October 11, 2020
“My kid is an introvert and does not enjoy interacting with others. I am worried. In today’s socially connected world, how will he or she manage?”- This is a common fear I have heard many parents express about their offspring.
For most of society today, the dominant narrative of success and happiness is constant and unrelenting productivity. Many look to create a resume full of accomplishments that should keep expanding every year. Also, being busy is seen as a sign of being productive. If one’s calendar is not fully loaded, there is a fear of missing out. We celebrate Extroverts, and if someone is introverted, that person becomes a cause of concern for family and friends.
Unfortunately, we live in times where being “always-on” is seen as a virtue, and doing nothing is seen as wasting time. There is a stigma to the concept of being with yourself. Eating alone, traveling alone, watching a movie alone, or any activity one does without company of any sort is very likely to evoke feelings of pity and concern. “Poor fellow does not have any friends; he seems amiable enough; I wonder why he is alone.”
Solitude And Loneliness
According to the Dictionary, Solitude is the state of being alone, often by choice. Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Being alone does not mean being lonely and conversely, feeling lonely does not imply Being Alone in solitude.
You can feel lonely in a crowd and amongst family. Loneliness is a negative emotional state that people experience when feeling ignored, unwanted, or isolated.
On the other hand, solitude reflects a positive state of mind where one is choosing to spend time with oneself to relax, reflect, and contemplate. There is a nice quote by someone that says- “Solitude is something you choose while loneliness is what others or circumstances impose on you.”
Fear Of Solitude Is Actually Fear Of Boredom.
In today’s hyper-connected world, Our default setting is to be doing something all the time.
From the comfort of home, we can transport ourselves to practically anywhere globally, through zoom, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook. Information or Distraction is just a click or a notification away. While the benefits of connectivity enabled by technology are apparent, there is also a big problem creeping into our lives insidiously.
We now live in a world where we are connected to everything and everyone except ourselves.
Our lives are full of choices on how to be busy and occupied at all times- where we don’t have to be alone. From the time we wake up to the time we hit the sack 16 to 18 hours later, we have wilfully mortgaged our lives to activity and action. We are today addicted to being engaged in doing something all the time. We think rest and taking a break means feeding on Instagram or binge-watching some TV shows.
The core issue is this. Many of us are addicted to “being in a state of not being bored”. Our lifestyle is driven by the fear and dread of being bored and not doing anything. We cannot imagine ourselves “Just Being” instead of “Doing”. So, we embrace work; we look for entertainment, seek company, or anything that will keep us from feeling bored.
Unfortunately, this model of living is not sustainable. Burnout and stress are natural consequences. Over the last five years, I have come across at least five to six instances of perfectly healthy friends passing away much too soon.
Embrace Your Boredom
We are so busy connecting with others that we have forgotten to connect with ourselves. This paradoxically makes us more lonely, to a point where we rush to fill out all the free slots in our schedule, to keep ourselves even busier.
Ask yourself the following two questions.
- “On most days, do I feel consistently fresh and rested when I first wake up in the morning?”
- “Do I feel like a battery that’s losing its charge?”
If you answer NO to the first question and YES to the second question, you definitely need to reassess your situation. There is a need for you to connect with yourself to understand why you are not feeling fresh and energized.
The way you may look to solve this predicament is with an all or nothing approach.” I will take that 20 days holiday I’ve wanted to take for some months now. “
While an extended holiday may be what you need, there is no denying that you have chosen your lifestyle. Therefore, solitude will not be in the elusive holiday, but in the way you consciously create space in your schedule to unwind and destress and be with yourself.
Make yourself your best friend. Spending time with yourself has many advantages. It helps your brain get some much-needed rest. It gives you perspective- what’s essential and what’s not. Your Creativity goes up. Solitude also enables you to discover yourself and deal with the big questions you may be grappling with.
In Solitude, you shut out all distractions and noise and speak with yourself and listen to what your heart desires. In this process, you discover answers that were eluding you otherwise.