I remember times when the thought of being alone terrified me. I had fancied up an idea of what friendship would be like and thought that if I just had people around I could make that dream come true. My fantasy group of friends was like a pop girl group. We all looked amazing in our coordinating outfits. We drew the eyes of the whole room when we arrived. We had slumber parties where we drank fruity alcoholic drinks as we waited for our facemasks to set. And though we were full grown adults, we watched My Little Pony or Barbie Movies because come on, it’s fun and totally sets the mood.
Because I wanted my fantasy as quickly as possible, I settled for the company of unsavory folk. And, though they were bad for me, I actively sought to keep them in my life because loneliness felt like a poor alternative.
It was bad enough to be this vulnerable, but I made it worse by further stripping myself of protection – the kind of protection that comes with being happy in solitude:
– I denied my own feelings to better suit the needs of the group.
– I deferred important decisions just so that I wouldn’t have to be accountable.
– I treated my thoughts and feelings with less value than others.
Eventually, I learned to let those people go and enjoy my solitude but was pleasantly surprised by all of the unanticipated benefits that came with the transformation.
The Benefits of Being Alone
I started to take care of home. Because I didn’t have to rush off to meet someone else’s timetable, I took more time for myself. I spent that extra minute to use the Listerine that had been sitting on my counter for months. I cooked all of my meals instead of throwing a frozen dinner into the microwave. This newfound self-care opened up a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had.
I discovered myself. Being alone gave me some time to reflect. I had been living my life on default mode and hadn’t allowed myself to truly think about the things I did and wanted to do. With time to myself, I found that I had a lot to say – things that had gone unsaid for too long – which is one of the reasons I started this blog. I began to find myself and commit to myself.
I found clarity. Another weird side effect of not having time to myself was my clarity broke down. I had been inundated with so much outside information and expectations that I had drowned out my own thoughts. I even found myself forgetting things more and not being able to concentrate. Alone time helped me to find space for meditative states that led me to greater focus, memory, concentration, and productivity.
I dealt with my demons. I think a big reason I didn’t want to be alone was that I was avoiding my own thoughts. If I could spend every moment with someone else, I would never have to face my demons. It’s damn near impossible to spend time alone without inner demons surfacing. Because my demons were unavoidable, I chose to slay them – a decision I wouldn’t have made if my solitude hadn’t forced it on me.
I developed better relationships. When I became committed to myself and my beliefs, I found it necessary to surround myself with like-minded people. I no longer wanted to fill my space with just any and everyone. I wanted the people who entered my space to make the room better for it, and I wanted to have the same impact on them.
And, most importantly, I started to like myself. Imagine being alone with someone you don’t like. You’d probably do anything in your power to escape. I think this was the root of my problem. I didn’t want to be alone with myself because I had low self-esteem. I had made so many poor decisions and could no longer lean on myself for support thus looked for support in all the wrong places. In my time alone, I began to supplant my judgments with compassion. I stopped being selective with the qualities I saw in myself and saw the whole picture.
Surprisingly, the journey to enjoying my solitude was not as hard as you may think. I had to make a few changes in the way I think and develop the discipline to sustain the changes I had to make.
Ignoring Loneliness VS. Enjoying Solitude
In my quest to enjoy solitude, I first had to learn difference between ignoring loneliness and enjoying solitude. I encountered two major obstacles:
Noise. Sometimes I think that noise is a bit of a replacement for people. Have you ever met someone that always has something playing in the background? I think people do this to brush off the sting of loneliness.
Distractions. This, too, is used to ignore loneliness as opposed to enjoying solitude. With all the connectedness you can seek in social media, phone apps, and TV, you never have to acknowledge your loneliness. This is not to say that these are bad, but if you’re going to enjoy your solitude you have to limit your use.
Once I truly understood the difference, I began to use my solitude to do things that I couldn’t do as effectively in the company of others. This is enjoying solitude
How I Enjoy Solitude
I gave myself time to disconnect. It used to be that as soon as I woke up, I picked up my phone and went through various notifications and emails. Before I even gave myself a chance to make a deliberate decision about my day, I let my emails and notifications decide. Now, my morning time is precious. I wake up with a mission to take care of myself first before I get into anything else. It makes me proactive in my day.
Learned new skills. Everyone has goals that are outside of work. Alone time gave me some time to work on them. I am currently learning Spanish – something I would not be able to if I didn’t have time to myself. Though I’ve had my ups and downs, learning this new skill makes me fill fulfilled.
To deal with nagging thoughts. If something is really bothering me, I have the time and space to deal with it instead of pushing it aside. Sometimes, the things that are nagging at me are small, like the way some customer service rep treated me. Sometimes, it’s big, like a fight with my parents. But regardless, I get to have a conversation with myself that helps me to understand why this problem is bothering me. In dealing with my nagging thoughts, I’ve learned that I can’t take responsibility for others’ actions; I must take responsibility for my actions alone. Usually, this thought ends any inner dilemma and prompts me to action instead of stewing in my negative emotions for days on end.
Quiet time. I have a weird love for quiet. I didn’t even know how much I liked quiet. There used to be a time when I always had music playing or filled companionable silence with useless prattle. Now, I am very conscious of noise. Quiet moments fill me with a strange warmth and connectedness that’s hard to put into words.
The cool thing about this journey is the way it impacted the rest of my life. Other things just seem to fall into place. Time in solitude offers some of the best mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation. It gave me time to understand myself and help me to set some much-needed boundaries.
I also learned that I could and should be my own best friends. I didn’t really need anyone else to help me shine as I walked into the room. I could very well sip fruity drinks as I applied a facemask all by myself. And though I’m a grown adult, I still watch My Little Pony even when I don’t have my niece around as an excuse.
This is not to say that friends aren’t a valuable part of life – they are. It’s important to know that they cannot hold you up and if you can’t hold yourself up. Solitude helped me to be my own support.
When friends started to come my way, I loved my solitude too much to throw it out the window. I wanted both: my awesome pop girl group and my moments of solitude.
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