Being Alone: The Pros and Cons of Time Alone
Some people naturally prefer time alone and that can be fine. Roughly 50% of the population can be categorized as introverts, meaning they get the most value in life out of time spent on their own. Being alone can offer a rich psychological experience, but too much isolation can have a negative impact on both one’s physical and mental health.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of being alone.
Pros of Being Alone
Being Alone Allows Our Brains to Recharge
Our brains need balance. While social interactions are crucial to certain areas of brain activity, time alone is necessary for our brains to unwind and recharge. Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter explains, “Constantly being ‘on’ doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself. Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.”
Being Alone Increases Productivity
Let’s face it, people can be pretty distracting. “When you remove as many distractions and interruptions as you can from your day,” says Dr. Carter, “You are better able to concentrate, which will help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time.” Small interruptions from coworkers or family members can disrupt our trains of thought and make it difficult to get back into a project. Even the ping of a text message or an email notification can throw off our concentration and reduce productivity.
Being Alone Boosts Creativity
Creativity tends to flourish in solitude. Studies are now showing that people are actually more likely to come up with their best ideas on their own, rather than during group brainstorming sessions. Human beings in general, and creativity in particular, are sensitive to criticism from others, which is one reason why so many of us are able to think more freely and express ourselves more clearly when we are alone. Additionally, the lack of interruption from others allows us to reflect and think differently, leading to more creative “meta-cognitions.”
Being Alone Can Actually Strengthen Relationships with Others
There are several reasons why spending some time alone can actually improve our relationships. For starters, differentiation (being a separate, autonomous individual) and linkage (being emotionally and physically close) are essential ingredients for a healthy relationship. Maintaining a certain level of independence helps keep the spark alive in a relationship. Furthermore, time alone allows us to appreciate our time with others more, rather than taking it for granted or feeling overwhelmed by it. Alone time can also help us understand others better. Introverts tend to have high levels of both empathy and self-awareness, two qualities that contribute to healthy relationships with others. Lastly, according to Dr. Carter, “By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you’re more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around.”
Cons of Being Alone
Being Alone Makes Us Vulnerable to Our Inner Critics
Being alone with our thoughts isn’t always a good thing. Isolation can be the perfect breeding ground for negative, self-critical thoughts. We all have an inner critic, a nasty coach that lives inside our heads and seeks any opportunity to criticize us. These “critical inner voices” tend to multiply when we are left alone with our thoughts. The “critical inner voices” tend to be at their worst when we are not only alone, but are also feeling lonely. At these times, the inner critic tells us that something is wrong with us and we don’t belong around other people. In this sense, we are our own worst enemy.
Being Alone Can Lead to Painful Loneliness
It is important to distinguish between time spent happily alone and time spent feeling lonely. Neuroscientist John Cacioppo, who has made a career out of studying loneliness, defines loneliness as “perceived social isolation, or the discrepancy between what you want from your social relationships and your perception of those relationships.” In this sense, loneliness is not defined by the amount of time we spend alone, but rather by how we feel about the time we spend alone. Feeling lonely can trigger feelings of being unloved or unlikeable, which can lead us to turn on ourselves. Feeling lonely is actually painful on a physical level, as well as emotional level. Cacioppo explains, “The absence of social connection triggers the same, primal alarm bells as hunger, thirst and physical pain.”
Being Alone/Lonely Can Lead to Depression
Time spent alone and feeling lonely can lead to depression. In fact, studies now show that a lonely brain is structurally and biochemically different. When someone is lonely, their neural responses to positive images and events get suppressed, so the world is perceived through a negative filter. We are more likely to believe that things are hopeless when we are lonely. This makes it more difficult to summon up the energy and bravery to find happiness and change.
Being Alone Can Be Bad for Our Health
Too much time alone is bad for our physical health. Studies have found that social isolation and loneliness can increase the likelihood of mortality by up to 30%. Researchers claim, “Being socially connected is not only influential for psychological and emotional well-being but it also has a significant and positive influence on physical well-being and overall longevity.” It is important to maintain strong social connections, even if you prefer to spend a majority of your time alone.
So What’s the Verdict?
While human beings need time alone to allow their brains to rest and rejuvenate, too much time alone or a lack of social connections can be harmful to our mental and physical health. It is important to distinguish between healthy time alone, where we are being productive, creative and introspective, versus negative time alone, where we are being self-critical or feeling lonely.
If you find yourself constantly around others and feeling depleted, make sure to schedule some healthy alone time. If you find yourself predominantly alone or are feeling lonely, make sure to invest more time seeking meaningful social connections. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, it is important to find the right balance for you.
If you are having a hard time combating feelings of loneliness, please read this post on What to Do When You’re Feeling Alone.
To learn more about where loneliness comes from and how you can combat it, watch our Webinar on A Way Out of Loneliness
If you are feeling isolated and may be experiencing symptoms of depression, here are some helpful resources:
National Institute of Mental Health – Depression
WebMD – Depression
Helpguide.org – Depression
GET HELP: IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN CRISIS OR IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE HELP, CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
This is a free hotline available 24 hours a day to anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.
International readers can click here for a list of helplines and crisis centers around the world.Tags: alone, being single, critical inner voice, depression, isolation, loneliness, lonely, personal growth, self development, self-awareness, self-understanding
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Most of the times I feel as though human beings are such a strain towards my energy, I don’t like being judged about anything, I don’t like being made a fool, I don’t like pretence and I certainly don’t feel well or comfortable with people who think they better than others.
So staying alone helps me avoid all this but in the interim I’ve lost connection with my family and friends. No connection with my mother my sister’s coz I just can’t stand speaking to them at times..I feel at peace alone but I think all Negetives. I think it’s better if I can move away maybe if I can miss them I will be fine coz now all I want is being alone and it affects me a lot more.
I agree with you mostly. I don’t agree with your assessment that your reason for wanting to be alone is to avoid judgment ect. From my person perspective, I could care less about being judged. But aside from that I agree with you. People are energy drainers. But they are also energy providers. It all depends on who your interacting with. Family tend to be energy depleters. I need my alone time every day. Most of my life is alone. I’m alone at home, with a dog. I am alone at work from job site to job site. I get enough human interaction every day. What I don’t get enough of is emotional human interaction. But, I still prefer to be alone than to force or artificially create a emotional connection or attachment. I want a wife very very very badly. But I also do not want a person to come into my life unless they really fit how my life works. Humans can be horrible additions to other humans lives. So, we much choose carefully. And only let those people who fit into our lives in. Making room for a person is a sure sign of failure.
Sometimes we resort to solitude as a result of being heavily drained by an numerous past relationships. This again makes us eventually view people as all the same. We then isolate ourselves in fear of being broken from time to time. I personally, took a decision to be ever-isolated. I am used to it, and I’ll be honest, it does hurt me sometimes. What I’ve learnt is that people change , only God stays the same. This implies that it’s better to resort to solitude then to be involved in connectedness that will vanish soon and leave you wounded again. What I now prefer is to just help others, show compassion to them, and love them but also ensure that I don’t add them to my life. It ought to be clear that at times we choose solitude under the motive of securing our hearts. We are born lonely, we die alone, thus it’s has to be easy and enjoyable to live alone.
I love being alone all the time. I know I suppose to be a 24 hours and 365 days. I get been lonely where i sign up. Social is bad for me. They don’t want me around. So I stop trying when was six to have social. I don’t need social. Anti social will help me. Y’all will see the only one I need is me.
Being alone is requisite for realization that Existence cannot be conceptualized.
“Examples show that authentic relationships require awareness of existential isolation.” Yalom 1980
Don; your “Being alone is requisite for realization that Existence cannot be conceptualized.” stirred up the will to search for authenticity of the powerful sentence and landed me in all types of green pastures. Thank you!
After my aunt passed away, my cousin has been willing to move out alone. I understand that being alone helps to balance your brain, just like you mentioned it. He sure has a reason, so to show him my support, I will help him find a moving company to get things started.
Thank you mam for providing such a nice piece of information regarding solitude it helped me a lot ,and the scientific reasons explained for each point is really great.Your work is leading this world to a better place to live in.
Thank you so much mam
i fid solitude very comforting,people are too muc i cant talk to them.
When seeing that it’s been scientifically proven that loneliness leads to health issues, are they talking about being lonely? Or being alone? Those are two different things. I am always alone, but I am not lonely. I enjoy being by myself and I am a very happy person for the most part. I think studies only show projections. I’m not doctor but I think if being around people messes with my zen and being alone keeps me calm and collected … how would that be a health issue if im happy and not stressed?
Always being happy is absurd
Thanks for that comment because it’s the truth for me. Maybe not others but for me it is. When I was a teenager I remember thinking quite often that all I wanted was to just be happy. I’m a severe introvert and I’m happy to not be in crowds of people. I can only stand it for so long. I would rather work at home. You’re comment was also a reality check. Thank you. I really and actually need to hear this everyday.
Being single and alone all the time isn’t really fun at all, unless you really enjoy it.
Then there are those of us who are lonely for a reason: in my case, I have always wanted a romantic partner but in my 65 years have never had one. That is a legitimate, honourable desire and one cannot simply “do” enough things to not let it affect me, nor is pretending it does not matter work. I have a great life, I do interesting things, I am considered to be a leader, people enjoy me. I enjoy my alone time but having been alone my entire life. that aloneness no longer serves me well. And the “answer” for me is not to throw 100s of people at me; I want an intimate, full-time connection with a romantic partner. Why is that seen as such an unreasonable desire?
I have read your article some of what you saying is true but not all we are all individuals some people’s circumstances don’t allow for socialisation they don’t have control of there lives so can’t live a normal life ex prisoners don’t have the chance to have socialisation
With most women nowadays being very independent since they don’t even want a man anymore in their life to begin with, and this is why many of us single men can’t find love which this definitely has a lot to do with it unfortunately. Finding love in the past was very easy, the way our family members had it back then with no trouble at all either. Women today aren’t like those old days at all, and they were very old fashioned back then as well. Feminism is everywhere today altogether, making love even much harder for many of us men still looking for a very serious relationship now.
I couldn’t agree with you but at the same time, I do agree to an extent. I want to share life with someone instead of being alone all the time. I wish there was men who would see that yes I’m independent but I don’t want to keep doing this alone. Like right now being sick, damn tired of not having someone just to hold me and tell me everything is going to be ok or that sense of security you find in a relationship. Or being taken care of when sick. It’s like a rarity now days. Idk I just saw your comment and wanted to say, we do exist! I do anyway.
I feel the same way as you Brittney. As a child I was the baby of the family and rather spoiled I think. I had 2 older sisters 6 & 9 years older. We didn’t have a sister relationship because of the age difference and I’ve always had the impression I was a brat. In childhood I recall having a difficult time making any friends and always felt they didn’t want to be with me. I had a couple friends usually but as I’ve grown older and am alone its harder to make friends and don’t have much family. Or any hobbies. My sisters don’t talk to me at all or see me anymore even when I try reaching out. Lifelong friends have recently dropped me without explanation and I can’t work anymore, due to irregular sleep cycles, severe depression and anxiety and some symptoms of agoraphobia. The people that are in my life either decide when or how much to see me and what to do. It is typically one of my adult kids no longer in the home, but one lives close and the other is a little over an hour. I rarely even get phone calls from them and they’re single. I talk to my mom who is 90 and lives an hour away, but she is distancing herself from me, and it causes me a huge amount of fear and insecurity. I have nobody else who will ever take care of me or spend time with me, even my kids or siblings. I’m running out of money and I don’t have any place to go or anyone to live with. It scares me immensely. I have shared these feelings but it’s up and down which is almost worse.I have spent the last 4 & 1/2 years alone in my bed, I don’t even have pets anymore but I want them. I have legal issues and things that need to be taken care of but I can’t find motivation to do them myself so nothing ever gets done and more time passes and I become more and more depressed and nobody seems to care. Drs drop me, people I think are friends steal and take advantage of me and I can’t rely on anyone. It’s a horrible feeling being so totally alone.
I used to have a very fulfilling life. I got married at 23 and had 2 children by age28. My husband who I believed was loyal left me and our kids after 21years and messed everyone up. We have no family connections or traditions, we are all on own scattered about and rarely talk or see each other. It’s nothing like it was. My ex had another daughter ten years ago who keeps him young. He has a close family, including2 healthy parents and2 brothers one who is also divorced. He is close to his family and cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and dates young beautiful women while I get older and less attractive and have nothing to talk about. He has no interest in me whatsoever, he doesn’t even talk to me for 13 years since we were divorced. I’ve had no relationships. I think I want him to come back even though I know he won’t. He has a high 6 figure income, can fix things and has lots of hobbies and close friends. He can buy everything he wants and go anywhere. He always has his daughter to do things with and our kids will see them when he wants. He has the best of all worlds and I barely have anything and live in fear and he has no concern for me.
It’s like he got to press the rewind button and he just took out the pieces of his life he didn’t want and replaced them with new ones. I’m one of the people he threw away after 21 years and I don’t know what to do it’s been so long since I even went out with a friend, much less dated. I’m 56 and my kids are single. This is just not even close to the life I thought I would have and I really don’t know how to fix it at least not for long. I feel doomed. If anyone has ideas for me or books to read or things to do, I would appreciate anything. To all of you in similar situations, my heart and prayers go out to you all.
I hope that you are healthy ma’am. I can relate with people not liking you. But, the problem with us is inferiority complex. Maybe, you always take blame for the bad situations in the relationships etc. You must let go of the past and focus on anything to keep yourself occupied. Wishing you good luck.
I feel extremely nervous and stressed out around people. I just don’t like to be seen, heard, or have anyone be aware I exist. I only feel happy when alone. I can’t enjoy anything when someone else is around, like my mind goes kind of blank, and I can’t even remember anything too well afterward. I haven’t left my house in 10 years. I think it’s okay to be alone all the time for some people.
This is how I feel when constantly alone. Being around people reminds me that I do exist and I like talking to people and learning because people are so interesting. Thank you for sharing this.
So it sounds to me like you actually we quite comfortable with being alone and you enjoy your own company. Do you think you have always felt this way? You said you have been alone for 10 years. I’ve been pretty much alone for 5. I don’t want to be alone but I have trouble finding the right person or people who will genuinely accept me. It’s hard for me to think about a new marriage even though that is what I want more than anything. That’s what I wanted ever since I was a little girl and I was happiest as a wife and mom and having a family. It’s just not easy to just find someone at my age and life as when I was young and everyone was in the same boat pretty much.
I’m curious, did you always want to be alone?
Was it a gradual process that you have been alone for10 years? Do you ever think you have any desire to be with anyone or are you ever with anyone for short periods of time? I’m just curious, if you do go out does it just reinforce that you feel better when you’re alone? One more question if you don’t mind- do you have any idea what led you to preferring your life alone?
If I have asked too much, don’t feel you need to answer. I’m just really curious for multiple reasons. I am wondering if I can find a way to be more content with being alone and how or if some people just are predisposed to preferring the lifestyle of being alone and others who would rather be with someone? Thank you for any answers and all the best!
Then there are many of us single good men that have a lot of trouble finding love today unfortunately. And had we been born back in the old days which we definitely would had met the right good woman to settle down with, and we really could’ve avoided all of this today as well.
This really shed some light for me today. I’ve been expressing my concern to the few people in my life but I don’t think it’s doing me any good. I am alone all the time and feeling very isolated and extremely lonely. I walk 6 miles a day just to keep my sanity but I don’t live in a very safe community. I sit in my room otherwise. I am trying to find a work from home job so I can save up for a car and get back on track but with literally no help no support system and feeling so lonely, it’s very difficult. I wish my life wasn’t like this.
Inorder not to get any problem out there, I prefer enjoying the company of my family at home and if i’m out there i try to be nice to everyone and go my way.
I’m 31, and I’ve been alone for almost my entire life. I love it actually, but the problem is I really don’t know how to be social as I just need one simple connection, to promote my product/work.
Also good to mind one very annoying con. FOr me, people only contact you when they need help, yes, I’m kind of tool, nothing else. Wonderful people.
I understand where you’re coming from. I am 63 and been lonely most of my life. I was married twice (In my twenties), and was a musician/recording artist for about 40 years (retired in 2012 from the music industry), and have had several other jobs in my past life. I use to have engaging positive relationships going to visit people, people coming to visit me, but for the last 2 years or so, I seem to have been more of an introvert than extravert. Now, I don’t have any friends any longer, some have died, no family, no communication except with people on Facebook (facebook friends), but I don’t really know them, lolll. So I live my life day in and day out, communicating with those people and I hurt all the time (Have a torn rotator cuff in left shoulder can’t move it, have limited mobility), and I have cervical/lumbar spondylosis and moderate disk degeneration and am pretty much isolated from the world. I walk every morning (a mile), and sometimes I go to my brothers, but I have “NO” immediate family, wife or kids….I really have no one I can confide in or relate to, and like I said I am 63 years old and recently retired. I have two college degrees, and I guess I will die all alone, oh well, that’s life…..
Brittney, the more I read from you, the more I see we have alike. It seems like we both desperately want to have meaningful people in our lives that we can spend time with and enjoy ourselves, and would especially love to find that one special person to spend our lives with, rely on, take care of each other, always have a companion to do things with and discover new things, but we’re just so accustomed to being alone all the time, we don’t know how to change it or even if we can. Were you ever with anyone?
I have a lot of admiration for you for getting yourself out and walking long distances for your well being, working from home, and at least trying. I know that if I am around New people who I don’t have much in common with, but maybe just wish I was more like them, I might feel I’m having a good time for a short time but I seem to tire easily and feel like I’d rather be alone. It used to be fun being around people and I would always laugh and talk and could have fun for hours. I don’t know what changed or why. I’ve always preferred to be with a couple close friends as opposed to a big gathering, which make me feel very anxious and awkward and I usually make excuses to go back home. I always seemed to enjoy being with a significant other who I feel comfortable with and can be intimate and affectionate with. I like feeling like someone wants me.
Being single and alone all the time has so many disadvantages as well. Wherever we go which we will always be alone, going out to eat in a restaurant by yourself is no fun at all for many of us single men, and going on a vacation alone is just as bad if not worse. That what makes the married life the best of all since you never have to worry about being all by yourself wherever you decide to go. Married life overall wins out. The real problem is that many of us single good men can’t meet the right good woman to share our life with, and a great deal of us aren’t single by choice either.
Michael, I totally agree with everything you say. People are generally just more content when they have someone special in their lives that they are going to spend their lives with, travel, eat meals with, dine out, play board games, try new things, watch movies, talk about your days and your lives before you knew one another, and sharing your dreams with and the things you want to do, cuddling, holding hands, kissing, being intimate, sharing a friendship and spending time with family and friends….. your person. If you want to, feel free to email me. Take care!
there is a vast difference between a loner and being alone. I am very sociable, but I choose my friends.. I have a very good relationship with my boyfriend and Im very close to my family. But I am ALONE!
How? I dont get bullied with other people’s thoughts and critics. I sleep whenever I want and eat good meals. I dont watch television or listen to radio. I listen to good music all day long and can be stuck in my room for weeks without being depressed or wanting to have people around to feel good. I am very much happy by myself, I dont party neither do I spend long hours outing. Im a free spirited person ready to meet new people, share ideas and have fun, yet Im strong willed and not easily influenced…
You seem to be very comfortable in your own skin and your life. Did it take you time to reach the point you are now or do you feel it was inherent? I am so inspired by the posivity you have in your life.
there is a vast difference between a loner and being alone. I am very sociable, but I choose my friends.. I have a very good relationship with my boyfriend and Im very close to my family. But I am ALONE!
How? I dont get bullied with other people’s thoughts and critics. I sleep whenever I want and eat good meals. I dont watch television or listen to radio. I listen to good music all day long and can be stuck in my room for weeks without being depressed or wanting to have people around to feel good. I am very much happy by myself, I dont party neither do I spend long hours outing. Im a free spirited person ready to meet new people, share ideas and have fun, yet Im strong willed and not easily influenced… Being alone goes beyond being lonely. Loneliness is sad and uncontrolled when alone but being ALONE is happiness with no one around but YOU!
I have afew friends, some that I see in person on both in-person and online virtual classes, as well as some friends that I”ve had for a number of years. Due to the pandemic, there are friends that I haven’t seen in person since the pandemic started, but see them on zoom.us on occasion.
I live alone, which I prefer, because I can choose when to come and go, and see whatever movies that I please. Sometimes I see movies alone, and others I go to with other people.
I do know from personal experience, however, that being with people that I really do not like or cannot connect with at all is far lonelier than being by oneself.
I do alone. By choice. I need my space, like a cat, n hate crowds. I organise my time. Do full on people, kids, n social stuff..but it drains me. I’d love a partner who understood, but sadly I think people who drain are empathic, it’s emotional overload. But we rock up n cope. You can do it, n good stuff comes from that cos you are a feeling kind, it’s about where possible, plan it in n don’t get dropped on, I just say sos, already hangin
People annoy me. I am alone. My only contact with other people is dealing with store clerks… although I prefer the self-checkout line so that I don’t have to deal with anybody. I’m 64 years old. Retired, so I don’t have to deal with co-workers or supervisors.
It is very easy for many of us single men to really blame the women today for our singleness since so many of these women are very independent now , and don’t really need and want a man today anymore since Feminism has a lot to do with it as well.
I disagree with your statement on being alone can increase motivation and productivity. If you look closer into individuals and those who are team you will see that it’s the ones with a “team” that are actually more productive than those who are isolated and or lonely. In my current situation I have lost my career, experienced traumatic events, lost my career as a nurse, and went from being a happy, outgoing, fun, loving and enthusiastic person to being depressed, little interest in things, almost like the patient that my second job after graduating from nursing school currently experiences because he cannot talk, walk, and is confined to his bed in his bedroom at his private residence and only leaves his home for the occasional doctors appointment. Just like him I now cry daily, and my mental health is deteriorating. So for a lack of better words, I say your theory is completely wrong and you should possibly consider this.
I can relate with you and a lot of the experiences you have gone through unfortunately. It seems like once we have experienced more losses and more rejection, we do have a tendency to isolate ourselves from people, thinking they don’t want to be with us. And sometimes I don’t think they do. As a former mental health therapist, which brought me a lot of satisfaction and joy knowing I was making a difference in some lives and I was there to listen and genuinely cared. Almost every day I received compliments from the people I worked with and it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile and helpful. Then I became ill and was unable to keep working and people just seemed to forget me (co-workers) , friends, and making new friends at 56 is very hard. People either have a long term friend group, are married or witha partner. And most people seem close to their families. I guess it’s like people are close to everyone and have it all or they have nobody, nothing in between. It’s hard for me, but I truly believe for some people, being alone is what they prefer, and if they are happy with that they should have the right to be.
This was a very interesting and helpful article and I really enjoyed the comments people shared about their lives and preferences. I do question if the people who are truly content with being alone are that way due to genetics, birth order, messages received and observed in the family of origin and expectations or a lack of expectations and the freedom to make their own choices. I also question what role these factors play in people who are more inclined to be introverts, both early in life and on, or after experiencing some losses and trauma or unspoken messages that they are not worthy unless they have someone in their life.
I’m being surrounded by a$$holes since birth, my parents are toxic (my dad has intimidating aura, my mom bursts like a wildfire & when I’m in deep pain, she lacks empathy, my brothers are a bunch of charming pricks that they can easily paint me in a bad light (all because I don’t have the capacity to say something in defense). I feel like this toxic family gaslights upme & I’m living in fear & anxiety, developing depret… because of that I’d rather be alone.
Articles like this are missing the point entirely. I typed in, i cant do it all by myself, meaning physically and NOT sexually, dont insult me. I simply dont have the energy or time. Im physically spent. Its too much especially as a swf. Maybe if people would do their jobs correctly and not waste my time by having to cater to their f-ups, ie messing up causing me to do returns etc.or wasting my time by making me and others ahead of me wait(walgreens) or companies would stop being so cheap and build quality products that dont break so i dont have to take the time to return something.
It does take a team to succeed and these men ive met think they can just f around and its all fun and games, they dont take a relationship seriously. Incredibly dumb men. It would benefit us both but they cant see it, its all about sex, which is so sad and pretty showing about their low self esteem and lack of intelligence. It takes a team of half doing half the work, so sheet can actually get done vs one person trying to do it all by themselves.