Often those who are more introverted, preferring to spend their time alone rather than surrounded by others get a bad rap. Labelled as being ‘anti-social’ or unable to work with others, we are taught that we should feel sorry for them as they are OBVIOUSLY lonely and wishing that they could break through the barriers that separate them from society – whether these are physical barriers in their lives or mental barriers such as a social anxiety or mental health struggle. For this reason, spending a lot of time alone is seen as a weakness.
Social psychologist Bella DePaulo has dedicated a significant part of her career to challenging this stereotype. In her book ‘Alone: The Badass Psychology of People Who Like Being Alone,’ DePaulo shares a collection of more than 60 writings on people that prefer to spend their time alone, explaining not only her opinion but the science-based reasons why she believes that those who enjoy spending time alone are actually strong and powerful individuals. Her writings touch on everything from the desire to live alone to the ‘single life,’ the positive psychology of solitude to the benefits of dining and traveling alone.
One important topic when discussing the concept of being alone, and often one of the first thoughts that come to mind for those presented with the topic, is the single life. We live in a society that, from childhood, paints the picture that true happiness is found in finding that ‘special someone’ that we are destined to spend our lives with. This not only creates a desire to find love but in many cases a fear of being single. We are actually afraid of life on our own, as funny as that may sound!
DePaulo refers to a study titled ‘Settling for Less Out of Fear of Being Single,’ first published in the ‘Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’ in October 2013. Conducted by Stephanie Spielmann and her team out of the University of Toronto, the study explores how this fear of being single may actually influence our decisions, encouraging us to settle for less than we deserve simply to avoid being alone, resulting in negative situations such as anxious attachment.
The study was conducted using two study groups. The first was a group of 301 people recruited online, with an average age of 29, while the second was a group of 147 Canadian undergraduates with an average age of 19. Of the 448 total participants, only 35 were married, 236 were single and not dating, and the remaining 177 were actively dating someone at the time of the study. Conducting a total of 7 different studies, the research team concluded that a fear of being single did, in fact, prove to be a meaningful predictor in whether or not someone would settle for less in their relationships.
In her work DePaulo refers to what she calls ‘true loners,’ the people that don’t fear being alone, but rather embrace the time on their own. These individuals, she says, don’t fall under the stereotype of being neurotic and frightened. Instead, they are the badasses that know their worth, and would rather find happiness alone than settle for someone that is less than they deserve. Their happiness, sense of self and confidence are not dependent on the validation of others.
DePaulo explains, “People who are unafraid of being alone are not overly sensitive to rejection and they don’t get their feelings hurt too easily. When they are in romantic relationships, their own self-esteem does not depend on how those relationships are faring. They do not have a particularly strong need to belong. And they are less likely to be lonely or to be depressed.
Put all that together with their openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and low levels of neuroticism, and people who are unafraid of being single look totally badass.
People who are unafraid of being single are not just talking a good game.”