The Art of Doing Things Alone

You’ve been told that doing things alone is synonymous with loneliness and depression, a symptom of a miserable life. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Doing things alone is not sad — it is liberation.

Photo by Lee Scot from

You’ve seen it in movies and YouTube video essays, read it in blogs, newspapers and magazines, heard it in podcasts and on the radio. The story of lonely characters, wandering the city alone with a drab colour palette and a sombre soundtrack. They go to the movies alone, to the restaurant, maybe even to a crowded party, while being utterly miserable. And you feel sadness on account of their dreary and empty existence. You’ve seen this so many times that it is likely that when considering doing things by yourself you end up not doing anything out of the negative emotions associated.

We have all been conditioned to hate ourselves, so that we can buy as many things that attempt to make us whole. We have been conditioned to correlate being alone with loneliness, to associate never being by ourselves with total social success. What kind of life is that, where in order to do something we must always be attached to someone else? What kind of life is this, where we must refuse to have a life unrelated to anybody else in order to appear less of a failure? There is no great conspiracy, but there is certainly a lot wrong with how society has come to perceive being alone and how it has forced us into a standard of socialization that simply does not fit many of us.

We are social beings, that much cannot be denied. But we are also individuals. Unique sets of cells and molecules that are unlike all others. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to anything in life, and that also applies to how much we need to socialize and how much alone time we require. One thing is certain, many of us could use more of this time. Some go as far as to totally reject the hypothesis of being by themselves, refusing to do anything if not accompanied by someone else.

We shouldn’t need witnesses to prove our happiness and well-being. If we cannot be satisfied with just ourselves and require others to tell us that all is fine, then all is not fine. This is not to say that we should become exiles, alien to everyone else, but we each have a unique internal equilibrium of social and personal time and, for many of us, the personal side of the scale is gravely underweighted.

We need to be alone. We need to learn to be happy alone, or at the very least content. If we cannot enjoy doing the things we say we enjoy just by ourselves, can we really say we enjoy doing anything at all? If we need others to save us from the precipice we are already too far down. We cannot hide in the crowd. We cannot hide from ourselves. We cannot hide from ourselves because only we hold the key to our own understanding, to our personal meaning. These things exist. They may not be God-given or ascribed by destiny, but they exist. If all we do is hide in the crowd we will never step out of the shadow of the others.

Go to the movies alone. Go watch that movie you truly want to watch. Go on a walk by yourself (as long as its safe). Go to a restaurant and eat your favourite meal alone. If you don’t know which one that is, then search for it. In the process, search for yourself. It isn’t sad to do these things alone. Sad is to need others to do the things you want to do, to be the person you want to be. There is nothing wrong in being alone.

There is nothing wrong in being happy alone, because only then can you truly be happy.

Part-time poet, full-time dreamer. I write in search of meaning, whatever that means.