I'm Afraid To Be Alone

Melissa Bennett-Heinz

Self Care

Human beings are social creatures and need contact with others. Time alone is when we process, recharge, rejuvenate, and rest. It is healthy to spend time by ourselves. For many people, they look forward to alone time and it is wanted. For others, it can be terrifying to think about spending time by yourself and some people go to any lengths to avoid it. What exactly causes a fear of being alone? In general, three things cause fear of being alone: 1) The past: being abandoned or having felt abandoned before, for example by a partner who left you or a parent; therefore, you learned to associate being alone with being unloved; 2) Lack of self-confidence: someone who doesn’t believe in themselves may think that they are not worthy of love and that they’re not capable of making their lives better in any way; not knowing how to be comfortable being alone which can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and more intense feelings of fear; and 3) Social conditioning: some people will always want company as they’ve never learned how, sometimes because they haven’t had to learn, to tolerate or even enjoy doing anything by themselves. 

The fear of being alone can negatively impact relationships from friends and family, to romantic and professional relationships. Being fearful about being alone can end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy and ensure that you do end up alone giving you the opposite of what you want. In this case, consider the law of attraction: whatever you focus on, you get.  When you’re consumed by the fear of being alone, this negative energy will spill over into your relationships. As a result, you might throw yourself into a relationship or friendship that is unhealthy, as well as place a lot of pressure on your family member, friend, or partner who comes off as needy, pushy, or clingy. Bringing this energy to relationships often doesn't end well.

Here are a few ideas that may help you with this fear:  1) Embrace the fear, as contradictory as this may sound. Being alone means you don’t have to consider someone else such as leaving the kitchen a mess and not washing the dishes immediately, watching the movie you want to, listening to music of your choice as loud as you’d like without headphones or air pods, don’t make the bed one day a week; 2) Pursue a new interest or pick up a hobby at home such as drawing, crafting, journaling, or crocheting. There are countless teachers available to you at your fingertips on YouTube and the internet free of charge;  3) Learn relaxation techniques to calm your system through breathwork and the use of imagery; 4) Practice mindful meditation which is simply being present in the moment, noticing what you’re feeling and experiencing, without judging yourself;  5) Avoid turning to social media, such as Facebook, as the antidote to your feeling alone. Comments, likes, and shares (and insults/attacks), will only make the feelings of loneliness worse; 6) Stop making choices to tolerate others in relationships out of fear of being alone. Many people will make poor decisions out of fear that they wouldn’t make otherwise to avoid being alone such as being in the presence of toxic people, engaging with others who make poor choices/exhibit poor behavior, and have a different set of values from you; 7) Practice the art of gratitude, rather than wallowing in the misery of being alone. Take a breath, remind yourself that being alone is temporary, and there are things that you can acknowledge and be grateful for such as your health, a home, having enough to eat, and feeling safe. People who have a practice of gratitude are scientifically shown to have stronger immune systems, improved health, more energy, and, most importantly, feeling less lonely and isolated, 8) Go out and meet people with intention – human beings are social creatures and need contact with one another. Find a group in which there are similar interests such as attending a church, joining a club, taking a course, going to a gym, and actively looking and seeking out friendships/relationships within these spaces by engaging with others. Remember that you have nothing to feel embarrassed in wanting/needing friends, it’s normal and okay to ask to get together outside of that event or group - others are there for the same reason you are. 

Know that as you experiment and try facing your fears, you will be working to boost your self-confidence, which, in turn, will help you learn to value yourself more and believe that you’re worthy of love even though you feel alone.

Do you need to be concerned and seek help? Some general criteria help to gauge when professional help, such as therapy, can be helpful. When your fear is disrupting your ability to function at work, in relationships, or even in caring for yourself; if you’re excessively using substances or engaging in behaviors such as overeating, not taking care of yourself, not being able to sleep (or oversleeping), if the fear is persistent and lasts for an extended amount of time (like months); if you actively take measures to avoid feeling fear and this avoidance almost always causes you to immediately feel anxious or panic if your fear is disproportionate the situation such as an evening alone at home will cause you to feel highly anxious or even panicked. 

This struggle is not uncommon – many people operate from a place of fear that they will ultimately be left or be alone. Know you’re not alone in this state. Even though we are social creatures, there is a disconnect for many people in admitting they need friends and appearing desperate or less than, i.e., feeling shame, in some way because you need/want relationships whether it be friends, family, or an intimate partnership. We are hard-wired for connection in the world and it is normal and healthy to need and be in contact. 

"Being alone has a power that very few people can handle."


Steven Aitchison