In our culture there is an idealization of the “loner.” The person who doesn’t need any friends and is okay with being on their own. They’re depicted as strong and don’t need support from anyone or anything. They have a sense of fortitude that can withstand all sorts of storms.
When I think of the loner what comes to mind is a romanticized figure like James Dean. Or, I’m reminded of this scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure:
While I’ve never thought of myself as being like Pee Wee, having grown up in Indiana (home of James Dean), I’ve often found myself drawn to the rebel without a cause.
Society tells us there is strength in being alone. In relying only on one’s self. As I’ve thought more of this position, though, I realize there are some benefits. But my experiences have been far different.
While my time as a loner was good in the sense of building resilience, it was difficult in that I often wished for connection with others. From the outside, people saw me as a strong individual, not needing anyone else. But inside I felt scared and helpless. My loner status wasn’t of my own choosing. I didn’t know how to make connections with others. I was unaware of any sort of method by which I might find belonging.
Furthermore, it was my mental health issues that kept me from finding those connections. I found resilience in my state as a loner, but would’ve been glad to give it up if I could have overcome my bipolar disorder and anxiety.
There is a loner state that involves someone interested in being alone but who also knows how to make connections. But for many of us, our definition as a loner isn’t one we welcome. We yearn for connections with others, with friendships that are meaningful and bring joy to our lives.
So you may come across someone who strikes you as a loner. You may admire their strength. But know that hidden underneath that solitude may be a mental health issue causing them to embrace that state. And it may not hurt to make an effort and reach out to help them find a connection with others, which they may prefer.
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.