Four ways Independence can help your Social Life

What’s the difference between being lonely and being alone?

You might think that’s a trick question. They sound like the same thing. But there is a difference, and recognizing that difference is key to building friendships that last. While being alone can cause you to feel lonely sometimes, a little independence is actually a good thing! It can help you become a better friend. It can make you more appealing to potential friends. And believe it or not, alone time can actually be fun!

Now that summer is in full swing, you may find yourself spending a lot of time away from your school friends. Vacations, sleep away camps, and family gatherings are the norm during these months. You’ll probably miss your friends, but there’s no need to get totally bummed out. This time apart can actually help your relationships. Here’s why:

There’s less Pressure on the Friendship: If you can’t have fun on your own, your friends may start to feel like they’re responsible for keeping you entertained. That can strain a relationship. Worse, your friends may start to think of you as “clingy”, and pull away. A healthy friendship comes with a sense of freedom. When you choose to spend time together, the relationship feels genuine, natural and fun. So don’t be scared to take a breather every once in a while! A true friendship will easily survive some time apart.

You’ll Have Plenty of Conversation Starters:
Ever get the feeling that there’s nothing new to talk about with your friends? Are the conversations getting repetitive, and a bit stale? That happens when you’re together all day every day, and it’s one reason it can be nice to get a little break. Take some time to read a book, check out a new movie, go on a hike with family, or volunteer for a good cause. When you and your friends are finally reunited, you’ll have plenty of stories to tell, and ideas to share!

You get to Focus on your own Interests: When you make plans with your friends, there’s bound to be a bit of give and take. But when you spend time alone, you can focus completely on your own interests. Maybe you’ll finally level up in your favorite video game, or write that short story you’ve been planning. It’s important to develop your own interests, ideas and viewpoints. These are what make you unique, and totally irreplaceable to your friends.

You may Expand your Social Circle:
Always make it a point to hang on to good friends, but don’t close yourself off to finding new ones. When you explore an interest, or join an activity, you have a chance to meet new people outside your usual social circle. That doesn’t mean you’re replacing your usual group of friends. You’re simply enhancing your existing social life. Maybe you’ll make a friend who shares your love of cats, or your determination to find the perfect cookie recipe. It’s never a bad thing to add someone new to your social circle, as long as that person is kind, caring, and appreciates you for who you are!

Of course, you want to be careful not to pull away from your friends entirely. If summer plans are pulling you apart, you should do your best to keep in touch. But don’t stress if you need to spend a little time on your own this summer, or in the future. It doesn’t mean your social life is doomed. It just means you have a chance to become a little more independent. And that is key to developing solid friendships, and a thriving social life!

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More