be married and still be lonely, unhappy and alone. I don’t like other people putting their idea of a relationship on me and expecting me to live up to their ideals. I spent Thanksgiving alone, due to illness, and my family called me all day long. Sweet, but it got on my last nerve. I was sick and needed to sleep. They felt bad that I was alone, I didn’t.

syz's avatar

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being alone. Christmas is considered one of those “special times to share with family”, so I suppose people tend to assume the maudlin worst if you spend it alone. Why worry what other people think?

Jeruba's avatar

Bad? I consider it necessary. Not all the time, no, but I do need plenty of solitude, or at any rate solitary discretionary time (not in the immediate company of others, even if they are around the house), or I start to go nuts. I lived happily alone for ten years before I met my husband-to-be and moved in with him.

There is no greater blessing than being happy with what you have. It’s what some of the world’s great philosophies try to teach. I don’t think you should try to change a thing. If and when you are unhappy with your situation and/or you feel a desire to change it, that’s when to rethink your choices.

It seems to come easily to very many people to fault someone who chooses differently from them, as if the other person’s choices somehow threatened their own or stood in judgment on them. There is no reason for you to feel pressured by people who are so insecure about their own decisions that seeing your alternatives makes them uncomfortable.

laureth's avatar

More answers here.

Some people are gregarious – happier in groups – and they can’t imagine being otherwise. They must think it would be very sad to be alone (especially on a day we’re “supposed” to celebrate being in a community), so they believe everyone must feel the same way. But not everyone does. Some people are just fine alone.

Val123's avatar

I don’t know.

phillis's avatar

Geez, Val, you really opened up on this one, didntcha? Hehehe :)

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

I think that being alone is fine…..doing what you need to take care of yourself is perfectly fine.

If I could have spent Christmas alone…I would have done so….honestly. I don’t have a problem with my own company. When I was a kid, my boundaries were invaded so much and I was always pushed into so many activities that I have found as an adult, that I like being alone….a lot. I was around so many people, doing so many things…I just burned out.

I think that some people need to be around other people all the time…and others are just more instrospective.

Val123's avatar

@phillis I know! Thanks so much for listening! I just….don’t have any problem what so ever being alone! I really don’t know why most people do. I just…I can’t believe how much better I feel now that I’ve REALLY let it all out! SOB!

phillis's avatar


faye's avatar

I like alone time. My daughter is living with me but has the basement all fixed up and she likes alone time, too so it works well. I have worked Christmases and have been alone while my kids go to their father. I am disabled now so am at home. Xmas shopping and baking, etc was fun this year but today was lovely! My daughter worked and peace reigned!

Val123's avatar

@faye Cool! I like alone too! Ya wanna hang out? :)

faye's avatar

@Val123 we are kind of hanging out :)

LeotCol's avatar

I believe a good way we have of putting it is

“Spending some time to yourself”


“Having some me time”

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

As @Symbeline said, homo sapiens tend to be pack animals. The solitaries somehow represent a “threat” to the social order even if they are not acting in an antisocial way. I spent the first 38 years of my life as a loner, more or less by choice and now will spend the rest of my life that way. Society has no right to judge loners, being solitary threatens no one. There seems to be a common misconception that asocial=antisocial, which is not the case.“Normal” is whatever is comfortable for you, as long as you are not harming anyone else. This is actually a discrimination issue that people with autism spectrum, like myself, have to deal with on a regular basis.

gailcalled's avatar

I think there is a big difference from enjoying solitude and feeling isolated. One feels pleasurable and the other doesn’t. I have a four-year old nephew with mild autism and the stimulation and confusion of Christmas with his brother, six adults and two large dogs really upset him.

Val123's avatar

@faye Ah! That we are! With a thousand other people! So much for being alone!

HasntBeen's avatar

Several others have pointed out this bit, but I think it needs a slightly finer point—all of your questions about this are rooted in looking externally for what’s OK, for what should or should not be considered acceptable, etc.

Who is the authority on this topic? Is there a Committee of OKness™ somewhere which determines what is or is not cool about being alone? How would they get elected?

There is only one person whose viewpoint matters about this, and that’s you. But what’s interesting is that you don’t trust your own judgment on the matter—you don’t consider yourself to be an authority. Another way to say that is that you are not taking responsibility for your views on being alone.

There’s a major transformation that takes place in someones’ life when they realize that they are the ultimate authority on anything that affects them. It is my job to say whether or not I’m OK, whether or not I’ve chosen the right career, whether or not I’m spending my time the right way, etc. I can sit quietly, reflect, and know with absolute certainty whether or not something is acceptable.

That is the direction you want to head in. Ironically, spending lots of time alone with your own thoughts is one of the great ways to get there.

Val123's avatar

I think that people who don’t like being alone don’t…like themselves as much as they’d like to like themselves. Maybe. When I’m alone, I talk to myself. I give myself very good advice, and help myself figure things out. I trust myself. Ok. Maybe I’m crazy!

CorwinofAmber's avatar

Being alone is not “bad” (that’s why I don’t have a facespace or mybook account).
Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says “But Doctor…
I am Pagliacci.”
It might not be healthy to be totally alone, but not morally bad. ;) Get well soon

wundayatta's avatar

1) Being alone on Christmas, why is that considered to be “wrong”?

It’s part of the culture—and also part of being human. We are social animals, and we use rituals in order to bind the tribe together. It doesn’t matter what the religion is, there are still rituals that bring people together.

So, when you don’t participate in the ritual, you are not participating in the community, and that makes people uncomfortable, because it goes against the nature of humanity. We don’t know why people want to be separate. Is it because they choose to, or are they opposed to the ritual for some reason, or is it because they can’t or is it because they have no place to go?

2) Isn’t it time that we stop putting all these bad conscience on people who live alone by always talking about and setting up some kind of “normal standard” where being alone isn’t an option?

Time? Not gonna happen. All you can do is what @HasntBeen and others have told you and follow your own drummer. Don’t confuse conventional behavior with normative behavior. There is social behavior which, in general swaths, though not specifics, is driven by evolutionary pressures. Individuals, of course, vary. However, think of this: if people don’t join the group and they don’t find a partner and they don’t reproduce, then their genes (which presumably include a predilection of remaining single) will not be passed along. Over time, the genes that encourage us to partner and socialize and reproduce will always predominate.

3) Should I keep feeling happy about my single life? Am I fooling myself? Has it gone too far, the comfortable thingy? How do I know if this is my choice or if I am a victim of bad self-esteem?

If you are happy about your single life, they I have no problem with you staying happy. I don’t see why you should, either.

Fooling yourself? Sounds to me that you are doubting your own choices. Maybe, even though you are comfortable being single, you also want the partnered life. I think that if you can ask whether you are too comfortable that you are feeling uncomfortable with it, and you want something different.

Your choice? Low self-esteem? As to the first, it’s easy. Yes. It is your choice.

As to the second—low self-esteem can certainly affect your life and choices. If you don’t have a partner, which is what you really want, because you don’t think you deserve one, that’s something to work on. Therapy can help. Thinking it through might help. Making a choice to work hard to get what you want can help. Asking for advice about how to get what you want can help.

I don’t think low self-esteem has to get in the way. In fact, it is quite charming to some people—particularly those who want to rescue you. But underneath that, whether you have low self-esteem or not, it seems to me that you also need a you that is you. Particularly you. It might be things you think, or things you do, or any number of other things, but if you have that, it will identify you clearly, and for the right person, you will glow like a star.

The internet is a great place to meet people. fluther is a great place to meet people. This question is a great place to meet people. There are a lot of very intelligent, thoughtful and interesting people answering your question, which is a thoughtful question. I’d say you’re already taking the steps you want to take. I could be wrong, of course, but that’s my read.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@HasntBeen Unfortunately, there are many people out there who think it is their right to be on a so-called “Committee of OKness” and impose their worldview on everyone else.

HasntBeen's avatar

Actually I’ve been hoping to get elected, but they only pick the pretty ones :(

HighShaman's avatar

They claim that there are studies that say that living alone will shorten your life span….

But; I got a DOG as a companion , so I’m still ticking at 60 years young, without being nagged about where I’m going, who I’m talking to , and when I’ll be back….

gailcalled's avatar

@HighShaman: You are lucky. Milo (my cat) pesters me every time I leave the house. He is particularly unhappy when I return without a present. It’s exhausting.

Darwin's avatar

I am never alone. I have dogs and the cats have me.

HighShaman's avatar

@gailcalled I know THE feeling ! My dog gets VERY upset when I leave the house….

Then; when I come home; he is expecting a gift of some kind , so I usually stop by Dollar Tree and bring him back a rawhide or beef bone etc….

I must say; he acts like he has not seen me in days ; even if I am just gone an hour or two…. It does make ya’ feel good to be love ; even if it is a dog or a cat etc…

Val123's avatar

My husband has been gone for six weeks so far, tending to his ailing father. My alpha dog, a German Shepherd (#1 in the heirachy of 3 dogs…or #1 of 5 if you count the two cats too) has accused me of murdering my husband. Tried to excommunicate me from the pack. I can’t reason with her because she’s a dog. It’s getting complicated around here.

meagan's avatar

I’ve been alone for about two years now. I’m absolutely fine with it. My family doesn’t pressure me about it, either. I’m sure they’d rather me be with a good person, rather than any old slob off the street.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Because most people are so brainwashed and conditioned to living how they are told that they believe anyone not living the same as they must be unhappy…ergo bad.
However, life without a constant partner is quite enjoyable, too.

Let me rephrase that, life without a constant partner is HEAVEN ON EARTH!!

Medlang's avatar

because some people are moronic brainwashed poop-heads. =D

Val123's avatar

@Medlang Not so! Just because we don’t understand doesn’t make it not real. So. who are you texting, inviting over tonight?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@gailcalled I was an autistic kid, too. But nobody knew what autism was back then, so I was just “bad”

gailcalled's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land: I grew up in that era also; looking back as several of my classmates in HS, I now think Asberger’s. They were extremely academically successful but very odd socially. Had we known..

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@gailcalled Aspergers Syndrome is what I was finally diagnosed with, at age 48. All it really is for me is a label and knowledge that there are others out there like me. It is not curable and only treatable to a limited extent in children and teens.My wife finally figured out the correct diagnosis as a third year psychology student.

adinaa's avatar

I know how you feel. But remember, being alone isn’t the same thing as being lonely. As long as you’re content with yourself and your situation, you shouldn’t bother paying attention to people who think that we need to be surrounded by others at all times.

Zaku's avatar

On the whole, mainstream American culture is rather conformist and values extroversion and stigmatizes introversion. Everyone has a certain need and limit for how much and what kinds of human contact they want or don’t want. Getting a very different level can be stressful or otherwise unpleasant. It can also be unpleasant having people trying to tell you you should want something you don’t want, or tell you there is something wrong with you if you don’t want something.

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