We all know a loner. They tend to enjoy spending as much time on their own as they can. Of course, they do have friends. It's not that they dislike people. They just have less of a need for peer acceptance than most.
Often, loners have large groups of friends and have a higher standard for their friendships. But still, many loners make the conscious decision to get plenty of time on their own. Why? According to a psychologist at Wellesley College, it's because they don't need acceptance.
"Some people simply have a low need for affiliation," says Jonathan Cheek. "There's a big subdivision between the loner-by-preference and the enforced loner. Those who choose the living room over the ballroom may have inherited their temperament," Cheek says. "Or a penchant for solitude could reflect a mix of innate tendencies and experiences such as not having many friends as a child or growing up in a family that values privacy."
Of course, it's possible to be too much of a loner. Some loners close their borders, so to speak, because of anxiety. Some are pathologically shy. Some have had bad experiences as kids. These types of loners tend to get butterflies around people. Social isolation can even be a health risk.
"Loneliness is like hunger and thirst—a signal to help your genes survive," says John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. "When you're lonely, there's a stress response in your body, and it's not healthy to sustain that for a long time."
Of course, it takes all kinds, and loners tend to be smarter, more loyal friends. If you have an outgoing friend who abruptly becomes a loner, that may be cause for concern.
What do you think? Are you a loner?