“If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company.”
It wouldn’t be odd to say that this quote seems a little off. Really, who wouldn’t be lonely when they’re alone? Isn’t the very essence of loneliness the feeling one feels when they are, in fact, alone? And how could you possibly be in “bad company” when there’s no one there with you? Do you count as your own company or are you really not alone and you just feel as if you are? One may ask these questions, should they be examining the quote only at face value. But as you dig deeper, you may find that there’s a deeper truth to be discovered under this puzzling group of words, a truth that possesses a very significant lesson to be learned by everyone, everywhere.
Self-awareness and the ability to withstand life alone aren’t highly prioritized as skills to cultivate by the general consensus of society. Humans are social creatures after all, and what makes our existence very different from everything else on Earth is that we depend on each other to build ourselves up and trust one another to take the whole species to greater heights. Instead of teaching us to be content with ourselves and to be independent of others’ assistance, human media promotes compassion, the need for cooperation with those around you, and to aspire to be someone that others respect and appreciate. These criticisms aren’t being made to say that our culture is wrong, just that it’s lacking. Compassion and cooperation are all good but the glorification of being social, and the discontentedness with being left in one’s own company, have certain problematic implications as well.
With that in mind, let’s take a step back and see what that implies in the context of the quote at hand. It might make it easier to visualize it, so just keep this image in mind: you’re alone in a room, not necessarily empty, but there’s no one else in it. You have no way to contact the outside world from that room, but there’s no need to panic: you can leave in a matter of a few hours. You just have to sit through it alone with your thoughts for a bit and you’ll be well on your way. The natural human reaction, of course, would be a sense of fear and anxiety. What will happen to you within those few hours with no contact with the outside world? Even if it isn’t anything dangerous, what can you do to pass the time? It has only been a few minutes, but it feels like an hour or two has passed. It’s at this point that you realize that you can’t be left alone with yourself. You’re plagued with terrible thoughts and you start to find yourself boring, and even dangerous without the assistance of the presence of others. You are in bad company.
This reaction could be avoided however, if you had just learned to rely on your own company a little more. Spending time alone, however irrelevant it sounds at first, is crucial, a very special and important skill to be learned. It teaches you to be self-reliant, independent, and in most cases, a bit more mature. Take a look around and you’ll find a variety of things to occupy your time with, all without the necessary presence of another person. To avoid the previous response, one must learn to be content and at peace with oneself. If you practice this specific skill enough, soon you’ll find that the social interaction you’ve been conditioned to need will become less mandatory to you, but on the same footing and resulting in the same effect as simply spending time in your own company.