You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company – Diane von Furstenberg
I used to be so afraid of alone time. I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I have always been an extreme extrovert and I used this as a justification to never be alone. If I looked at my calendar and saw a blank space in the evening, rather than relishing in the opportunity to spend the evening in my own company, I would panic and rush to fill the hours in by messaging various friends until I had plans.
It wasn’t until my late twenties, when I started becoming much more comfortable with alone time, that I realized what I had been doing all those years – avoiding myself. Because I didn’t really love who I was, being alone was torture because it meant listening to all the voices in my head telling me that I wasn’t enough with nobody around to convince me otherwise. It was a drag, man – thank goodness I have come a long way from there!
Finding validation within
I have always thrived on external validation so I was constantly surrounding myself with people who loved me and would make me feel good. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, in theory. It’s awesome to be surrounded by amazing people all the time and I have worked hard to cultivate a large network of supportive and loving friends.
But the problem was that I wasn’t giving MYSELF that validation. I needed it from other people and when I didn’t get it, I was very sad. Not to mention, the gremlins in my own mind were saying all sorts of mean things to me that my friends would NEVER say. Who wants to spend time alone with someone who is constantly belittling them and hurting their feelings?
We have to start being nicer to ourselves. It is up to us to be our own champions, our own super heros, our own personal cheerleaders. We can’t control other people’s thoughts or actions and we can’t control the way they see us or how they treat us. We can do our best to try, but at the end of the day, it’s up to them to act how they want to act.
When we depend on the actions, words, and behaviors of others as our only source to feel complete and happy and loved, we will inevitably feel disappointed. Even our favourite people in the world who love us very much can’t make us happy all the time, nor should they have to – it’s not their job! They should be working on making themselves happy so that we can all be happy together!
We see this in relationships all the time. In fact, I bet you can think of someone you know right now who relies on their partner, or whose partner relies on them, to “make” them happy. When things are going well in their relationship, life is good and everything is great! But if the relationship isn’t going well, it drags everything else along with it. Even if one partner does everything they can to make the other person happy and truly wants nothing more than to please them, nothing will ever be enough because true confidence and self acceptance has to come from within.
Love your own company
Whether it comes from a lover, a friend, or a parent, all the validation in the world isn’t going to matter unless we have the self love and confidence to truly believe in our own worth. As much as we try, we can’t stay distracted from our own minds 24 hours a day. Eventually, the gremlins will catch our attention and do their best to remind us how worthless and terrible we are. It is up to us to do our own inner work so that we learn how to ignore those mean voices in our heads and come to love and admire ourselves.
The more I have cultivated my own sense of worth and self love, the more I have enjoyed spending time alone, even craved it! I have learned to notice the mean voices in my head, remind myself that I don’t have to believe everything I think, and then replace the unkind thoughts with encouraging ones that lift me up. I have come to see myself as an awesome person to spend time with and sometimes I even laugh out loud at my own jokes – in fact, I’m laughing right now! Hahahahaha! (And then I laughed AGAIN when I went back and read through this, because I’m just so proud of my own hilarity! What’s that? You didn’t even realize it was a joke? You’ll get it later.)
When I first started making this shift, I thought I was losing my identity (and possibly my sense of humor). I had built my entire sense of self being one of the most extroverted people I knew and having a constant flow of friends in my life. Who was I if I didn’t want to be around other people every single second of the day?
Fortunately, I soon realized that the label of “extrovert” was just another box I had put myself in and that it was ok to change my habits as I myself changed. What was the point of all this personal growth work if all I really wanted was to stay the same? Besides, the amount of alone I was learning to take was still way less than most of the self-identified “introverts” I knew.
As I have continued to work on my own self love and be proud of the life I have created and the person I have become, I have learned to enjoy my own company more and more. And wouldn’t you know it, I think all the things I’m interested in are super awesome and fun – how about that!? I love reading, meditating, playing and writing music, going for a run, writing my blog, and so much more. While I can happily do all of these activities in the company of good friends, I also now enjoy doing them alone because I’m not afraid of what I will find lurking in my own mind.
Both meditation and yoga have been a big part of my self love journey. These two activities go hand in hand and teach breathing and inner awareness, among many other things. I have learned to calm myself through deep breathing, to remind myself of what is important by being present in the moment, and to gently guide my focus back to my breath when I find my mind wandering. These skills help immensely when I am working to ignore the negative thoughts in my mind and cultivate positive ones.
End your suffering
As I hope you know by now, I’m not perfect. I do my best to love myself, to be kind, to myself people from the mean voices in my head by holding up something shiny and then throwing it really far away so they have to run and get it.
But I still slip up all the time. In fact, just today, literally three hours before writing this, I spent a good ten minutes crying in my car because I was unreasonably upset and frustrated by a bad haircut. (In my defense, I was also really tired…and it is a pretty stupid haircut). Well, you can bet that my gremlins took full advantage of my guard being down to sneak in all sorts of other nasty thoughts, including: “Not only does your hair look stupid, you can’t do anything right, the events you’re planning are dumb, not enough people like your posts on Instagram, and also you can’t do anything right and you should probably stop trying and WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!”
Harsh, guys. Really harsh.
In the past, this whole episode probably would have sent me into an hour-long shame spiral ending in me curled up in the fetal position eating a tear-soaked chocolate chip cookie. But I have worked hard to no longer react that way and have learned that there is a very small amount of time I want to allow myself to live in states of suffering. There are just too many other things I want to do and they all take a lot of energy!
As Tony Robbins explains, we suffer when we feel frustrated, angry, hurt, pissed off, lonely, bored, etc. But if we make the choice to allow ourselves to remain in those suffering states for no more than 90 seconds, then we can effectively end suffering and live the majority of our lives in beautiful states! I may not quite be down to 90 seconds yet, but I’ve definitely made progress and this Tony Robbins strategy comes to mind every time I know I am actively allowing myself to suffer.
To sum it all up…
Even if you think nobody else in the world is going to love you (which is very unlikely to be true), you should at least always be able to rely on your own love. You are the one person in the world who has access to your mind, who truly knows when you are bullshitting and when you are being honest, who understands what you are trying to say even when you can’t articulate it.
Spend some time this week either thinking or writing about at least five things that you love about yourself. Look in the mirror in the morning and say out loud “I love you! You’re awesome! You are a beautiful human being!” or whatever else it is you need to hear. Become your own best friend and say the things to yourself you would want to hear from others. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s a great way to practice saying nice things to yourself!
Make a list of five things you enjoy doing alone and then spend some time this week doing them! Whether it’s five minutes or five hours, be grateful for your alone time and learn to savor it. Cuddle up with a good book, cook your favorite meal, hire a babysitter and take yourself on a date! Whatever it is you feel like doing, do it and know that you are worth spending some time getting to know and love yourself better.
Besides, if you don’t enjoy our own company, how can you expect other people to?
Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you! How do you spend your alone time? What are your favorite solo activities?