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Do you depend on other people to have a good time? Do you struggle to enjoy your own company?
Extroverts thrive off social interactions and collaboration. But you aren’t going to be around people all the time, so it’s pivotal that you find ways to appreciate your own company.
Discover how to enjoy your own company as an extrovert, and why everyone needs moments of solitude.
The Downsides of Extroversion in Society
Introverts are typically more comfortable with their own company, whereas extroverts thrive off social interactions. According to Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain, the latter doesn’t typically like to be alone and needs a lot of stimulation, mainly from social activities and busy environments.
We’ve built our society almost entirely around extroversion. In school systems, for example, this is reflected in the way classrooms are organized and taught: Desks are arranged to facilitate group projects and high levels of interaction and activity. Most teachers believe students should be extroverts.
In the workplace, we’re expected to engage in relentless self-promotion to develop and promote our personal “brand.” To advance in many careers, extroversion usually is essential.
Introverts, as both children and adults, are constantly pushed to be more outgoing. Parents and teachers urge children to “come out of their shell” and be more sociable and participate more in class. Adults are chided for being “in their head” too much, or seen as disengaged at work when they want to think rather than react off the cuff.
But this focus on extroversion has downsides. One downside in the business world is a preference for “Groupthink” that prioritizes teamwork above all. It’s based on the erroneous belief that creativity and intellectual achievement come from collaboration. In reality, an exclusive focus on teamwork actually undercuts creativity, which requires solitude and intense concentration (two things associated with introverts).
Groupthink is responsible for three work phenomena that hinder creativity:
- Open offices: Many companies have implemented open-office designs with no walls or private offices and little or no privacy. However, studies have shown that open-office designs create noise, disruption, and stress, which reduce rather than enhance productivity.
- Multitasking: Businesses prize multitasking as a way to get more done, but it doesn’t work. Research shows that the brain can’t focus on two things at the same time—it actually switches back and forth between tasks, which lowers productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50%.
- Brainstorming: While businesses use team brainstorming to spur creativity, research over the last forty years has underscored that team brainstorming doesn’t generate better ideas.
The Importance of Solitude
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport says that it’s easy to overlook the value of solitude because our culture places a high value on connectivity. While close personal relationships are a critical source of happiness, time with close friends and family must still be balanced with time spent alone with your thoughts. This means having a break from outside input from other people, TV, podcasts, and anything on your phone or computer. Solitude is essential to:
- Come up with new ideas. When you have the space to think, without any external input, you’ll be better able to work through difficult problems and come up with more creative ideas. This may also be why many writers and other famous figures have been prolific during periods of solitude.
- Develop a better understanding of yourself. Spending time alone with your thoughts gives you the opportunity for valuable self-reflection. As you get to know yourself better, you’ll become better at regulating your emotions.
- Support strong intimate relationships with others. Although this seems paradoxical, having time alone makes you more appreciative of the time you spend with others.
How to Enjoy Being Alone
Being alone and being lonely are two completely different concepts. Just because you’re physically alone, doesn’t mean you should feel lonely—an emotional state of feeling disconnected from others. There are ways to learn how to enjoy your own company when you’re by yourself.
Below are four ways to enjoy your own company and appreciate solitude.
1. Practice Self-Love
After Rupi Kaur went through a breakup, she found that waiting for someone to make her feel whole was a futile task, according to her book milk and honey. She realized that the cure to loneliness isn’t finding another person to complete you. It’s embracing that you’re a complete human being without anyone else. If you learn to love yourself when you’re alone, the feelings of loneliness won’t feel as crushing. Other people can complement your strengths, but they can’t give you the things you think you lack.
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie supports Kaur’s idea of loving yourself. According to Beattie, being attached to someone else means that all your energy goes into their life, leaving none for yourself. Beattie advises people who are dependent on others to practice self-care as a form of self-love. Self-care is living a responsible life by being mindful of your needs, wants, emotions, and responsibilities toward yourself.
According to Beattie, the most important way to detach and practice self-care is to ask yourself, “What do I need or want in this moment?” When you know what you need or want, you can work to attain it yourself. Once you realize that you’re capable of attaining your needs and desires by yourself, you’ll love your own company more.
2. Celebrate Achievements and Be Proud of Yourself
One reason why some people have trouble figuring out how to enjoy their own company is because they haven’t made peace with their past. Something may have happened in the past that prevents you from appreciating alone time, like a codependent relationship that failed. But if you take the time to reflect on how you overcame these struggles on your own, and celebrate your individual accomplishments, then you’ll know how to enjoy your own company. Someday Is Today by Matthew Dicks has advice on how to do both.
It’s easy to get worn down and feel like you need other people to help you when you face barriers or fail to see results from your work. To persist through these challenges, remind yourself of all the hardships you’ve faced in the past and how you overcame them—you’ll develop the pride and motivation needed to be alone. If you struggled and persisted once, you can do it again.
You should also celebrate your achievements, big and small, to progress toward enjoying alone time. You’ll remember that you’re making progress all on your own, and don’t need other people to feel content. Don’t wait until you’ve reached some lofty level of success—celebrate every small achievement along the way. For example, don’t wait until you’ve won an Emmy Award to celebrate your success as an actress—celebrate when you get an agent, complete your first audition, get your first role, and so on.
3. Pursue Your Passions
Another way to learn how to enjoy your own company is to pursue your passions, not anyone else’s. It might be hard to figure out what you like to do if you depend on others to plan activities. The Power of Fun by Catherine Price can help you rediscover what your passions are.
Price defines passions as activities or hobbies that focus your attention and leave you feeling invigorated. Not everything you love to do is a passion. For example, you may love taking baths, but this is an activity that relaxes you, not one that inspires you; therefore it doesn’t qualify as a passion.
Price explains that our passions are often a great jumping-off point for True Fun because they lend themselves to opportunities for playfulness, connection, and flow. Passions are playful because they’re voluntary and pursued for their own sake. They also often lead you to meet new people and make new connections, and they facilitate building skills and knowledge that allow you to experience flow.
If you’ve lost touch with what you’re passionate about, Price offers some guiding questions to help you get started:
- What are you interested in learning?
- What’s something you used to love but stopped doing?
- What’s something you’ve always wanted to try but never felt like you could?
- What’s something you do that lights you up?
Price recommends you brainstorm as many ideas as possible and then choose something (anything) to try. Even if it’s not the right fit, you’ll have learned something about yourself in the process.
Price cautions that many people avoid pursuing their passions because they’re afraid of looking stupid or being bad at something. She says that if you’re trying something new, you probably will be bad at it, but she offers the reassurance that if you stick with it through the awkward beginner phase, you may discover a new passion.
4. Reduce Technology Use
Because digital tools are ubiquitous and addictive, they have robbed us of invaluable solitude. This may seem like a small loss, but even brief moments of solitude are critical for your mental and emotional well-being, says Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism.
Digital tools today are more ubiquitous than any of their technological predecessors. Whereas previous technologies could interrupt solitude intermittently, the iPod and iPhone were the first innovations that could continuously distract people from their thoughts, even in brief moments and inconvenient locations. As a result, people now face the real threat of solitude deprivation, meaning that they have virtually no time with their own thoughts. Solitude deprivation impedes your ability to think creatively, deliberate on problems, get to know yourself, and foster strong relationships—in other words, it brings down your quality of life.
Strategies for Reclaiming Solitude
It’s difficult to disconnect in a hyper-connected world, but there are some simple strategies you can use to learn how to enjoy your own company.
- Get away from your phone for a while. If you go out to a movie or meet a friend for dinner, leave your phone at home or in the car. If that feels too extreme, ask your friend to put your phone in her pocket or purse—whatever you can do to make the phone less accessible to you. Try to regularly get some time away from your phone.
- Take long, quiet walks. Try to make time for leisurely walks that give you the opportunity for quiet reflection. Resist the urge to talk on the phone or listen to a podcast—just be with your thoughts.
- Write down your thoughts. Writing is a form of productive solitude, and writing a journal entry or a letter to yourself is a valuable way to process your thoughts. You don’t necessarily need to write daily—simply use writing as an outlet to work through difficult problems and big emotions.
Being alone is nothing to be afraid of, and you certainly shouldn’t feel lonely during this time. Having time for yourself is a chance to relax, be creative, and gain independence. The more time you spend figuring out how to enjoy your own company, the more confident you’ll feel in doing things on your own.
What are other ways to learn how to enjoy your own company? Let us know in the comments below!
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