I felt inspired this week to write a post about loneliness and being alone. The inspiration was derived from my impending aloneness this weekend while my husband Bernard was away for a bachelor party. However, to be comfortable with being by oneself is something many people who are single must conquer lest they find themselves reaching for unhealthy odds and ends to fill the void that loneliness brings about.
Being Alone vs. Loneliness
There is a distinction between the two things. Alena Hall from the Huffington Post explains the variation best, “Being alone is a physical description (meaning when we are alone, we are just not with people), while loneliness is a feeling that often is experienced as negative and painful.”
Some people are completely content being by themselves. Others find being alone to be miserable and depressing. Alena Hall provides an explanation for the latter from Ross Rosenberg, a psychotherapist and HuffPost blogger, who proposes, “loneliness is a feeling fueled by trauma, loss and grief, a lack of self-esteem, and insecurity.” I’m inclined to agree with Rosenberg’s point; in the past, prior to marrying my husband, I dealt with loneliness which stemmed from insecurity and lack of self-esteem. I have also observed and spoken with friends who are single, and they too have felt lonely particularly during a time, as Rosenberg suggests, that something traumatic or a loss of confidence in themselves has occurred.
Why is it important to feel comfortable being alone?
The need for human connection has been proven time and time again to be a life necessity. Dr. Emma M. Seppälä confirms this in a Psychology Today article: “…psychologists from Maslow to Baumeister have repeatedly stressed, the truth of the matter is that a sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs.”
A lack of comfort in your aloneness may result in you seeking out detrimental relationships or filling the void with unhealthy habits. When I moved into my first apartment by myself, I thought I was comfortable being alone; but I was mistaken. It was during this time that I had gained weight, I was feeling insecure, and was just generally unhappy with the direction of my life. I filled the void with food and unproductive habits like watching too much television. One of my friends consistently dates lousy guys to fill her void of loneliness. She feels companionship of any kind is better than nothing at all. Another friend, finds himself drinking alcohol to combat being alone. Resorting to other negative means to overcome being alone will not stop the loneliness you feel; it will only defer it for the time being until it returns again.
How to get comfortable with being by yourself?
- Reflect. Some may find being alone to be overwhelming because during that time we are confronted by our thoughts. Often those thoughts are a sign that something else is going on deeper below the surface. Take some time to reflect on those thoughts that are confronting you. Ask yourself, why do I dislike being by myself? What is missing in my life? What do I fear? Answering these questions could help you to acknowledge the root of the problem and assist in gaining a better understanding of yourself.
- Learn something new /do something different. If you find yourself filling voids in your life with negative things or people it is important to recognize this and push yourself to develop healthier habits. When I went through that cynical and lonely period in my life, I started journaling, which is how I discovered that what I feared most of all was failing and losing everything I had achieved up to that point. I also determined that if I wanted to feel better about myself and get my confidence back the only way to achieve this would be to motivate myself to exercise more. Which I did, I lost 30 pounds and felt more fulfilled, which boosted my morale. Try something new, branch out of your comfort zone, develop a stronger relationship spiritually, or even get a pet. Anything that can help you to develop a stronger sense of self.
- Don’t Isolate. I know the heading is about being comfortable by yourself; however, meeting new people or reaching out to positive old friends will help you from slipping into a dangerous downward spiral. If you recognize this pattern of behavior, seeking out and asking for help from friends, family or a trained professional can provide the assistance you need to battle your feelings of loneliness.
May Sarton said, “Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.” Learn how to be content with being alone, and you will find yourself richer than you ever imagined.