Feeling competent is enough
In a study of 4,382 typically developed adults, Demir and Davidson (2013) found that friendships are deemed important for happiness—but even more important is having basic needs met and feeling competent that one could meet their own needs.
“Basic need satisfaction” and “competence satisfaction” are much more important for determining happiness than are the number of friends or even the quality of friendships. People tend to be happier if they feel they are competent in doing what they need to do and that they are successfully meeting their basic needs. Helping individuals find a path to feeling this way—regardless of whether they meet others’ criteria for a “successful” social life—can be one very effective way of helping them feel less lonely and more positive about themselves and their lives.
We all need to be able to interact with other people at some point. Social interactions are important both for getting things that we need and for accomplishing important tasks. In this way, we are like all animal species, who all need to interact with others to get things done. But once those tasks are accomplished, it is not essential that the social relationships move beyond that point.
Continuing on with relationships might be nice and bring about positive feelings. But those relationships are not necessarily more important than being comfortable being alone.
Some people do well spending lots of time with other people; some people do better spending time by themselves. Some people might also find themselves in situations where they have to be comfortable interacting with other people because they around other people so often. And then some people often find themselves in situations where they are mostly by themselves. Neither situation is necessarily better than the other.
We all need to find the best ways for us to be comfortable with (and effective at) interacting with other people. But we also all need to find the best ways of being comfortable being by ourselves and doing things on our own. Handling being alone is as important as handling being with other people.
And remember: Being alone does not have to mean being lonely.
References 1. Demir, M., & Davidson, I. (2013). Toward a better understanding of the relationship between friendship and happiness: Perceived responses to capitalization attempts, feelings of mattering, and satisfaction of basic psychological needs in same-sex best friendships as predictors of happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(2), 525-550. 2. Marston, D. & Maple, T. (2016). Comparative Psychology for Clinical Psychologists and Therapists. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Written by: Dr. Daniel Marston Originally appeared on: Psychology Today Republished with permission