I Refuse to Ask for Space — It’s Already Mine

Over the past few months, I’ve written extensively about travel. From my solo trips to travel tips, I lingered quite a bit on the topic. I originally planned to continue on that vein today, but it might be time to change things up a bit and discuss something a little less fun and a lot more uncomfortable:

  • Giving people space
  • Respecting their boundaries

As I’ve said several times before, I’m an only child. My mom migrated to the United States when I was a preteen. That, coupled with some unfortunate circumstances, allowed me to live on my own for ten years before I moved to America.

I absolutely loved it!

A Love for Solace

My friends could never quite wrap their heads around this love for my own personal space. I would go out with them and then still disappear. They would find me half an hour later standing by the beach, staring at the ocean.

I often booked excursions without telling anyone, going off snorkelling by myself or walking miles along the beach with music in my ears. I also generally turned down any social activity that involved people spending time in my home. Parties at my place because I was the only one who didn’t live with parents or roommates? No, thank you.

This has not changed. If anything, running a fairly popular lifestyle blog has only made me appreciate my privacy more. And, living in such close proximity to family has increased the value I place on taking some time off to be alone. In fact, I have written about this before:

6 THINGS I LOVE TO DO SOLO
THAT MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS
TOTALLY JUDGE ME FOR

Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my family and friends and a romantic evening out has its perks. But, when I decide I want to be left alone, any interruptions to that will probably not end well.

Preserving Space

To maintain that boundary, I’ve constantly had to ask people to respect my occasional but deep-seated need for personal time — over and over and over again. I’ve done this in the nicest ways possible. I explain that I’m busy and want to focus on work, or just need some time to myself, or have been giving up all my free time for social activities and just want to unwind.

The older I’ve become, the more people accept this without question and leave me to my own devices. The people who know me best never even need to be asked. They can tell by my matter-of-fact and unenthusiastic replies that it might be time to let me be. These are the people I generally do not need space from, even when I need space from everyone else.

Still, there are always those few people who never quite understand or accept that I need my space, or who believe I absolutely need that space but volunteer to elect themselves as an exception. These people drive me absolutely insane!

Playing the Diplomat

In the past, I handled them by patiently re-making my requests time and time again. I get that you want to talk, but I really want to finish studying for this exam. Can we do this later? Okay, I explained that I needed to study. I’m still studying. How about I tell you when I’m done? I did tell you I have exams, right? I really can’t talk right now.

Some of them became angry and told me off, while others continued to believe they were either an exception to the rule or that persistence would win out. Some of these people are lonely or bored and are eager to spend time with anyone but themselves. Others are romantically interested in me when I am neither available nor romantically interested in them. The rest are either oblivious or have an utter disregard for people’s boundaries. And, I’m sure, many of these overlap.

Whatever the reason, I tire of playing the diplomat. Constantly turning down social invitations from one person when I have made it clear I’m either not available or focusing on solo excursions. Feeling pressured to respond to text messages I would rather ignore. Wanting to rip my hair out when the person I just told, “I really need some alone time” decides to call me on my day off.

No Longer Asking

With our time in Atlanta drawing to a close, I once again have this problem to contend with. I will never understand the feeling of entitlement people have to another person’s time. Nor will I understand how anyone can find the ego to believe they are the answer to someone else’s stressful week.

If I work a lot and have been surrounded by family 24/7 and finally get a day to myself, would I not probably want to spend that day alone? We won’t even get started on the people who will know you have limited social time but insist on being the person you spend it with every single time. Do I not want to ever see someone else? Are there not other people who might want to see me?

I don’t know how anyone misses the underlying selfishness in this. This constant assertion of themselves as the answer to someone else’s need for relaxation or fun. Maybe I’m the selfish one — selfish with the one day off I take per week, while I save for a cross-country move. Who knows?

What I do know is that I’ve stopped asking. I should never have to tell someone I need my own space more than once. After all, it’s only mine to give.

Did you ever have a difficult time creating space for yourself when you needed it? Have you come across anyone who just could not grasp the concept that you might want some alone time? How did you handle the situation?

I’m really interested to hear other people’s takes on this. Most of my friends are like me, and therefore, also biased towards maintaining the right to not just our space but our peace of mind. 

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19 thoughts on “I Refuse to Ask for Space — It’s Already Mine

  1. There is nothing like enjoying your own company in your own space or out and about. My husband is a bit of an introvert, so we have always kept social celebrations to a minimum; even when we both worked together in the same school, I’d attend Christmas parties or other work social gatherings on my own or with my son on occasion as my other half couldn’t stand them. But I too love being on my own now that he’s gone back to work after his convalescence and I haven’t. I’ve got so many interests, I have no time to get bored. And I have a beautiful and loving dog! I understand you perfectly. 👍

    1. Exactly! I have nothing against people who always need company. Just as long MINE isn’t the company they’re always requesting. 😂

      I’m a closet introvert. People see me as a social butterfly. I always warn them, but they never take me seriously. Then, they try to get me out of my house too often and they start to realise I was serious about preferring my own time and space.

      It’s so easy for women to lose themselves in marriage and partnership. It’s always good to maintain some kind of separation, somewhere. At least, I think so. I hear of too many women divorcing at 50, or their husband works some distance away, and they’re just realising they have no idea what they like or how to spend their time.

  2. i maybe alone but i am not lonely.
    solitude has nothing to do with being lonely.
    i’m also an only child and did most of my time, by myself. even though i played some group sports, i did do a lot of things by myself including solo climbing and hiking. i am happy doing things by myself.
    so, everything you have said and everything others have said in the comments are correct.
    i feel, those not being an only child may not fully understand any of this.
    in fact, groups of people and i guess people in general, irritate me. this happened to me even today while i was out taking photos. people would look at me using my camera and walk into my shot or take their time walking out of my shot. some of the photos i took today, i waited up to 10-15 mins until the shot was clear.

    1. I should have guessed you were also an only child! It’s interesting how we process social interactions differently. I had an aunt my age that I was around quite a bit and had several cousins who lived nearby. None of this seemed to break through my “only child syndrome”.

      My mom worries all the time about my preference for doing most things alone. Last night, she got on me about the dangers of solo hiking and solo traveling. Naturally, that hobby is a bit more dangerous for women. Even so, I don’t see me giving up either of those anytime soon. Life is for living and people die every day. Sad truths.

      Sorry to hear those people ruined your shot and made you wait. I hate when people do that to me. When I see people taking photos, I get as far away from them as possible. I never understand why when I want to do the same thing, they stand in my frame like they belong there.

      1. In my mid-forties now, I’m learning to trust my gut and go with the flow….which is what I’ve always been like but for years I was fighting the currents so to speak. Now, I do for me. End of story. And I am so happy to read and learn and meet others who can do the same! Also, I agreed 100% with your description of those who think that they are the answer to whatever we need. Um….no.😆
        Keep on doing you and keep on sharing what you want with us! We got ya!💜

      2. I’m learning to trust my gut as well instead of allowing myself to feel pressured into owing people my time. I hate it!

        People say it’s selfish, but hey, would they rather waste their time with people who don’t want to see them right then? You’d think they’d be grateful! 😂

  3. I used to feel I needed to lie about feeling sick or being busy to carve out alone time, as though I had no right to it. But I’ve stopped doing that. Most people accept that I simply need more alone time than they do, even though my friends are allegedly introverts as well. As an only child, I became used to lots of quiet times by myself… and I still need that. I don’t owe people my weekends just because they’re bored.

    1. “I don’t owe people my weekends just because they’re bored” is exactly how I feel.

      The funny thing is that most people get tricked into thinking I’m an extrovert. I have no problems walking up to a total stranger and starting a conversation. I’m not shy and I handle group settings just fine.

      But, I will take over the conversation and then suddenly disappear from sight. That’s my M.O. My mom says I just like to stir up controversy and leave people to argue in my absence 😂

      I used to feel the need to explain WHY I needed space. I don’t anymore. People will say, “Oh, I understand that you’re busy, so …” and I quickly disabuse them of that lie. “I’m not too busy. I just want some alone time right now”.

  4. I could not have said it any better Alexis. Countless times I have turned down social invites unless it is something I really want to participate in. Growing up as an only child I spent a lot of my time doing what I liked uninterrupted. As an adult, I continue to do just that. You get the aren’t you lonely question. My answer is always a firm no. I have come to the conclusion that people have no respect for other peoples privacy. So I have become even more selfish with my time and saying no. To contunue to explain or ask for your time to be respected does not register with most. Wow!

    1. We seem to have the same problems as an only child! I do get asked that a lot too, re the aren’t you lonely question. I don’t get lonely and I don’t get bored. I’m very good at entertaining myself. You will never finding me sitting in a corner wondering what to do now and asking myself who I can call you to entertain me.

      I have become more and more selfish with my time the older I’ve become. I think living with family also means I need a little bit more of it than I did before, since living alone already filled that need for the most part when I was younger.

      I wish people would just back off sometimes. Let me breathe in peace!

  5. I think there are lots more people of the same mind as you than there are generally thought to be. I’ve never been a party animal and have had trouble in the past persuading those that asked that I really did not wish to attend their gathering but would prefer to spend a night reading or listening to music. I like to pick my own entertainment at the times I choose. There will always be those that think they know your needs better than you do!

    1. Thank you, Peter! Nice to know I’m not alone in preferring to be alone! ☺️

      I do think being an only child and then living alone until 25 had a lot to do with it, in my case. I learned to entertain myself, so the things I do for fun, don’t require other people. In fact, including other people would ruin it. Examples: reading a book, playing the Sims (it’s a one-player game) or going trail biking (I’ve never gone biking with anyone before but I imagine they would either force me to keep op or slow down lol).

  6. Simple answer, IMHO: You are entitled to whatever privacy you need! Most of the time, when I am approached by aggressive people online, it is : “You are a fairly well-off White male, who has only himself to tend. Therefore, get on the program and send this poor starving African (or South Asian, Eastern European, Caribbean…) some sorely needed bucks. Now would be a good time!)” So far, it’s easy enough to ignore.

    1. Entitlement to people’s financial resources is also unbearable. Beyond my agreeing that the rich should take a bigger burden of taxes, what people do with their disposable income is not my business. Feed the poor or feed the rich. Either way, it’s not my money.

      And, agreed. My time is my own to share it keep!

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