Giving yourself time and space to be on your own affords you the opportunity to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours without the pressures and judgments that others may impose.
I spent this last week self-isolating while Covid finally caught up on me, and as a result, the subject of loneliness has been very present on my mind. What struck me most, was that despite being totally alone for the full week I didn’t once feel lonely. Yes, I felt frustrated, sick and restless and I’ll admit I was at risk of drowning in my own self-pity but that’s as far as it got!
So, what exactly did I learn about my relationship with loneliness during those seven days? Well, above all, it confirmed what I had always suspected. I love my own company. The most interesting piece though wasn’t just this discovery itself, but the realisation of how much and how often I ‘need’ that time away from others in order to properly look after myself.
I invest heavily in all my relationships whether they are friends or clients. I don’t intend for this to be a humble brag, but I just know that I’m in fact incapable of giving half measures. I’ve never known how to do it differently.
While it’s something I really wish I could change, I’ve had to accept that this is just who I am and that therefore most of my exchanges with people can result in me feeling utterly depleted and in urgent need of recharging before I’m ready or even able to go again. While this undoubtedly makes me a very good coach (and, yes, that is a brag!), it also shows me just why, and how, I need to ensure I carve out time for me to regularly refill that empty cup. I consider this not just to be good self-awareness, but it also points to the importance of learning what it is we need and then giving it to ourselves, without hesitation.
Yet we live in a world that loves to tell us that a desire to be on your own implies behaviour that, at best, is described as eccentric and at worst, is deemed selfish. If you choose not to engage, you are tagged as anti-social, yet in order to give your best to others, to be of service to those who need you, you must be prepared to look after yourself properly, which demands taking time on your own.
The element of choice
I believe that the real distinction between being alone and being lonely lies in the choosing! What can ultimately make the experience of being on your own a positive one is all down to you selecting it. If you’re spending time alone because that’s what you want for yourself, then that will most likely feel like a mentally positive experience. If instead, you are home alone feeling isolated and wishing for greater connection to others, then that’s much more challenging and problematic. The power is in that choice, the freedom is in that choice.
You, no doubt, are extremely familiar with the benefits of being around people, understanding just what you can get from good company and how it helps stimulate your thinking and emotions. Nothing honestly comes close to being in the company of people who really get you and who love you just as you are. You are lifted when you are surrounded by those who want nothing but the best for you. But do remember that not everyone will want this for you, so perhaps practice a little extra caution, when it comes to choosing just who it is you are going to invest your time with! Without needing to analyse their motivations, be aware that the company you keep also has the potential to take from you.
Your attachment to your phones and to technology can also you feel like you need to be connected all the time. Yet all this noise and activity can ironically leave you feeling even more alone and isolated.
FOUR BENEFITS TO BEING ON YOUR OWN
1. YOU GET TO KNOW YOURSELF BETTER
Giving yourself time and space to be on your own affords you the opportunity to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours without the pressures and judgments that others may impose. The clarity you want, when you are looking to embrace change can only come when you spend time on your own reflecting on the decisions you need to make. Instead of worrying about the opinions of others, or how your decisions may impact upon them, this time alone gives you the chance to focus entirely on yourself so that you will go on to make the decision that’s best for you!
2. INCREASED CONFIDENCE
Being on your own will also help you grow in confidence as you start to feel much more comfortable when it comes to being yourself. The more you know and understand yourself and what exactly it is you need from your life, the more prepared you will feel to show your authentic self, just as you really are. Making informed decisions that are in greater alignment with your values, with what matters most to you, will also help you develop deeper insight into who you are as a person. You will feel empowered to be ‘a lot more you and a lot less them’.
3. YOUR CREATIVITY GETS BOOSTED
Research has also confirmed, time and again, that being alone nurtures your creativity, which I wholeheartedly agree with! Whether it’s writing, painting, gardening or music; you are more likely to thrive doing these, when you are on your own. There’s a reason that artists, musicians, and writers all seek solitude when they want to create something new, so if there’s something bubbling up inside of you then have the courage to create that space and let it flow.
4. LOVING WHO YOU ARE BECOMING
Learning just how to be comfortable by yourself will take some getting used to but all these skills over time will also contribute to you becoming mentally stronger. Use this space and ask yourself exactly what is it that you want from your life and then waiting patiently for the answers to come. The real power in doing this exercise comes in the follow up question: “how many of my thoughts, actions, and behaviours support me in creating this life that I say I want?” This can be quite revealing and is something you won’t get to do when surrounded by the noise and distraction of others.
Finally, if you remain unconvinced that you need to spend more time on your own, then let me come at it in this far less diplomatic way and ask ‘what is it you are avoiding’? There’s no hiding from that one and you’ll always find your answer there. In the words of Eva Longoria, “I’m not alone. I’m with myself. And myself is fabulous!”
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR, her Self Study Programme for those ready to change. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.