Though there are constantly people around on campus, college can be a lonely time. Everyone is on a different schedule, family members are farther away than most are used to and, for introverts like me, it takes a lot of effort to branch out.
However, introversion does not necessarily equate to anti-socialness. Instead, I feel it fosters a sense of comfort in one’s self and shows you that your best friend has been with you all along — that you are the friend you have been waiting for.
Obviously, surrounding yourself with a variety of positive, compatible companions is important, but it does not mean that you can’t spend time by yourself, or enjoy doing so. There is a certain unrecognized stigma surrounding enjoying being alone. As long as you are happily choosing to spend time alone, there is nothing lonely about it.
Social media loves to talk about “self-care” as merely putting on a face mask or sinking in a bath of glitter and fragrance. Though these are great ways of taking extra time to care for yourself, they are consumerist actions convincing young women that they need to buy or do those same things to partake in self-care. But, to me, the root of self-care is grounded in enjoying your own company and learning to be your own best friend.
So yes, for some, that may mean having a spa night alone, indulging in skincare, or taking a bath. But for others, quality alone time may mean going on a walk or run alone, solo-exploring the city, writing a reflective journal entry, or eating dinner alone and catching up on a favorite TV show (all of these are favorites of mine).
Finding friendship in yourself is a process, especially if it is a new phenomenon for you. Start off by making a list of activities you love to do in your free time or want to do (such as a Boston bucket list). This will give you a good foundation for potential dates to take yourself on! Then, go out (or have a night-in) and try one of those activities out. Over time, by setting aside time to do what YOU want to, you may find a sense of independence and freedom with the realization that there is no one to account for, no one to entertain — just you and your best friend (you!).
While making time to do activities that make you happy and refuel your energy are crucial to becoming your own best friend, I think it is also incredibly beneficial for your mental health. When you devote time to yourself and your passions, you become more aware of your feelings and needs and more comfortable with who you are. It becomes easier to recognize when you are in need of a break or when you need to turn to someone. It becomes harder to treat yourself negatively. You learn to care for yourself as you would a best friend, and the effects positively spill over to the other relationships in your life.
As famously said by Stephen Chbosky in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” And when you find friendship in yourself, you realize just how much love you deserve, both from yourself and from others.
Of course, I’m still learning how to become my own best friend, but college has given me space and time to explore my hobbies and the qualities I love about myself. It is important to know that being alone does not always mean you are lonely. When done at the right time, alone time can be fulfilling, energizing, and fun!