What we need to do if we get used to being by ourselves

It might seem easier to be by yourself at the moment. It feels like the most caring thing to do. Even if we’re not always in strict lockdowns now, even if we could arrange to meet others outdoors, it’s inevitable that we ask ourselves if the effort is worth the risk. There’s always the risk that the week after we meet up, someone in our circle might end up testing positive.

So the default is to put something between ourselves and others. A 2 metre distance, a mask or a computer screen. It’s how we try to understand each other, stay together, sell and buy services, as well as creating new alliances at work and in our social lives. It’s so difficult to do. If our working situation means we have to move, we find ourselves in a “blended” version of life, that would have felt like science fiction a year ago. In our private lives, it feels like we can choose a bit more, it’s easier to stay by yourself. Lots of people are choosing it for themselves.

It’s normal to want to hold back in times of uncertainty.

Lots of people remember how they felt during the first lockdown, when nobody had the choice. When we didn’t have to decide, when caring meant we could rest. When we have to make a series of new decisions in every context, it’s incredibly tiring. From school to health: every area makes us reflect on the best way of doing things, accepting partial or imperfect decisions, talking to those who see things differently, knowing that there’s no one right way of doing things. If we are fortunate, our gut feelings will guide us, but we know that reality could surprise us at any moment. We know because it just happened.

So those who don’t have to interact don’t have to. Perhaps it’s not switching on the camera in a video call, aspiring to be invisible. The same goes for our masks, some people hide and shelter, it’s an act of trying to be invisible. Perhaps it’s giving up on trying, on meeting other, avoiding having to choose how and when, and having to convince ourselves why we’re doing so…and missing the opportunity that passes us by.

We were made to care


Solitude might be comfortable and safe, but it’s not designed for humans. We don’t know how to produce oxytocin alone, the hormone that makes us feel good and happy. Actually, we need others to act as a mirror, just like they need us to do the same for them. What’s more, we need to feel “seen” to survive: we’re only visible when we connect with others. In fact, two isn’t enough. We need a third to be able to see the two that are meeting and caring for each other making this meeting real.

It’s not philosophy, it’s biology. As humans, we feel the need to stay together.
It’s not respect, it’s our instinct for survival: the need to look other people in the eye to see if they are on our side.

Rather than love, it’s an instinct. Caring for each other is a necessity, from birth and all the way through life.

So let’s go and seek out those who have chosen to stay by themselves. To chase them, all you have to do is smile so much it goes beyond the screen. If you’re using a mask, use a smile that illuminates your whole face. The miracle of relationships is that our efforts are repaid with wellbeing. It increases for both you and the other person, so much so that it’s impossible to distinguish one from the other.

This article was originally written by our CEO Riccarda Zezza for Alley Oop, Il Sole 24 Ore. To read the original article in Italian, click here.