Today, I want to talk about being alone with yourself.
And whether or not you enjoy being alone with yourself.
Or whether you think that being alone is a lonesome activity.
Now, if you are a person who loves being alone with yourself, this may not be the post for you. However, you might know someone who would benefit from it.
I think we all know someone who doesn’t like being alone, or who is maybe even a little co-dependent.
I’m sure that was me for many of my years (in fact, my therapists told me as much!). I do like being around other people. I enjoy the interaction. I’m a total extrovert.
And if I keep my mind focused on other people, I am more likely to limit the amount of negative self-talk in my subconscious mind.
Of course, now we are still in pandemic life, and quite honestly, I would love to have more alone time! Isn’t it funny how that works?
I’m sure there are a few out there listening who would be so jazzed about having some alone time! Well, I’ll give you some tips.
Current circumstances aside, surrounding yourself with other humans is in our nature. We are a tribal species. We have always depended on one another for survival. Everyone has their purpose. That dependence part hasn’t changed as much as it’s evolved.
Yes, we need other humans in our modern supply chain in order to receive the goods and services we both enjoy and need. We need other people in public safety, in healthcare, and yes, in government to keep things running.
We will always crave connection, and love, and belonging. That’s part of our human experience. A crucial part of it.
However, there’s a balance to these needs and one that isn’t addressed widely in our culture when we are children.
We aren’t taught how to be alone with ourselves and with our thoughts about ourselves.
Now, I’m not talking about the latchkey kids, but since that may come to mind, let’s go there. Because said kids will most certainly fill the moments spent by themselves with some form of media: tv, video games, social. Yes, some of them may even read actual books (yay!), AND…all of these things are means of escape from your thoughts.
We even have the phrase, ‘to get LOST in a good book.’ The whole point of any of these options is to distract you from your own life for a while.
We learn how to fill the moments of time with ourselves with whatever form of entertainment or distraction is available to us. Then, as adults, we graduate onto bigger, better versions of this using food, alcohol, shopping, toxic relationships – you name it.
No, many of us don’t know how to be alone with ourselves. Even if you’re craving being alone, what does that really mean to you? Staying in bed and binging on Netflix for hours? Or would you consider a long nature hike with just you and your thoughts? No music; nothing but you.
Quite a few of us would choose the Netflix binge. I know I have in the past.
Because we are a tribal species and because of our programming, we often look for other people (or false pleasures) to light us up.
That works until it doesn’t.
There’s always a momentary high that comes with feeling love for someone in the beginning of your relationship. There’s always a dopamine hit from that wine or that ice cream or that new outfit.
Those butterflies that come with new love will evolve into something different over time. It may still be love, you just don’t get the high anymore.
Those temporary pleasures are usually gone the next day. Perhaps replaced with a hangover, a stomachache, and feelings of regret.
We don’t realize that what truly lights us up can only be found inside of ourselves.
Not from anything or anyone external, but right inside of you.
Likely buried under a lot of repressed emotion, dwelling on negative experiences of your past, and a general unwillingness to really FEEL…anything that isn’t great.
And you may not even realize that you’re doing that. You’ve just had the same playlist on repeat for so long that it’s become second nature.
Keep searching for something or someone outside of yourself.
When it’s really been you and only you all along.
Part of this journey of self-discovery includes exploring all of those dark corners and places that you don’t want to go internally. Once we have the realization; the awareness, a lot of times we will avoid going there because we simply don’t want to experience emotional pain.
We say, give me all the good and keep the rest of that stuff.
And when that doesn’t work, we create this void of unprocessed emotions and try to fill it with…something or someone external.
Combine that with having low self-worth and you have yourself a cocktail of constant churn. You’re always going to be searching and you’re always going to come up empty. Again, it may not feel that way at first. Eventually you’ll come up empty. Every time.
So, you’ll move on to the next attraction. Try something or someone new.
Nothing is wrong with you, let me be clear about that! In fact, I think believing that something is wrong with you plays a major role in keeping us stuck.
What you really need to come to understand is this: You are enough.
Say it to yourself right now.
I am enough.
I am enough.
I AM the light I’m searching for.
I know that saying sentences out loud doesn’t automatically make it believable in your mind. Trust me, I know this.
Still – how does it feel just to say it? Examine that. Bring your curious mind. Step outside of yourself for a moment and become the watcher of your own mind. What’s going on in there when you tell yourself that you are enough? That everything you need is inside you right now?
This is a journey. It needs to become a new way of living life for you to get results. Don’t be afraid of doing a little work. The reward is valuable beyond measure.
Think of every small action that you take in these areas as a deposit to your emotional bank account. Because it is exactly that.
Let me give you a couple of things to try out to get you started.
When you take on the role of watcher of your own thoughts, and you start to ask yourself questions, I want you to
Write it down. Don’t judge yourself, just write down what thoughts and feelings come up for you when you face the possibility that you are enough.
Don’t just do it one time, do it DAILY. Get a notebook or a journal, but this isn’t a journaling exercise. It’s thought exploration.
What are the arguments that your subconscious comes up with when you say I am enough? Include them, because they must be brought into the light instead of staying hidden in those dark corners, waiting for the next opportunity to resurface. Or to pounce.
Does it say that you’re a failure? A screw-up? That you’ve said or done bad things? That you are broken? Unlovable? What are the harshest words that you say to yourself?
You can also record a voice memo if you like doing that better. I do that a lot more now. I find that I can get to the truth a lot faster if I’m speaking into my phone as if I’m telling my coach or my best friend what’s going on in my mind at the moment.
I know the thought of doing the work to believe you are worthy feels overwhelming, exhausting; insurmountable. Trust me, I know this.
That’s why you take one step at a time. Build that imaginary ladder and take it one rung at a time.
Spend time with yourself. Notice I didn’t say BY yourself, I said WITH yourself. Because if we spend time by ourselves, we’re going to end up parked on the couch binging on probably more than one thing at a time, feeling just fine about it, because we’re numbing away the noise in our minds.
What are the things that you enjoy doing with yourself (besides the false pleasures and distractions that I’ve mentioned)? How do you like to spend your time with you? Do you even know?
Definitely give that some of your attention. You may need to brainstorm, research, and experiment. Find the time to do that.
For example, through my own experimentation, I have found that I really love yoga. I love going stand up paddle boarding (SUP) too. That’s something that you certainly start out in a group setting and with instruction, whereas yoga can be easily tried for the first time at home with videos. That’s how I started yoga years ago. And I still do it solo as well as in a classroom setting. Even in a classroom, your focus is only on you and finding your own edge.
I’ve found the same to be true for SUP. I can assure you that my very first paddle on a nearby lake started out in a group setting and I was quickly left behind! Well, I did have one instructor hang back with me, of course.
Even later, as I started to get better at it, the physical distance from others in a group can end up being far enough that you feel as if you’re on your own. I ended up joining a club where I have access to the equipment to in fact go out alone anytime that I want to.
That’s something that wouldn’t have occurred to me to try a few years ago when I was still living in Kentucky. The access just wasn’t there. When I moved here to north Texas and started exploring things to do, I was stoked just to try it. And I absolutely loved how challenging and simultaneously calming this activity was for me. In fact, very similar to yoga in that regard.
In both of those examples, I’ve noticed over time that my self-talk takes a different approach when I’m in those situations. I naturally get more into the head space of having my own back.
I’ll say things like:
You can do this.
It’s really okay if you fall, you just get right back up.
Stay here. Just stay with it. Almost there.
You did a really good job.
I’ve found that my inner voice becomes much more supportive when I put myself in challenging situations like that, because those examples I’m giving you happened before I even found coaching.
What I’m saying is, you may be surprised at what your inner voice might actually say if you shake things up and get really vulnerable. It might just show up as a protector, an encourager; a long-lost friend. Your very best friend.
Now, if your inner voice does not automatically take on these roles, then simply challenge it. If it reverts back to things like:
You look stupid.
You’re a klutz.
You have no rhythm. No flexibility.
You’re not cut out for this.
Challenge those thoughts. Right there. On the spot. Not in a combative way, either. You’re not going to battle with yourself. Stay curious. Recognize that those subconscious thoughts have been programmed over years of repetition. Simply see that it’s coming from that old playlist that is in desperate need of a refresh.
Hey, I love some throwback music (80’s all day). However, if I listened to same 12 songs on repeat over and over, eventually I would be sick of hearing them.
Maybe that’s why I can’t stand Pearl Jam anymore. I know that’s 90’s grunge, but one of the Sirius channels really overplayed them, so I have no more tolerance.
Really, that’s the place you need to get to. Aligning those completely useless and ultimately damaging thoughts with a particular band or genre of music that is like fingernails on a chalkboard for you. I’m sure we all have that.
Think of every iteration of negative self-talk, every phrase that’s been on repeat, recognize it as a tune that you absolutely can’t stand to hear ever again and change the fucking channel.
On the new channel, you’re simply questioning.
Is that true?
Of course, it’s not. That’s just coming from that old playlist. We’re working on creating a new one.
The thing is – it won’t be as easy as just switching out the music. Consider that you’ll have to develop your own new music from scratch.
Realize that no good song is created in one hour or one day. Not one. I don’t care if you hear that an artist wrote the lyrics to your all time favorite in 15 minutes on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop on a random Tuesday. That’s only one piece of the art.
There are other people to get involved too. Other instruments to accompany those killer lyrics, each one playing its own role, and then getting them all in sync. The melodies, the harmonies. That takes what? Lots and lots of practice before even getting to the recording studio. Likely not getting the final product from the first recording attempt either.
It takes daily effort. Some results come easier than others, but when you really want something, you stay with it. You remember to have fun along the way.
What is that for you, and what could it be for you? What is your version of yoga or paddle boarding? Or what is something that you used to do when you were younger, but stopped doing for some reason? Drawing or painting? Some type of crafting? Running? Dancing? Writing?
What brings you joy when you are spending time with you? Do some more of that. As much as possible.
Now, there are two things that I want to point out. Caveats.
First, being alone is not the same as being lonely. We tend to equate these two when they are not the same. At all. Being alone is simply the physical act of separating yourself from others and being WITH yourself, while lonely is an emotion that you can feel in a crowded room if you aren’t making connections and your thoughts are unmanaged.
Lonely is a low-vibe emotion. I don’t want to label it as bad and I know that I do refer to some emotions as negative. I do this because we humans generally view our emotions in this way and it’s easier to talk about with clients.
Many times, when we feel lonely, we either wallow in our misery or search outside of ourselves to fill the void. We think that if we could just be with another person in that moment, the loneliness would disappear. That’s not ever going to work. You have to explore why you feel lonely by checking the thoughts you are having and then exploring why you aren’t able to fill the void for yourself in that moment.
Loneliness can in fact by a cry for attention from yourself. When that feeling arises, it’s the perfect time to go IN with some thought exploration rather than seeking a remedy elsewhere.
Second, you don’t have to be physically alone to have your “alone time.”
In order to spend that time with myself, I have to get up at a crazy hour. I don’t always want to, yet every time that I do, I feel so rewarded. I feel so connected with myself.
And one thing that I do not compromise in terms of consistency is a daily walk outside. Yes, some days, I have to layer up and other days, I have to make sure that I get out early in the morning before it’s blazing hot. Some days, I get rained on. Some days the wind cuts me to the bone. But every day, walking at least a few miles also serves as my alone time. We’ll do family walks too and when those happen, I’ll have a second walk with myself.
Just me, fresh air, and sunlight – or at least daylight.
I’m telling you, that’s not only good for your body, it’s good for your soul.
So the walking thing is an example of being physically alone, but I’ve also given you the examples of yoga and SUP where I might sometimes be in the physical presence of others, but my mind is only on me. It’s not a social interaction. It’s just more than one person working on themselves in a group environment.
The time I spend with myself in the mornings, my house isn’t empty. There is also a corner of my house that I frequently visit for afternoon breaks to rest and meditate. Just a change of scenery and placing myself into a separate space, physically away from my family, while they are still here.
There are ways that you can find to be alone with yourself. You may need to negotiate with your family to get support. You may need to get creative, and you may need to set some alarms and adjust your sleep patterns a bit, but it is always possible. Anything is possible.
You just have to want it.
I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul.Jelaluddin Rumi
I’m telling you, the relationship that you have with yourself is the most important relationship of all. If you are avoiding spending time with you because you find it uncomfortable, then that’s exactly the work that needs to be done. It’s part of healing. You can’t heal a wound by ignoring it and simply wishing it away. It needs to be cared for.
It’s an invitation to explore your thoughts. There’s a saying that many of us would never consider talking to our best friend the way that we talk to ourselves. When our best friend needs a sounding board, we’re going to be there, no question. And we’re going to be super supportive. Yet we won’t do that for ourselves. In fact, we’ll tear ourselves down even further.
That’s no way to experience life.
I’m not going to say, “you’re doing it wrong” because you’re only doing what you know. There’s a better way. One that will serve you well for the rest of your life and one that I can help you tap into if that’s what you need. I would be honored to guide you.
Start the process of noticing your self-talk for the repetitive play list that it is and learn to change the channel. Begin to explore the things that you might like to do with yourself. This relationship is so very attainable, because all you need your own cooperation.
This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 36. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Spotify or Apple!