Guilty for enjoying time alone

Saturday night was a big night. For this 41-year-old introvert anyway.

My husband and I were out celebrating his good friend’s fortieth birthday in a private dining room at a fine dining restaurant with 20 other people. Sounds lovely? Yes, it was. And the food was divine. However, it started at 7.15 pm, and by 11.30 pm, I was itching to go home, to bed and to recharge, as many introverts need to. But it didn’t seem that the others, including my husband, were ready to leave just yet.

So I stayed, because it was in honour of my husband’s dear friend. And it was 1 am, when the restaurant was closing, that most of us finally left (whew!), with a few carrying on elsewhere with the birthday boy.

The thing is, this ‘staying on’ affected me for the rest of my Sunday. I was meant to pop in to see my sister and my nephews on Sunday afternoon, but I couldn’t face any extroversion. I stayed home the whole day, venturing out only to go to yoga (where I don’t really need to interact deeply with others). I cooked, read, napped, coloured in (yes, I have one of those mindfulness colouring books!) and watched TV.

But I felt guilty for choosing solitude over visiting my family. So some of my Sunday was spent googling ‘guilty for enjoying time alone’. I found some great reads that made me feel ‘normal’.

Over time, I’ve realised that my dilemma is accepting my need for plenty of time in solitude. Should I be more self-accepting of this need, I’d be less inclined to feel guilty about hurting other’s feelings or perceive that others will think less of me (or that I’m weird).

I’ve become better as I’ve gotten older, as I’ve become more aware of myself, but the feeling of guilt does get me now an then, as it did on Sunday. It’s a work in progress, which will continue for the rest of my life, no doubt. Hopefully, though, this feeling will soften as I age.

During my Google search, I found on YouTube this video by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis on how to be alone. If you love spending time in solitude, it’s a worthy watch.

Do you feel guilty for needing to spend time alone? What have you done to handle such feelings?

15 thoughts on “Guilty for enjoying time alone

  1. Jasmine says:

    I used to feel guilty and not “normal” for craving solitude, but not anymore. I’m a much better mum, friend, worker, student when I get enough solitude. So I no longer feel guilty for tending to my own needs. It can be very difficult for us introverts in a world that seems increasingly geared toward extroverts. The past couple of years, I’ve eliminated so much “noise” from my life – the biggest was getting rid of Facebook. I’ve become so much calmer as a result.

  2. Holly says:

    Hi Lesh. I just wanted to de-lurk and let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I’ve never commented before, and perhaps being an introvert is part of it.

    I often feel very conflicted about my response to social situations. I’m completely comfortable with my friends and loved ones, but there’s no doubt that I require much more time to myself than others do. At a certain point, I get antsy and want to get away. It feels like the emotional equivalent of overeating, or overindulging. It’s nice for a while, but then it becomes unpleasant. Perversely, I also may feel lonely once I’ve escaped but I have the sense that this is a response to what I assume to be my difference. I’m very grateful that you’ve written about this.

    It takes a long while to come to terms with one’s essence, and to understand what is essential to the soul versus what may be neurosis. I can’t say I fully understand it now, but I am committed to embracing my own unique life and paying attention to what brings me serenity.

    Susan Cain did a great TED talk about this subject, and I’ve also found Judith Orloff’s books, in particular “Emotional Freedom” to be helpful. I guess that ultimately, I appreciate hearing from others who feel the same way. My wish for everyone is that you find peace and serenity residing within you, the wisdom to decipher what that is, and the courage to explore and express your own unique self .

  3. Sorrel says:

    Wonderful stuff! I’m also an introvert and I have to have alone time too. It’s just how we are made , no need to feel guilty about it 🙂 The best way to deal with it is to anticipate when you are most going to need it and book it in for yourself.

  4. Amy Landry says:

    I loved this post Lesh, it really resonates. And I was absolutely mesmerised by the video.

    I’m perceived as an extrovert, particularly by my family. However, I love being alone. I love going to bed early, and waking up early to have solitude. I love libraries, art galleries, and excuses to just be with myself. Although I feel comfortable talking to people and engaging socially, I much prefer that quietness and introspection of being alone.

    Thank you for sharing! xoxo

  5. Edna says:

    Hi Lesh,
    Thank you for posting your experiences!
    For me, the guilt was somewhat imposed by society. I would often dine alone and really enjoy it. Yet there was always some comment about didn’t I feel guilty? or why didn’t I have a man with me? or where are my children?
    I also traveled through Europe on my own and got some of the same questions, though from Americans, not Europeans.
    I truly need and enjoy my time to myself. I’m fortunate that I have a close circle of friends who acknowledge my rich inner life. Saturday afternoon, there is nothing better than reading a new cookbook and enjoying a lovely vino verde. Alone:)

  6. Maadhi says:

    Hi Lesh,
    I love this post, you put how I feel after a ton of socialising into words beautifully. I’ll admit I stopped reading your blog just after you released your e-book because it was too marketing orientated for me. But reading your recent posts made me realise you also thought the same thing! I’m so glad you’re writing for you again, I’m excited to read more of your posts! Maadhi xo

  7. Joanne says:

    Dear Lesh, I so hear you. I understand the feelings of guilt but introverts needs to look after themselves just as much as extroverts and we introverts need solitude to do that. It’s tricky but should be guilt free. The older I get the better I am getting at saying thanks but no thanks, I have something else on. Me. I do think there are times when we need to push our boundaries and can be happy to do so, but then we also need to counter balance that with extra superb alone time. Me, myself and I are the best company. Best wishes

  8. Robert Horton says:

    Hmmm, this is very interesting though I feel a little conflicted here and feel that there is more of a balance to be struck…

    One has to be careful to ensure that the gift to oneself, of solitude and me-time, is given but that it does not overspill into self-indulgence at the expense of others – personally, I feel guilty not for wanting (and taking) time out for myself, but for doing so at the expense of spending time with loved ones in order to accomplish it. The problem can merely be opportunity. If loved ones are visiting on a day that finds you tired and in need of quiet, then I would without hesitation ignore those feelings, forego my own listlessness and welcome them unreservedly and cheerfully…and plan (and take) my solitude the next day.

    Solitude for some (myself included) is absolutely necessary for well-being and, as stated above, is AS important to introverts as the opposite is for extroverts…

    …but, crucially, not MORE important.

  9. Kathryn Elliott says:

    YES to regular time alone. It’s a joy, keeps me sane and I’ve completely given up feeling bad about it.

    But that hasn’t always been the case. I was known amongst my friends for doing the shifty skulk – disappearing half way through something without saying goodbye to anyone as I was embarrassed about my need to escape and be by myself.

    However, I have a partner who completely accepts my need for solitude and I’ve realised I’m a much better friend, partner, daughter, human when I do get time to myself. So guilt be gone.

    There have been lots of book recommendations, but I really saw myself in Sian Prior’s ‘Shy’.

  10. Katie @ Whole Nourishment says:

    I like how you say acceptance is the counter to feeling guilty. To me this means we can allow ourselves the ability to embrace a quality while learning how to best work with it. I need my alone time to recharge too. Although I generally don’t feel guilty about it because I know it’s coming from a place of self-care rather than selfishness, it’s more difficult to balance my needs with others during short family visits. But I like your reminder that with age we gradually learn more about how best to cope.

  11. Greg says:

    While looking up ways to use beet greens I happened to find this blog . It read this and was pleased to know that I am not alone. I function very well among people and thrive on intelligent conversation and just simple , playful small talk; but, I must have my solitude . I could easily go for days without talking or being entertained by the television , music, or the internet ,etc , my only diversion being nature and the outdoors. I was born on June 29 , so I though it strangely serendipitous that your thoughts were penned on that day.

  12. Jessie says:

    I really love the poem! I’ve never thought of myself as an introvert but it’s true that I spend a lot of time alone and often am more comfortable not being in large group situations. Thanks so much for your thought-provoking post.

  13. Hannah says:

    That’s funny, I also came here via the beet greens – must be the time of year!

    I loved reading about how you felt Lesh, just the same as me. I love being with other people but with larger groups I do feel saturated pretty quickly and the call of quiet time becomes more insistent. Yet it’s true, we do feel that there is somehow something inherently ‘wrong’ with this.

    Loved the video too – particularly the advice to ‘be patient’ if you feel lonely at first. I have a week ahead of me where my partner is away for work. Initially I felt a sense of panic and a need to go and be with other people. Yet there are so many things I want to do on my own and I know how replenishing it is to have even a quite extended time of introspection and meditation. It makes one so much more open to others when company does come along… and it helps to connect deeply with oneself, for feeling grounded, for authenticity, for joy in just being!

  14. Holly says:

    Dear Lesh,

    I just read your final post and found nowhere to comment. I hope one day you will find this here.

    I want to thank you for sharing your life – your hopes, fears and joys here. I’m so happy that you are content with your decision to stop blogging. You have been a dear companion since I discovered your blog, and I’m so grateful. Your decision to let it go has meaning for me as well. I feel encouraged to connect with what feels right for me, and I know what a difficult journey it can be to arrive there. Thank you so much, godspeed and may you be blessed with the serenity and beauty that is. May we all come to see it, and the wisdom that guides us. Much love to all…

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