We have heard it before that there is a fine line between being lonely and being alone, as people often mistake the two as one and the same, and that the two are mutually exclusive. Being alone is a state of being, the state of being by yourself. Loneliness, on the other hand, is more of a feeling, a feeling of alienation, of not belonging, of not being understood. The tendency to think that being alone begets being lonely manifests in many ways—mostly in the form of being scared of being alone, such as not wanting to be seen doing anything without someone next to you, or always finding the need to be looking busy or on-the-go when you’re by walking yourself.

What takes a long time to understand, though, is that they are not mutually exclusive. Loneliness could be felt even in a room full of people you’ve known your entire life, in the form a wave of loneliness crashing upon you as you realize you aren’t exactly where you want to be. On the other hand, it is possible to feel loved even as you lay by yourself in bed at night after you made the conscious decision to spend time by yourself instead of going out with your friends.

While it may sound like a scary thing, giving ourselves the space to be alone can be one of the most beautiful things we can give to ourselves. Being comfortable with being alone could help in our long and winding journey towards self-love and maturity.

Loneliness is necessary in order for self-love to take place.

When we begin to see the comfort there is in being alone, we begin to find the beauty there is in ourselves. We begin the journey towards the thinking: I am content and happy with myself. Every day we are surrounded by people who have so much to say and so much to offer to the world and whether we want to admit it or not, it can get tiring. There’s always a facade to maintain, people you want to impress or whose opinions you care about. Only recently have I discovered that it is essential to set aside time for ourselves as much as we set aside time for others—because in the space we allow ourselves to be alone, we allow ourselves to face what we’ve been putting off in the back of our minds. We give ourselves space to really think about who we are and what we are capable of as individuals, without the noise of other people’s opinion and expectations.

There is so much power in solitude that giving this chance to ourselves can change the way we look at life, other people, and even ourselves, entirely. It’s true what they tell you: that mastering self-love isn’t something that just happens overnight (some might even argue that it is a never ending process of learning). But even if it is the longest journey we find ourselves on, even if our minds get tired of analyzing and questioning the same things over and over again, it is necessary and fulfilling when we finally begin to realize that there will be moments that we will be by ourselves, and that these will also be the moments in which we realize that who we are is enough.

Being comfortable with being alone of personal growth and emotional maturity.

When you are alone, you allow yourself and your feelings the space and opportunity to progress. You reach a certain level of emotional maturity, and maybe even intelligence, when you are able to acknowledge how you feel, why you feel it, what you need to do about why you feel that way. Understanding these emotions and our responsibility on what we decide to do about it will ultimately result into our better understanding of ourselves. There is a weight you don’t even realize you’re carrying when you are so preoccupied trying to seem as if you don’t care, because whether we acknowledge it or not, we are so busy trying to come off as unbothered that we don’t realize the toxicity we bring ourselves when we are desperately trying to seem as if we don’t care. Because we all do. It’s in our nature, we were born to connect and to feel and to make ourselves and others feel alive, to feel like we belong here; and the more we realize that, the more we actively try to do something about it, then maybe, just maybe, those tough conversations we’re always dreading to have won’t have to be so tough at all.

There is strength that only we can find by ourselves in our own solidarity, the strength only self-love and emotional maturity can bring. The world can seem a little less scary – and maybe even lighter – when we are comforted by our own presence. We have to able to face our own snarky thoughts, to find the courage to ask ourselves why we think the way we think and why we see things the way we do; because if we don’t first, then who will? There is no one more important to be in touch with than ourselves, because even if you may hear this time and time again, you control your entire life – the way you feel about things, your relationships and the people you surround yourself with. So the next time you find yourself wanting to distract yourself from the many questions your mind has been begging you to face, or when you find yourself needing to have any form of background noise to keep you from avoiding what your thoughts are bothering you about – know that perhaps behind those hard-to-answer questions and those difficult emotions lies an answer you never knew you needed.