We tend to run from the feeling of loneliness at all costs. To avoid it, we compromise ourselves in relationships and friendships, taking scraps and settling with people who are incompatible, for fear of being alone and experiencing the lash of loneliness. Because we’ve somehow defined the feeling of loneliness as an unacceptable one to have in the emotions department.
But what if we renegotiated that word? What if we just changed the definition of time alone, as being time spent with yourself that you cherished and looked forward to having? Because if that were true, then you’d have to change up the relationship you had with yourself. You’d have to stop running from avoiding being with yourself, on your own, alone. You’d have to start valuing you, and speaking to yourself with kindness and respect, just as you would when you cultivated relationships with others. And maybe that’s why we run—because we’d rather fill that empty space within us with others than have to do the work of liking being with who we are in that moment.
Lest we forget, the world around us is always promoting our pairing up, or telling us in a hundred ways that being surrounded by people makes you worthwhile. But consider this: everyone’s been at a party at one time or another and felt a profound depth of loneliness among that crowd. Or found themselves in a committed relationship and felt that familiar feeling of loneliness creeping in and engulfing them. So, it’s not about needing bodies around us to keep loneliness at bay. It’s about perspective.
It’s about standing on your own, not fearing that void that not being with people can sometimes bring up. It’s being with you, and liking who you are when there’s no one around to validate that truth. It’s about learning to love your own company. To like being with yourself in all kinds of situations, because the climate you’re creating in your own mind, through your positive self-talk, is raising the bar for all other relationships. It’s about choosing yourself and enjoying spending time doing things that matter to you, and finding out what those things are, so you’re not compromising with others, numbing out, or doing something equally unproductive. And when you do truly enjoy your own company, and the meaningful life you’ve cultivated when you’re alone, you naturally want to share that goodness with someone else. But you’re now qualifying that pull toward being with others differently: it’s not from a place of emptiness; you are coming from a place of overflow. The desire to connect is no longer from lack, isolation, and self-negation, which most loneliness comes from. You’ve learned to sit in alone time differently without feeling lonely.
Don’t buy into the story when you start feeling that lonely vibe settling over you. Catch it before it takes hold—before you start telling yourself you’re alone and looking forlornly around you, noticing couples hand-holding or groups of people sitting outside at restaurants laughing, and feeling like you’ve failed somehow. Instead, tell yourself you can’t afford to go there and lose your power. Say “I get to be with me right now,” and ask yourself what you want to do. What action could you take in that moment to propel you into another state of mind?
If you have a whole weekend ahead of you, make sure to plan it out ahead by scheduling your time. And if you’re on the fly, maybe you keep a running list on your phone that you’ve curated of things that are fun to you, that you’ve wanted to explore: an exhibit, a pottery class, theater tickets, a new restaurant. And if in doing any of these things, you start to feel strange or weird out on your own, you needn’t. Again, it’s shifting the idea that we always need companionship to enjoy our life. We don’t!
You might also be someone who enjoys your time alone, but truly just misses companionship. Maybe it’s been a long period of being single, or you’ve moved to a new city and haven’t met your new tribe yet. These are trapdoors that elicit loneliness. Stay with the feelings when they arise. Remind yourself that you’re in a hallway, and another door will open again soon. Give yourself props for being on your own, and affirm that your people are getting ready for you, just as you are for them. They’re on their way, and the timing will be right when it happens. In the meantime, you can make the effort to get out there and take risks, go to meetups and social gatherings of any kind, and give the Universe a chance to bring new people your way. Keep cultivating you, and know that nothing is missing.
Blessings Born of Loneliness
Great things can come out of loneliness, which is, in its purest form, just a desire to share and connect. About eight years ago, I moved from Los Angeles to a rural farm in Pennsylvania, and as much as I loved the quiet, I missed my friends and a deeply fulfilling spiritual community I had built back home. That feeling of being lonely eventually propelled me into action, and I decided to create some spiritual/meditation groups for women in the area. “If you build it, they will come.” And they did. That feeling of deeply wanting to connect and share what was important to me with others created a container to hold women who were on a like-minded spiritual path. Five years later, the meetings have grown and expanded, and I have made some amazing friends. Where can you build/create something to fulfill that part of you that needs to connect with others in an uplifting way?
So, it’s up to you. Loneliness can be constructive, when it drives us to be with people and share our lives with others in a positive way. Or it can be destructive, when we run from it, robbing us of learning how to enjoy being with ourselves and filling us with a self-conscious fear of how we are perceived when we’re without companionship. From here on out, let’s claim all the adventures we go on alone, and not feel they are lacking in some way because there’s no one beside us to share them with. That shift is empowering. And then the silences in our time spent on our own aren’t deafening, because our self-talk is positive, and we get to finally enjoy the pleasure of our company. As I always say, everyone comes and goes, but you are the constant throughout your entire life. Truly become your own best friend, and you’ll never again feel that despairing loneliness come knocking at your door.