One day, you are born.
Mom and Dad are the Gods of your first days on Earth.
Sisters and brothers come along,
Cousins and friends too.
You get older and boyfriends/girlfriends join the dance.
And eventually, they turn into a fiancé(e) and a husband/wife.
Next, your very own children add-up to the people of your life, and maybe a cat or a dog.
We live, we live, we live. And we think we are not alone. And we forget to be alone.
We live and we know so much about the people in our life and so little about ourselves.
Work, family, Netflix, parties and BBQs, they all fill our time so that we don’t find ourselves alone.
BUT, REALLY, WHY ARE SO MANY OF US SO SCARED OF BEING ALONE?
Why, of all people, are we scared of being with the most intimate being in the world — ourselves?
It’s that voice inside our head…
That tells you can’t be alone. It tells you that being alone sucks, that if you spend time alone you are a loser. It dictates you that:
SOCIAL INTERACTION DEFINES YOUR SOCIAL VALUE.
Or maybe, it is that pounding in your chest, that squeezing of your heart. A fear, really, to find yourself alone with your demons, your fears, your thoughts.
Why are we afraid of ourselves?
- We might be scared of what we find
- We might be scared because it’s the first time!
- We might be scared to be called a lone wolf, a loser
- We might be scared to be bored!
Education, culture, lifestyle, these are all elements that can contribute to a fear of being alone. Adding to this the hyperactive/hyper-social society most of us live in, being alone today has become a mission!
But, there is Joy in Solitude.
And that is why alone time is SO precious.
Some “The Matrix”-inspired folks would say that today’s society does everything to prevent us from being alone so that we forget how alone time is precious and crucial to being… happy. I must admit that I kind of like this theory…
And here’s why.
“Know thyself”, Socrates felt that was important. How can one live an entire life not knowing themselves? How can we aspire to happiness if we don’t know what makes us deeply happy: our passions, our drives, our dreams? How can our soul shine and dance if we haven’t taken the time to meet it?
Alone time has shown me so many treasures. I have discovered my inner self. I have used it to work on my deepest fears. I have used it to practice self-love and respect. I have used it to connect with that magical, divine, energy within, and it has truly changed my life.
In a nutshell, I use alone time to grow happy.
Want yourself some of that? Here’s a step-by-step guide to stop being afraid of being alone.
STEP 1. KNOW THE “WHY”
Why are you afraid of being alone?
This question itself can be a monster to face. But you can face it and it does not have to hurt.
Go back to the last time you found yourself alone and you hated it. Why? Reminisce about the feelings that arose, the thoughts, and realize what scared you, what made you panic.
In my personal experience, I hated to be alone because I was faced with my deepest fears and with a feeling of void. I felt empty, and scary thoughts filled that emptiness. Thoughts like: “where I am going in life?” or “Wow, it is Sunday and tomorrow I have to go to work!” or “When am I going to be happy?”.
Go back to the last time you were alone, and define what happened within yourself.
Even better, create alone time and observe what happens within yourself:
- what emotions arise?
- what beliefs and thoughts trigger these emotions?
Write it all down.
Now, when doing this, I invite to wear the hat of a scientist observing a phenomenon. Detach yourself as much as possible from the situation you are observing.
STEP 2. DETACH.
It is all here, on this paper in front of you. The answers to that questions: “why do I hate being alone?”.
Read the list, and consciously detach from it.
By telling yourself that these are thoughts, fears, emotions. That realizing that these thoughts are not real. They are projections of your ego and mind, because these two kids don’t like inactivity and downtime.
Tell yourself, again and again:
“I am not my mind, I am not my ego. I am not my thoughts.I need alone time to know myself.My soul, that is what I focus on.
And my soul needs quiet, self-reflexion, meditation, space. I will create this space for it.”
3. MEET YOURSELF.
Relationships are no magic. They exist if you work on them and feed them.
When I got back from 2.5 months in Bali, I had plenty of time to meet myself, but another relationship needed my attention: my relationship with my parents.
Straight from Bali, I spent 2 months at my parents’ (after leaving the house for more than 20 years!). I had to interact with my parents!
In the beginning, it was SO awkward. It was painful. I had zero relationship with them — they didn’t know me and vice versa.
But guess what? Slowly, step by step and literally day by day, I started doing stuff with them. Shopping, cooking, eating, watching Friends (my dad’s a fan now!), talking. And an activity after another, I started knowing them better and them too.
Most importantly, I started feeling comfortable and safe enough to be myself. I expressed my ideas and told them when things were not ok. I learned how to communicate with them, what hurt them, what made them happy. And them too.
I built up a relationship with them.
It takes time and willingness. It is awkward in the beginning, but it sure does get better with time.
So, step 3, meet yourself.
You now have some idea of why loneliness makes you uncomfortable.
And you have taken the decision to change that.
It is time to go beyond the fears and the thoughts.
The way to go is to make baby steps, one step at a time.
Start allocating small windows of alone time to yourself. This can be as small as 10 minutes, really. Like meditation, the length does not matter here, what matter is the progression.
And here is one other trick: do that before a social event. So, for example, if you know you are meeting friends Saturday at 3pm, spend time by yourself right before that. By doing this, you alleviate some of the stress and pressure that alone time can trigger.
And when I say “alone time”, I mean consciously deciding that you will spend X minutes/hours alone. No social interactions (no phone) and no Netflix.
While doing this, be the observer. If the mind starts to panic, be a big brother/sister to the child within yourself. Without judgment, re-assure them.
Know that you are not these thoughts. Know that these thoughts come from a mind that hates loneliness and void. Know, finally, that these reactions, thoughts, and emotions, come from an ego that sees its death in loneliness and peacefulness.
I will be writing soon a post about ego and the mind — fun times! :)
LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE, IT WILL TAKE PRACTICE.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Start with spending 5 minutes alone. That’s already something!
The joys of solitude.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of things I do during my “me-time”:
In the house:
- Creative activities like writing, coloring, dancing
- Mindfulness: meditation, yoga, journaling, reading
- Take a bath
- Drink a cup of tea while watching a tree/a bird/…
- Planning my life and dreaming about my goals
- Reflecting on the past events, discussions I had, encounters- and deriving learnings
- Gardening, organizing my house, cleaning, cooking
Outside of the house:
Anything you would do with other people!
- Taking myself on a date with myself !
- Sitting at a coffee shop to write/daydream/read
- Visiting a museum, shopping
- Going to the movies
Many of us have not been conditioned to be alone. I mean, coming from an Arabic culture, tell me about it! Being alone, for me, was even a sign of either failure or being depressed!
BUT, THERE IS TREMENDOUS VALUE AND JOY IN SPENDING TIME WITH ONESELF.
It is a cornerstone relationship in our life. Know yourself and you can take yourself to happiness. Ignore yourself and you will live in the illusion of happiness.
Spending time alone has brought me self-knowledge, but it has also taught me to be OK with myself, wherever I am in my life: in the bad moments, in the scary moments, in the joyful moments.
And finally, it is all about balance! For me, a healthy life means an alternation between me-time and social time. So, there is no shame in loving to spend time with family and friends! As long as we know how to feed that precious relationship to ourselves.
TO BEING ALONE AND HAPPY!
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Images for this article were sourced from Instagram: @freepeople, @beautiful.bibliophile, @adisumerta
Originally published at oumwonders.squarespace.com.