“All of our unhappiness comes from our inability to be alone.” – Jean de la Bruyere
Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing.
I am used to spending time alone. I’ve been single for years and I was technically an only child until I was fourteen. However, over the past two years I learned how to really be alone and I have grown to love it.
This has caused many people in my life to worry about me. They think something is wrong. They think I am depressed and unhappy. Whilst others think I have become unsociable and some have taken it personally.
Up until two years ago I had always been a socially active person. As soon I was old enough, I would meet up with friends and family, attend talks, workshops and exhibitions and go clubbing. I was known as the person who was always busy and never home.
The truth is that I found it exhausting but I didn’t know any other way to be. It was the only way I knew how to be part of a social circle that I could relate to in any way.
I am a very private person and although I connect with people easily, I am selective about making friends and letting people into my life. So, rather than be alone, I did what I needed to in order to stay part of my social circle.
I always felt like I didn’t quite relate or fit in, but at the same time I didn’t want to stand out or be different — I wanted to feel part of the group. We had similar backgrounds and shared an interest in music, attending concerts, eating out and travelling. I had many fun and enjoyable times, but I couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing.
Depth and substance. That’s what was missing.
I can remember Saturday nights at a club, when my feet were hurting because I hate wearing heels, thinking I’d rather be at home with a mug of hot chocolate, reading a book or watching a film. I would look around and think I don’t fit in here and I don’t want to be here. I would feel self-conscious so despite not wanting to, I would have a couple of alcoholic beverages to avoid feeling out of place.
I longed to connect with people who thought like me, shared my interests and passion for life as well as people who could challenge my thinking, inspire me and introduce me to new experiences.
I grew up with young parents who had a volatile relationship. Growing up, much of my time was spent with my parents, stuck in the middle of their disagreements and forced to mediate.
In the years that followed, my family life continued to be absorbed by conflict and friction. Even after I moved out at 22, my life was dictated by my family’s constant disagreements and inability to communicate effectively.
So peace and alone time is something I had never experienced. In fact, it wasn’t even something I knew I wanted until two years ago when I was at an emotional breaking point and peace and alone time were the only two things that kept me sane.
I had to take a step back from life.
Emotionally I was exhausted and did not have the energy to connect or socialise with anyone. I withdrew myself and began to spend time alone. I sent a message to those closest to me and explained that I needed some time out.
I spent time reading and watching films. I also attended talks and workshops, rekindled my love of art and learned to make candles.
Initially my choice was respected, however after a few months, my behaviour was questioned and there was doubt around my happiness – how could I be happy spending so much time on my own? Was I really happy?
The truth is spending time alone is how I rediscovered my happiness.
I had time to reflect on what made me happy and what had been causing me pain. I became aware of the people in my life who contributed positive energy and intentions and those who did not. Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I felt peace.
The constant disruption had been removed and I could finally hear my inner voice. I began to get present with my needs and values and confront my beliefs and fears.
Time alone gave me access to the root cause of my pain and frustration and allowed me to create peace in my life. I learned that until you can find peace with yourself, you cannot find peace in the world.
As I embraced being alone, I learned to enjoy my own company. I no longer felt the need to fit in socially and I found the strength to be authentic and say no to anyone or anything that made me unhappy.
When you spend time on your own, you are faced with yourself and you are forced to acknowledge all the aspects of your life that are not working and that you dislike.
You may be challenged by the people in your life. People do not like change and not everyone reacts positively to the choices you make about changing your thoughts, views, beliefs or behaviour.
Initially, being alone can be lonely. However, once you reach a place where you are content in your own company, you will discover that a relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have.
I’d love you to share your experience. How do you feel about spending time alone?