This is a great blog on life as a loner. Good read.
Being a Loner is Liberating
In 7th grade, Steve Anderson approached me in the school library and said, “You’re a loner.” I peeked over my shoulder at my classmates clustered at other tables and hoped they hadn’t heard the comment. Red bloomed in my cheeks and my ears burned. Then Steve tried to engage me in a conversation asking me why I was a loner. I wanted him to go away, but he persisted. He kept asking why. The answer should have been obvious to both of us, but we were young and inarticulate. I was a mega dork – socially awkward and painfully shy. I desperately wanted friends, but didn’t have a clue on how to make them.
My shyness and the more obvious social defects vanished over the years. I became pretty, developed a wicked sense of humor, and learned to fit in better. And I’m now ridiculously outgoing – I chat up strangers wherever I go and accept social invitations from people I barely know. I love to introduce people to each other, which is a hangover from childhood. I hate to see anyone to forced to hide in corners and not be included in conversation.
I have a few close friends and many, many social friends (people who I meet up at places for meetups, parties, and dancing). But I admit it, deep down I’m a loner. I travel my life as my own complete entity, not needing people as much as others seem to. I prefer my own company to anyone else’s. And I love the freedom of being able to do whatever I want without negotiating with another person.
However, I’m a loner who loves meeting people more than anything else in the world. A strange paradox. But I’ve learned to navigate the contradiction in a simple way. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I go it alone. But I take myself to places where there are lots of people. I take personal invitations seriously. I like it when someone I don’t know that well invites me to hear them DJ, go to their apartment for a BBQ, or join their friends for brunch. I make the time to go. I get to know the host better, and I get to meet new, amazing people.
But I usually I come alone and leave alone. And then I go out and do something by myself. Like dancing. Dancing is my favorite thing to do in the world and, for many reasons, I prefer to do it alone. Dancing is a good loner activity – the music is too loud for talk and everybody is crushed together so it isn’t painfully obvious that I’m solo. I dance with people when I’m out, but I’m not attached to any particular dance partner. I’m not antisocial by any means.
Lonerdom has a bad rap. I wish I had told Steve to fuck off back in 7th grade.
Lonerdom does have a bad rap. I have always been that way.
I actually like being a loner and I always have been. But people don't seem to understand us and it has caused me to be bullied - even to this day.
How do you still get 'bullied' Steph?. I mean, what do ppl say to you? I don't feel bullied by anyone but I find that ppl just don't understand that I don't want to socialize, especially my family. My 2 daughters are very outgoing party animals and tell me that I should be 'sitting around in my house alone' but I am not alone - I have myself and my partner and my dogs and my hobbies.
I also feel that I am at a point in my life where I don't let ppl 'bully' me about anything. I certainly don't let anything that anyone says affect me adversely. It seems to be more their problem than mine.... I have gotten really good at shrugging my shoulders and muttering "Meh".
I explain to them that my lonerdom is just peaceful and makes me happy - isn't that the most important thing? If I was alone and depressed it would be a different matter but I am not.
The “nurture” (as opposed to “nature”) part of introversion and lonerdom is important to discuss. Two different areas come to mind. The first results from our choices of profession and hobbies, and also our particular family situation. The second is an indirect result of our personalities – that is, how well we interact with others, will influence how introverted/extroverted we become.
The first topic is about vocations and avocations. Lawyers, sales associates and other vocations requiring “people skills” might attract the more extroverted types and are therefore self-selecting. But a person on the borderline between intro/extro would likely get pushed over the edge into extroversion upon entering such a field. The reverse happens with engineers, scientists, artists, writers and other creative-types whose job consists of working with “things”, and generally working alone. Again, professions such as engineering likely attracts introverts and is therefore self-selecting. But my observation has been that extroverted young engineers either leave engineering for business/management, or become more introverted. Then there’s the question of family situation. I’m an only child. My wife (well, soon to be ex-wife) was an only child. My father was an only-child. Ours is a small family becoming smaller with each generation. There are no family reunions, no family social rituals, no really support network of relatives. We learn self-reliance by necessity. We may crave companionship and regeneration through interacting with others, but nature teaches us independence and the adaptation to being alone.
The second topic is how personal behavior leads towards rewarded gregariousness (thus, extroversion) or instead penalizes social interaction, leading towards introversion. I generally enjoy conversation with friends or even superficial acquaintances, but have difficulty recognizing cues from other people, especially nonverbal cues. When speaking, I am essentially lecturing or making oral notes in a diary of sorts, than genuinely engaging in conversation. I love cracking jokes, but often unwittingly those jokes are corrosive and inadvertently insult my hearer, rather than attaining joint whimsical pleasure. Over the years, I’ve developed a reputation for being abrasive and confrontational, disrespectful towards “superiors” and condescending towards “inferiors”. Therefore, in the interests of peace and tranquility, I have found it to be preferable to withdraw, to minimize personal contact with other people. I’ve become an introvert out of necessity rather than from personal inclination. Most evenings after work, I’m entirely alone, and have learned to entertain myself through various hobbies or just quiet contemplation. And indeed, such personal-time is essential to regenerate and to organize one’s thoughts. But assuredly I would prefer more conversation and more personal interaction than has generally been possible.
The salient point here is that natural introverts leading an introverted lifestyle are likely to be happy and well-adjusted. But the opposite happens when a person’s natural leanings are inapposite with his/her station in life.
I used to be terrified of public speaking, but now I actually enjoy it. Lecturing to a large audience has become for me an opportunity to reassess my understanding of the lecture’s subject-matter. Public discourse implies an intellectual probity with oneself, that strictly private diary-writing does not allow one to develop. In other words, the lecturer must have more self-confidence in his knowledge, than does the mere diarist. And the NT portion of my personality, which respects competency and rigor, craves the self-approbation through public speaking.
There is however one enduring area of unregenerate shyness and introversion, and that is whenever I attempt to meet women socially. I find no difficulty in asking random strangers for directions, in haggling with shop clerks for a discount, in meeting technical peers at professional conferences and so forth. But walking up to a young lady at a bar, asking her if she’d be interested in me buying her a drink – that is unbearably difficult! The consequence is a deep and abiding disconnect between professional life and personal life. In the former, I pride myself on reasonable success in overcoming my natural effrontery and finding common ground with coworkers and colleagues. In the latter, I am increasingly isolated in growing older. At this stage of life, most people are firmly established in family-structure and many have children who are already approaching young-adulthood, if they’re not already there. But I feel myself stunted in a teenager or college-student phase of life.
The main point, therefore, is that when the “nurture” pressures of introversion conflict with the “nature” of a person either only mildly introverted, or possibly even extroverted, then there’s a high price to pay. That price is a stunted social interaction and substantial reduction in quality of life.
Any suggestions for a solution?
I also used to be terrified of public speaking but once I started teaching it just came natural to me. And now I actually enjoy it. I just love helping others to learn and it is very rewarding to me.
The solution is to be the person you are ... if you are naturally Introverted than don't try to change and if you are naturally Extroverted no need to try to become Introverted. and if you are somewhere in the middle ground then you can do what suits you at the time.
Well, I suppose it can be nice being alone. I mean, you're the only one you have to impress. You don't have to put up a front when you socialize with other people, so that means less stress for you!
But it's also nice to have a friend or two (or at least someone to share a good laugh with), isn't it? I mean, I've been more or less alone since I started high school. And I'd like to make friends, but...it's just not easy, knowing that I've been bullied for most of my school career.
Ohh, of course! I must've misunderstood.
Yeah, I guess that makes sense.
Sounds like a low-reactive introvert, or even an ambivert, rather than a loner. Is 'loner' even a term that should be applied to introverts? Yes, introverts are more sensitive to stimulation than extroverts, but they also enjoy and foster relationships; doesn't that render the term 'loner' a bit too singular?