Why being alone and being lonely aren't the same

When someone says he likes being alone, do you immediately take that to mean he enjoys being lonely? If so, you're conflating two terms that don't mean the same thing.

Let me give you an example.

Many people say that they can feel lonely even when they're around people. I've experienced this myself quite a few times. For instance, I've gone to work functions where I'm the only person who doesn't seem to have a "buddy" with which to converse for a few hours. People break off into their little cliques, leaving me with little to do but surf the web on my phone.

The same can happen while on an outing with a couple of friends. They might begin discussing something to which you can't relate -- say, duck hunting -- and, before you know it, you're left out in the cold.

This often occurs when everyone but you has something in common. For example, I tend to feel lonely at work because I'm the youngest employee in my department. The most senior people are in their 50s and 60s, and when they get together to discuss a given topic, it's usually not something a 30-something like me can relate to.

On the other hand, I never feel lonely when I'm all by my lonesome. And why would I? I'm giving myself my full attention. I'm engaging in activities I want to do, when I want to do them, where I want to do them, and there's nothing or no one getting in my way. It's a win-win.

When you're alone, you don't have a boss pestering you to turn something in by 4 o'clock, Nor do you have a husband nagging at you to prepare dinner for him, or a child tugging at your shirt so you can let her go out and play.

Being alone is peaceful and relaxing. It's a time at which you can immerse yourself in anything you please -- from reading to listening to music. Being alone lets you daydream. It allows you to contemplate. It affords you the opportunity to be deep in thought.

Thus, a person can certainly be alone and also feel lonely, but that most certainly does not apply to everyone.

Do you enjoy being alone?  Why? Did you think that it meant the same as feeling lonely?

To read earlier entries, please click here: How to Understand People

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