Alone and lonely. Two words that are perceived as similar to each other, yet have completely different meanings. To be alone is often mistaken as being lonely, yet this could not be farther from the truth. Alone doesn't always mean you are lonely; being lonely does not mean you are alone.

In our society, being alone is a fear. No one wants to be alone; it goes against the very essence of human nature. We seek comfort and closeness in any ways we can—a friend, a significant other, family, it goes on. With the technology we have now, you can be thousands of miles away from someone and still be connected at the click of a button. Why is it, then, that in the midst of all the interactions and relationships we form, that we still feel a tug of loneliness at times?

Often, we surround ourselves with people in the hopes of finding happiness. We think that being around others, usually friends and family, will bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. Certainly, the people we surround ourselves with should enhance the individuals we are in some way. However, that doesn't mean we fill every gap and crevice in our lives with friends, work, acquaintances, and everything we possibly can in order to expel loneliness from our system.

Sometimes, constantly keeping up the facade of positivity and having to always socialize with others is just exhausting. At times, we just have to take a step back from it all and allow ourselves to be alone with our thoughts. There's no need to wear a mask, because there is no one to pretend for. You can allow yourself to be vulnerable and really understand more about the individual that you are. Unless you are comfortable with who you are alone, you will never truly know if you are choosing someone's company out of loneliness or love.

Embrace solitude. Learn what makes you happy when there is no one around to judge or criticize. Hear your own thoughts without the influence of others. It's so empowering to be fulfilled in your own company, to show yourself strength and actively engage in the possibilities your imagination holds. Constantly striving for social interaction and togetherness in a society that criticizes solitude can be detrimental to one's self-esteem and personal growth. "Aloneness" provides a lens of clarity through which your dreams, fears, hopes and thoughts can be genuinely understood and analyzed without fear; where vulnerability is not scorned and feelings are validated.

We must learn to embrace solitude and alone time without becoming lonely.

The fear of loneliness is so deeply ingrained that many times we do not even realize the effect it has on our behavior. When I first came to college, I refused to get food alone or go to a coffee shop and study alone because it was so rooted in my mind that only lonely people performed those acts. It's challenging, but I now understand the significance of taking time for myself to gather my thoughts. Being alone allows me to understand what is at the core of who I am.

We take so many chances in life, and place so much trust on those around us. Why, then, do we hesitate so much when it comes time to take a chance on ourselves? You will never know who you truly are if you do not gather the courage to discover that person, unassisted. You can come to conclusions without the influence of others, and embrace your free will.

So the next time you have some free time, take out some time for yourself. Paint your nails, have a spa day, read a book or go for a walk. Sometimes it's fun to spend time with others, but it's also important to enjoy your own company. Not every moment of your life needs to be shared with someone else. The greatest prison you can live in is the fear of what others think. By freeing the binds that hold you within yourself you can experience the freedom and joy that come from standing on your own path. You unlock the freedom to be who you are, with curiosity as your guide. And once you learn the joy in being alone, you'll never feel lonely again.