One of the most important lessons I learned as a child was how to be content with being alone. This might sound strange coming from a thirty-two year old married man with two children, a dog, and two outside cats, but it’s the truth. Because I learned at a young age not to depend on anyone but myself for entertainment, I’m a better father and husband. I’m not clingy in the annoying sense, and I’m not constantly bothering the people around me, begging for help with my boredom.
A common misconception about those who enjoy being alone, is that they are anti-social and/or depressed. Many of you know this is a load of steer manure, but I would like to explain to those of you that don’t see a good reason for being alone why this is untrue.
I’m not a fan of entitlement. People who believe they are owed anything aside from purchased goods or services rather irk me. Nobody is here, on this planet, to make you smile. You must know yourself, your likes and dislikes, before you chance involving anyone else with your idiosyncrasies. If you know what makes you happy, you’ll better judge who you should surround yourself with. In other words, being alone prepares you for being sociable.
I can almost hear a few of you already disagreeing with me, and that’s fine, because I’m not done yet. Social skills are important, but only on the surface. Eye-contact, hand-shaking and proper body language all help, but they don’t mean much if the attic is empty. If you build your social skills on simply being a people-person, you come off as a kiss-ass or just plain boring. Sure, there are plenty of people who love a yes-man (or yes-woman, for you brown-nosing ladies out there), but mostly people find them annoying. But, if you are used to being alone, you are less likely to be bothersome. In fact, you’ve probably done a good bit of reading and research in your time by yourself, so you might bring more to the table than the regular conversation about the weather and what kind of job the president is doing.
A perfect example of what I’m getting at are people with a good sense of humor. Pay close attention to the people that laugh at their own jokes. Mostly, they are confident and forthcoming. And I’m talking about real laughter, not that nervous tittering that’s only meant to make you join in out of sympathy. I mean true laughter, guffaws and the like. This is because, no matter what you think, they know what they find funny and don’t need your approval. Now, if you don’t find them funny, that’s your problem, not theirs. Hell, maybe you are this person and you know exactly what I’m talking about. I know I’m that guy.
The difference between knowing how to find contentment in being alone and anti-social behavior is simple. You are happy when you’re alone, and not because you are alone. Depression comes into play when you try to find your worth through other people. This is a hard truth. Depression is an illness, and can be quite painful, but there are several different versions of it. Some are avoidable and self-inflicted. Thoughts like, “I’ll never be good enough for anyone,” or “I’ll never find someone to join me in sulking,” is part of what’s wrong with our culture nowadays. You do not need other people to make you happy. You are not entitled to companionship. It is no one’s job, but your own, to make you happy.
Learn how to be alone. Then, when you do find someone special, you will be less likely to run that person off.
Oh, and you’re also less likely to become a creepy stalker type. True story.