Being a Hermit is Not a Bad Thing!
Why I’m totally okay with being a hermit (and I want you to feel okay if you’re a hermit too): Recently, I’ve gotten derisive comments from (well-meaning, I’m sure) folks in my life about my hermit ways. I’ve been accused of cloistering myself in front of the computer too much and not paying attention to things that “really matter.” But isn’t this subjective? I mean, what “really matters” to some might look completely different than what holds value to you are to me.
Quite frankly, these remarks about my sequestered behavior really grates my cheese. And that’s what made me think about my anti-social tendencies. When something twists my melon, that’s my sign to take a hard look at it and ask questions like, “Why do these comments tick me off?” or “Is there truth to what they are saying?”
Avia’s Experience with Being a Hermit
After some pretty intense self-reflection, it was mighty clear that I’ve always been this way. I was a hermit even before the C-word (Coronavirus) thing crammed us all into quarantine. As a kid, I always kept to myself. My nose was always stuck in a book, or I was somewhere by myself in Nature pocketing frogs or poking sticks in the dirt. I daresay this naturally reclusive tendency has made me a better artist, writer, intuitive reader, and even a better person.
So why am I getting so defensive about how others perceive my shut-in proclivities? I think it irritates me now because, in the past, it wasn’t a big deal. Why? Because I believe my presence wasn’t required by others. They had their own lives and I wasn’t required to fulfill their needs. Or, there were times in the past when I complied and got out more at the bequest of others.
However, the older I get, the more I’m rabid about standing up for my own needs and beliefs rather than bend to the needs of others. After all, what’s the point of me feeling miserable to make others happy? That’s the antithesis of healthy socializing, IMHO.
I realize that many people have a legit fear of being alone, and social interaction is a crucial aspect of their wellbeing. But others among us simply don’t require that. Too often, this is seen as a negative thing, like we’re some kind of freaks or something is inherently broken within us because we don’t run on Dunkin Doughnut kaffeeklatsches with pals.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you struggled with how others perceive you, or even get miffed with the labels like ‘loner’ or ‘recluse’? So what’s a hermit to do? Here are a few tips to feeling totally okay about being a hermit.
Tips to Living Guilt-Free and Happy About Being a Hermit
I’m okay, you’re okay: Maybe I’m dating myself by referencing the 1967 self-help book by Dr. Anthony Harris, I’m OK You’re OK. It might be an oldie, but it’s a goodie in terms of recognizing learned behavioral patterns within us that motivate us to seek approval from others. Logically, we all know this is preposterous and even impossible. There is no way to win approval from everybody all the time, so why bother? If this makes sense to you, then that’s the first step…recognizing moments when you are choosing to be a different you in order to please others. We’ve all done it to an extent…and normally it’s not an issue. But if you love being a hermit yet still socialize (more often than is comfortable for you) just to make everybody else happy…that behavior needs to be patted on the head and sent off to play in somebody else’s backyard. In other words, please kiss that shit goodbye. You be you, because you are amazing and more than okay as a human (and a hermit).
But Ma! Everybody at School is Doing it!: To which the inevitable response comes, “So if everybody jumped off a cliff to their death, you should too?” You get the idea here…Just because everybody else around you is gathering at the local watering hole together or gossiping in groupings under the auspices of holding a book club meeting…that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. So if you feel compelled to attend an obligatory social function…don’t go the way of the lemming who follows the crowd simply because it’s more acceptable to others. Nobody said being a hermit is easy…it’s typically not because it’s not a social norm. However, it becomes easier when you stop resisting or rejecting that a reclusive lifestyle might be a natural fit for you. Once you embrace who you are (regardless of what others are doing or what they expect you to do), you’ll feel much more satisfied and content with keeping your own company.
Practice Radical Honesty: With yourself and others, and radically honest about your needs. This is not being selfish! This is about respecting yourself (and others) enough to communicate what you know is right for your wellbeing and happiness. So when mom wants to pull you out of your solitude with a crowbar to toss you into a blind date she set up for you (oh man, I think I just puked in my mouth a little just thinking about that scenario!)…then just say no. Respectfully decline to acquiesce to others’ demands to get out and socialize because you know that’s not what you need to feel your best. Explain to these well-intending people that your needs aren’t the same as theirs (or others), and you would prefer your alone-time. If that doesn’t get through to them, then deliver a solid “no” and remove yourself from the situation. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for preferring to be yourself (and be by yourself).
How to Confirm You’re Totally Copacetic with Being a Hermit
(and a happy, healthy hermit to boot!)
Since we’ve discussed some coping suggestions about being a hermit and ways to adapt in social settings…I thought it might be a good idea to explore ways to confirm that you are a loner and that is totally cool with you. Here are a few observations that indicate you are indeed very okay, totally functional, and a healthy hermit who lives life well and on your own terms.
I’ll Stand by You: To quote the song by the Pretenders, you know you’re a well-rounded recluse if you are still available to help your loved ones in need. I’ve been a self-confessed hermit all my life…but if a friend or family member is in need, then the gates of hell wouldn’t keep me from coming to their aid. If you feel (and have proven on many occasions) that you are always there when your presence is really needed, then you should know you’re totally cool. I’m not talking if you’re being summoned to satisfy guilt trips…I’m talking a genuine needs, like consoling a friend after a breakup, or lifting your brother-in-law’s spirits when he’s feeling blue, or even bigger life events such as injury or death. The ability to show up when you are genuinely needed is a sign that you are well-adjusted, and have a sense of compassion….which by the way, native hermits have loads of, and this is often overlooked by others.
The View is Clear from Here: Hermits are often misunderstood because they choose to be apart from the world rather than a part of it. This is often misconstrued as being disconnected or distant. For most hermits, this simply isn’t the case. If you prefer your isolation, yet still have compassion and concern for the world and society – then you’re doing just fine. Isolation gets unhealthy when all care is lost for others and the world around us. However, if you are still mindful and aware of the wonder this world holds while pondering all its magnificent glory within in your sanctum sanctorum..there’s nothing wrong with that.
Be Fruitful and Multiply: Some people need to gather around a water cooler or simmer in a think tank with others in order to drum up ideas or get productive at work. If, however, you get your best work done while alone this is totally copacetic. In my experience, the best and most productive chapters in my life have been when I had the freedom to lock myself away for days and weeks on end while working on creative writing, thinking, pondering, or making artful things. In fact, this website is the product of my isolation…it would have never existed had I not embraced my solo, ascetic tendencies.
Self Awareness and Time Management: If your status as a recluse were unhealthy, then you would have a complete lack of self-awareness, utterly out of touch with time, and definitely out of touch with everything in general. As a highly functioning and healthy hermit, you are not only very self-aware, you are also very comfortable with inner reflection, thinking about deep philosophical topics, etc. As a well-adjusted solo artist, you likely place a high value on your time and are unwilling to waste it. All of this boils down to the old adage, “temet nosce” which is a Latin phrase meaning “know thyself.” As a reasonable, sensible loner, you know yourself well and respect the resources you have at hand such as time, creativity, and perception.
The Greatest Love of All: Whitney Houston had a good point with this song, and as a healthy, happy hermit, you can probably dig the concept of self-love. Not only do you enjoy spending time by yourself, but you think you’re stellar company! I’m not talking narcissism here…you just like the company you keep, and it happens to be you! I say kudos and rock on to that!
Closing Thoughts About Being a Hermit
It’s important to recognize that being a hermit is not unhealthy. You’re not a social leper, and there is nothing wrong with you. In fact, there are some studies that show living a reclusive life has health benefits. Sure, there are extreme cases in every scenario. If you find yourself measuring your pee in milk bottles or obsessed with building the world’s largest ball of ABC gum (already-been-chewed gum) in your basement…then we might need to reassess.
Otherwise, if you’re still able to manage well in the world (or manage even better when you have solitude) then you’re definitely not broken. It’s not easy being reclusive. Although the pandemic gave us all a taste of it…so maybe we isolated-types might get a little slack and understanding about our social (or anti-social) preferences. The only person you need to answer to at the end of the day is you, so live your life in a way that honors the unique, creative being you are…even if that means taking solace in solitude.
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