Q: How do I feel okay with being alone?
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Help with overcoming loneliness and finding the beauty in being by yourself.
For many, the holidays present as a very difficult time to be alone. Whether this means you are single, cannot afford to take time off from work or are not able to visit family, or simply choose to be alone, it’s actually quite common to spend some or all of the holiday season by yourself. Although the answer to this question is particularly pertinent at this time, it can also be a challenge to spend time alone at any time of the year.
I’d first like to help us differentiate “being alone” and “feeling lonely.” People may feel lonely even when they are around others. And on the other hand, people do not have to feel lonely when they are by themselves. A common prescription for loneliness is to engage with people around you (and yes, I have found it is often this over simplified). However, I’d like to think of the solution as more of a perspective shift, rather than a behavioral change.
I have found that loneliness often emerges most from disappointment: disappointment in others, disappointment in the day not unfolding as planned, and even disappointment in yourself. So how do you avoid feeling disappointed?
The key here is expectations.
Understanding and managing expectations is something I will continue to discuss, but let’s start from the beginning. We often anticipate how things should go. For instance, when we think about the holidays, we may imagine families and friends, gathered around, filled with joy and happiness. However, as we all know, reality can look much different.
Societal expectations help to form ideas in our minds of what is acceptable or not acceptable to do and ultimately how to be happy. There are many messages from our culture that tell us spending time alone is a bad thing and spending time with loved ones is a good thing.
Consider the ideas and ideals you might hold and possibly even take the next step to challenge them. It’s a very tall order because you likely have a lifetime of experiences that tell what you should be doing. Try to be very clear with yourself on what is truth and what is fiction. Does being with others guarantee you’ll be happy? If things were different, would you most certainly be at peace? Finding peace and happiness always starts within, so you can use this time as an opportunity to search within yourself for what you really need (hint: you likely already have a lot to be really grateful for). In fact, being alone and away from the distractions of social interactions is usually the best time for this type of self-exploration.
I will continue to tackle this topic, as I know it is a very difficult one. It takes practice sitting with yourself and your emotions. Give yourself the opportunity to try it out every now and again.
Be kind and trust yourself.