“We can’t underestimate the value of silence. We need to create ourselves, need to spend time alone. If you don’t, you risk not knowing yourself and not realizing your dreams.” – Jewel
Having just moved to a new place where I only know a few people, I’ve spent a lot of time alone the last few months. At first, I was sad, lonely, even depressed without my friends around. But I’ve been learning that there’s an art to being alone and if you can work on it, it can bring a lot of positivity to your life! Society may tell you that you need a significant other, but I say, tune that out and read this list. Being alone might be just what you need!
4 Reasons Why Being Alone Doesn’t Always Have to Mean Lonely
Being Alone Can Be More Fun
A few days ago, I went to San Francisco’s touristy Fisherman’s Wharf by myself. At first, I felt weird about being alone. There were groups of people everywhere, on the BART, on the trollies to the pier, and at the pier itself–laughing and buying each other Golden Gate Bridge key chains and teddy bears. Perhaps I should’ve waited until I had more friends to come and visit Pier 39, I thought. But then I thought, why? I don’t need someone else to buy me a souvenir or share a walk down a boardwalk with. I don’t even need to bring someone I can talk with. I can strike up a conversation with strangers. And the kicker–I can actually enjoy doing these things for myself!
So, I did just that. I laughed gleefully to myself when I saw all the sea lions lying like sardines on the docks. I bought myself fish and chips and devoured each piece on a bench, making small talk with a woman from Maryland. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, unperturbed by having to cater my plans to someone else’s needs or wants. And by god did I have a ball giving myself the perfect day!
Being Alone Teaches You How to Love Yourself
I took myself out for a celebratory drink when I got a writing job I’ve been coveting because I deserved it. I rode my bike to a yoga class because I wanted to do something healthy for my body. I drove down the freeway, with no destination in sight, my favorite songs vibrating against the windows because why not? I made a collage on the kitchen table, glossy magazine clippings spread all over because I had the itch to be creative. I did all these activities for myself because I know that they give me joy and fulfillment in a world that can really overwhelm and frighten me.
That, my friends, is called loving one’s self. And, the beauty of learning self-care is that you will never enter a relationship out of desperation or need again. You don’t need anyone if you have yourself. (Of course, you can always want a new friend or significant other, but the difference between need and want is what I challenge you to ponder.) I’m far from an expert on self-love, but I’m learning and you can too.
Being Alone Can Rejuvenate You!
Let’s face it, we’re all constantly connecting with one another via email, social media, face-to-face, on the phone, and after a while it seems like we can’t escape from the noise of our loud, fast-paced society.
Sometimes we just need to go somewhere quiet and think. This is when your “alone but not lonely” superpower can kick in. Go on a hike with just the squirrels for company. Or, if you’re at work, find a quiet stairwell, close your eyes and take a deep breath. It’s amazing how just a few solitary moments with your mind, breath and body can center you again.
Being Alone Can Help Strengthen Future Relationships
Okay, so when you spend time with just yourself, you allow yourself to spend time with what makes you uncomfortable, confused or angry. When we’re with other people, we tend to ignore these issues, especially if you’re conflict averse like I am. (I don’t like to argue or disagree because I crave connection and like-mindedness, especially when I first encounter a person.)
This is precisely why we are taught to “reflect” on science experiments in school. While observing the bubbling beaker or pursuing the fetal pig’s heart, we don’t have access to the attention it takes to aptly consider our findings. It’s the same with dates and parties and other events where we are around people. These are all life experiments, if you will, and we are too consumed with the cutting of the cake or the story of how our date’s parents met to reflect wholly on our own feelings.
But when we get home to a quiet house, we consider how Angie’s comment annoyed us, or how Bart’s description of Peru was incredible, or how David’s smile was bewitching. Those considerations are nuggets of self-learning that help us understand the sorts of experiences and relationships we want to have in our lives.
In this way, aloneness can actually save you future heartache and confusion. It can help you know better what you want. In other words, aloneness can be a prerequisite to avoiding loneliness. How’s that for irony?
The fact of the matter is: there’s no shame in being lonely. We all end up on that sad planet sometimes and my GPS sure as heck hasn’t mastered its avoidance. Neither is it wrong to like being around others. I’m an extrovert that loves people and couldn’t survive without my community of family and friends.
But sometimes people aren’t available to be with us and we would do anything to avoid defaulting to lonely.
So make a choice to look beyond the socialized attitude there is about being by ourselves, and remember that in the end it can actually help us live happier lives. And gosh darn it, don’t wait another week for your friend to commit to backpacking Europe before you buy the plane tickets or for a guy to ask you to that new Thai restaurant before you make the reservation. Go by yourself, my dear, and love every minute of it!