There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. For many people, the idea of spending an extended period of time with just themselves for company is an uncomfortable prospect. Most of us fill every waking moment with activities, chores and people. Time for ourselves is often the lowest priority. (image by chrisroll)
We are social creatures by nature, but in order to maintain our strength and individuality, it is important to have a measure of independence. It is vital that we befriend and value ourselves, taking time to nurture and love ourselves so that we can keep giving to others, and cope with the many demands placed upon us. One way to do this is to spend time alone. And for some people that can be a very difficult thing to do!
Everyone needs time alone to work on being themselves. As a child you could play happily for hours – just you, some space, and your imagination. It’s the time alone that allows you to replenish the well of energy within. It’s the time alone that lets you reach into your imagination and become more truly you. Time spent in your own company enables you to become stronger, more independent, and more able to give to yourself while recognising your limits with others.
Society is geared for giving. We will spend the majority of our lives giving of ourselves to others – as friends, employees, lovers, parents, partners and family members. This is fine, but brings to mind the analogy of the well. Every time we give out energy, effort and love, we are drawing on our inner well of reserves. If we never top up the well, one day we’ll find ourselves scraping the mud at the bottom, only to find there’s nothing left. Murphy’s Law seems to dictate that when we really hit rock bottom and need to use our own reserves, it’s only then that we find we’ve given them away.
Alone doesn’t have to mean lonely
Loneliness can happen in a crowded room, an office, a marriage or a friendship. It can happen when we’re by ourselves. Loneliness is feeling disconnected, unloved, unwanted, unappreciated or misunderstood. But if you are friends with yourself, you should never feel completely alone.
When you’re lonely, being alone can be a scary prospect. That’s because we usually rely on other people to make us feel good about ourselves, to give us value, and to provide direction. But being alone is integral to becoming a better friend to ourselves. If you can’t enjoy your own company, who else will? (image by graur codrin)
Have you forgotten how to be a friend to yourself?
A true friend has the following qualities:
- respects our limits, and is able to say ‘no’ to activities or people we don’t want to be involved with
- recognises when we feel tired, sick or low, and provides love and nurturing till we’re back on our feet
- encourages us to use our gifts and talents, and to try new things
- does things to make us feel good
- praises us honestly, and treats us kindly
Ways to befriend yourself:
- Learn to appreciate moments of solitude in your life. This article from evolutionzine.com gives some great advice about why solitude is an important tool for creating balance in your life.
- Spend time each week keeping a journal. List things you would like to do, places and people you want to visit, and other personal goals. Write down positive things you’ve been told about yourself. Keep a list of your secret dreams and ambitions. Don’t share this with anyone!
- Allocate yourself “replenishment” time each week, or even once a month to go do things on your own that you enjoy. Suggestions include a long walk followed by a relaxing bath, massage, lessons in something that interests you, visits to a library or bookshop, shopping, visiting markets, parks and art galleries, going to the beach or a favourite café. Being creative is also wonderful – make or do something!
- Just for a day, stop criticising yourself and others. Let everything just be okay for today.
- Take time to exercise, meditate, reflect and daydream. Even ten minutes on your own each day is a start.
- Revisit happy times and achievements through meditation or contemplation. Remember the strength you found to pull you through difficulties. Know that you can draw on all of these experiences and strengths at any time.
- Surround yourself with beauty. Wear nice clothes. Pick fresh flowers for the house, make a special space to relax in, and visit places that make you feel good often.
- Laugh, stretch, sit in the sun, breathe clean air, hug pets and friends.
I wish I could show you, When you are lonely or in darkness, The astonishing light of your own being. ~Hafiz
(image by dan)
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~Thich Nhat Hanh