“Be alone. Eat alone, take yourself on dates, sleep alone. In the midst of this you will learn about yourself. You will grow, you will figure out what inspires you, you will curate your own dreams, your own beliefs, your own stunning clarity, and when you do meet the person who makes your cells dance, you will be sure of it, because you are sure of yourself.”
Too often, we mistake being alone for being lonely, and we are quick to fill our free time with with plans, work, social media, and the company of others without stopping to consider how we might benefit from solitude.
If you’re someone who always needs to fill your free time with the company of others or background noise, and you can’t imagine taking yourself out to dinner alone, it is important that you make it a priority to do so.
When we can’t stand being alone, it’s a sign that we are uncomfortable with ourselves and that we don’t know ourselves very well. When we can’t stand being alone, we are susceptible to filling our time with lackluster, unfulfilling or even toxic relationships and friendships just to fill that space. When we love ourselves enough to enjoy being alone, we have more space to be discerning about what and who we let into our lives.
Maybe you know someone who is in an unhappy relationship, on-again-off-again, and they keep get back together each time being alone becomes unbearable. Or maybe you have a friend who complains all the time, and maybe even puts you down, and your interactions leave you feeling drained and unsettled, but you keep seeing them for the easy or convenient company.
Maybe you’re dating someone who has questionable morals, doesn’t even own a broom, and his jokes don’t really make you laugh, but he’s someone to snuggle and watch Netflix with, and you are more afraid of spending your evenings alone and starting over than being in the wrong relationship.
Solitude is Freedom
When we learn to love being alone, we are free. We do not need to coordinate schedules, tastes, preferences, and dietary restrictions into our plans. We can curate our day exactly as we like.
When we enjoy being alone, our lives are richer. If every time you want to try something new, you need someone to accompany you, you’re going to miss out on a lot of life.
What if the only company you decided you needed was yourself? What if you don’t need a girlfriend to join you to take a Strip Aerobics class, or to learn how to skateboard? What if you decided to go to that new restaurant alone, or to go to that concert anyways, even if your friends are busy?
Imagine the things you could do if you did whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it, without feeling like you need a buddy to accompany you.
Of course it’s great to have good company and spend quality time with your friends, but it’s great to be alone, too, and allows you crack open to life in a way you might not experience with someone at your side.
Our friends, as near and dear to us as they may be, have lives, jobs, obligations, families, partners, and busy schedules. If you keep your close circle small and discerning, you may not always have someone to join you on your adventures. Go anyways.
Even if you do always have someone high quality to call on for company, choose to go alone sometimes anyways, for the experience alone. Your creativity thrives in solitude.
It’s true, you may face a pang of discomfort or awkwardness walking into a music venue alone, or sitting at a table or at the bar to order your food alone, but this is one of those things that gets easier with practice and the sooner you realize no one is watching you and thinking you’re a freak, the sooner you are free to live your life exactly as you please.
Do you really see people out in the world alone and think “what a loser?” No one is thinking that, and if they are, it says more about them than it does about you.
Being Alone vs. Loneliness
Loneliness has become a public health crisis, and is defined by the perception (key word) of social isolation. You can feel and experience loneliness with a thousand friends or with none, what matters is your perception of your social experience and place in the world.
If you know you have a close circle of people, but you want to crawl out of your own skin and reach for your phone, or snacks, or noise every time you are alone, you may want to consider how you can learn to savor your alone time instead.
You are enough on your own. When you are alone, you can take in the experiences and sensations of the world without someone else to influence you. This is how you get to know yourself and feed your creativity. This is how you become more comfortable in your own skin. This is how you learn what lights you up, what you could do with less of, and how you will curate your life to be full of the things you love the most because you will have done the work of finding this out for yourself.
To stand alone is strength. To not need the validation, company, and distraction of others is freedom.
When you learn to love being alone, you learn to make yourself happy, and that is a skill you will want to have for the rest of your life, and a skill that will enrich your relationships with others as well.
The People You’ll Meet
When I see someone out enjoying themselves alone, I think they look confident and fun. Plus, it’s often easier for strangers and new friends to approach individuals than it is to approach people in couples or groups. You can have some interesting conversations and make new friends when you show up solo.
I’ve made friends from foreign countries that I still keep in touch with, or others who have given me travel trips or helped me navigate a new surf spot. I’ve made friends with DJ who I still go see ten years later, and even met someone in the water who became a close friend and hooked me up with a dream rental when I wanted to move to the beach. I even had a couple of great kisses (once on a cliff overlooking the ocean at sunset) with people I met when I ventured out solo.
I’m convinced that these experiences wouldn’t have happened had I been with a friend. When you are solo, you are more approachable and available for serendipitous connection. It can be really fun, and at the very least it makes for good stories.
Your life is too short to wait around for someone to accompany you on every adventure. Branch out and do what you want to do. The more times you do this, the easier it gets. If it’s been a while, you might feel a little rusty. It’s ok. It will get easier. You may even learn to prefer it sometimes.
How to Practice Being Alone
Take Yourself Out to Eat Alone
I’m always shocked by the amount of people who wouldn’t dream of doing this. It can be really fun to be totally present with your food, people watch, overhear interesting conversations, maybe even have interesting conversations with servers, bartenders, or fellow patrons. You can also just enjoy the ambiance and a book you bring along. Sometimes I bring a notebook, too, and get into the zone with some projects.
Take Yourself to a Movie
If you’re feeling shy, this one is pretty easy since you can go hide in the back and relax in the comfort of the darkness soon enough. Plus, no one is going to try to talk to you during the movie. There will be no one to fill you in if you have to pee though, so make sure to do that ahead of time.
Go on Walks and Hikes Alone
This is one of my favorite things to do. Since I was a kid, walking has been one of my favorite ways to clear my head, get some fresh air, and take in the world around me. I never regret going on a walk or hike, plus you get some exercise. It’s very meditative too since it’s literally just you and one foot in front of the other. You can listen to music or a podcast if you like, but I recommend no headphones once in a while at least.
Take a Class Alone
Learn something you’ve always wanted to do. Sign up and show up. Simple. Take a yoga or dance class. Learn how to make pottery. Go to free gardening seminars. Learn how to build furniture. Learn to ride a motorcycle. Learn how to pole dance.
Go to an Event Alone
Art shows and concerts are great places to go alone since the point is to enjoy the work. I’ve met some really interesting people at both.
You could take a weekend trip to a nearby city, or travel across an ocean to a foreign country. Traveling alone will shake you out of your routine, inspire you, and remind you how capable you are, and how much of the world there is to see. Plus, a vacation where you make the entire itinerary exactly as you like and only have to worry about pleasing yourself is a recharging experience.
You are Enough
You are enough on your own, alone, as an independent being in this world. You do not need anyone but yourself to have a good time, or to go out into the world and have new experiences and adventures, and the sooner you realize that, the more fun you will have, and the more freedom you give yourself to enjoy this life.
Learn to love being alone and you will always know how to have a good time. It’s worth the initial discomfort.