Be a good friend to yourself before you become a good friend to someone else

John Weirick
Jun 30, 2016 · 3 min read

I used to think I was wrong to enjoy being alone.

It felt like a flaw or wanting something bad. I don’t know where that came from — probably because most of the people around me were outgoing and seemed to endlessly interact with ease. I could talk with classmates and hang out with friends for a while, but at a certain point I would feel the urge to walk away from the crowds and escape to somewhere peaceful — usually in my own mind.

Though we appear to be externally troubled, introverts are not socially stunted. We may not want to always be around you, but we want to be at our best for the times we are around you.

Fellow introverts:

To become a good friend to others, you must first become a good friend to yourself.

It’s not that we avoid people because we don’t like them; we care about them, so we try to recharge our social batteries to be at a healthy level for connecting with others.

When I was younger, the problem wasn’t that I was an introvert and loved solitude. The problem was that I didn’t realize the difference between isolation and solitude.

  • Isolation is a complete disconnect from friends, lovers, and community.
  • Solitude is temporary disconnection from the crowd to better connect with oneself or God, and then reconnect with community.

Solitude doesn’t ruin your relationships; it enhances them.

There is a world of difference between a lifestyle of separation and moments of seclusion. Isolation kills relationships, but solitude can bring fresh energy into relationships.

How To Be Alone

I read a review of a book called How To Be Alone by Sara Maitland. One series of quotes from the book gets at the heart of the struggle between solitude and relationships:

“I got fascinated by silence; by what happens to the human spirit, to identity and personality when the talking stops, when you press the off button, when you venture out into that enormous emptiness. I was interested in silence as a lost cultural phenomenon, as a thing of beauty and as a space that had been explored and used over and over again by different individuals, for different reasons and with wildly differing results.

Being alone in our present society raises an important question about identity and well-being.

We are supposed now to seek our own fulfillment, to act on our feelings, to achieve authenticity and personal happiness — but mysteriously not do it on our own.”

Solitude Changes How We Connect

There are a variety of tools that help us foster better relationships. And depending on your personality, it will be different—but that’s okay.

When the introverted among us need space and time and quiet, it allows us to return to a place of internal safety and work out just what we are thinking and feeling. An adept introvert has a healthy relationship with himself or herself and can then build healthy relationships with other people, too.

Temporary seclusion is the diving board for deeper relationships.

Solitude isn’t bad for relationships; it helps us become better in relationships.

It’s not that we don’t like you or we’re mad at you; we simply require a different approach to connect with you. Being alone is not about avoiding relationships, but mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually preparing to be the best friend or lover in our relationships.

One of the most understanding, kind things you can do for the introverts in your life is to give them quiet space as well as connecting space within the rhythm of your relationship. You’ll both be better for it.

John Weirick is a writer, editor, introvert advocate, and the author of The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices, which you can preview here.

  • Thanks for reading! If you liked it, tap the green heart to recommend it.
  • Leave a comment: What’s one way you’ve used solitude to improve your relationships?

John Weirick

Written by

Writer, author of #TheVariableLife, introvert advocate, list curator. I believe you can find clarity in a world of choices.

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