Being OK with Being Alone
Being alone does not equate with being lonely
I've written before about how important it is to love yourself and that without this self love you can not properly draw quality, loving people into your life.
This continues the same thread but with an effort to consider how being alone is more than not being with others, but about being complete in time spent with only yourself.
Yesterday I had occasion to spend a few hours with my 19 month old granddaughter. I was realizing that she has entered a developmental stage of recognizing her own autonomy. As a human being develops, they are so very dependent on the parents for survival that they aren't even aware of how completely autonomous they are for the first many months of their life. They view themselves as an extension of their parents rather than as fully realized, independent beings. As the reality sets in that they are individuals, and as such can be separated from these loved ones, panic often sets in! I watched yesterday as her parents were getting prepared to leave and she clung to her Daddy like a little monkey wrapping her legs tightly around him to not be put down and left behind. We all chuckle a bit to ourselves as we realize that she will recover even though her tears at first are so painful for us to witness.
I wonder if perhaps some of us get stuck in this juncture and never fully realize that we are safe and complete even though we have been left on our own, without the anchoring support of those people we have come to rely on. Arrested development if you will. We all know somebody that appears to be unable to function independently without somebody else to hold their hand through life. It can be painful to witness another who is so bereft without another person to accompany them through every little thing.
What was cute, and even something we might laugh about at toddlerhood, is not so funny or cute in adulthood.
Let's explore how we can break the fear cycle and learn to rely on ourselves and to trust that we can be our own best friend and even parent if needed.
We come into this life alone, and we go out alone
We can be our own worst enemy when we operate from a position of fear or pain. In those emotions we often regress and become as children afraid of things that we've long since overcome. When we are frightened we can lose a lot of the personal power that we have previously come to know. It is in these moments that we have the opportunity to make choices that can move us further into the pain and fear, or take us out of it and move us forward.
If instead we can learn to embrace the fear and move forward in spite of it, we can grow and develop the ability to be more comfortable in our aloneness.
We all have things that we are required to do in the course of a lifetime that feel just plain scary! And when we are feeling scared or intimidated by a situation it is logical to wish for another person along with you. Having somebody there can be very soothing and reassuring and be the difference in feeling like you might overcome your fear and succumbing to it. And, there is nothing wrong with finding a helping hand when something truly scary has to be faced. Maybe you have to appear in court or have an appointment to see the Doctor and are anticipating bad news? These are situations that asking a trusted loved one to accompany you is perfectly appropriate.
There is no shame in needing another person for support! In fact, we all would be better off if we were more able to accept the help of another when we need it! But, what of the person who is afraid of doing even the most mundane of activities by themselves? What if one is filled with paralyzing dread and fear to simply go shop for groceries every week by themselves? Or what if you feel hopelessly afraid to take a long walk in a strange neighborhood out of fear, or to fill up your car with gas because you aren't familiar with the pump mechanism? These examples may sound silly, but I have known people that were unable to perform these and other such sundry activities without being accompanied by another person. They simply chose to stay home alone until they could get somebody to join them for these activities. I recall being judgmental about a woman I knew who this behavior describes. I now look back and feel sorry that instead of being judgmental that I wasn't more compassionate in trying to understand the genesis behind this intense dependence on others.
It occurs to me now that maybe some people simply get stuck at the juncture my granddaughter finds herself in now. They may no longer behave as monkey's clinging physically to another to prevent being separated, but metaphorically are clinging and still just as afraid. Maybe at this critical stage they weren't encouraged to feel their separateness and to be comfortable in it?
But, maybe it's not too late to develop a secure sense of autonomy? Maybe we can find ways as adults to comfort that frightened toddler inside that doesn't want to be alone?
Taking baby steps toward Independence
If you are identifying with any of this, do not despair. It is never too late to make changes in yourself and to grow to be happier and more independent. It may seem daunting, but if we chunk this goal down into small steps, then take our time patiently along the way we can make changes and it can be done with minimum discomfort.
Recognize that you are a complete person all by yourself! While at one time it may have been a romantic notion to think of yourself as being completed by another, this is dangerous thinking. When the movie Jerry McGuire came out many years ago, the tag line was "You complete me", and the world was swooning at the notion. I, however was gagging.
I am a romantic person, but do not find the notion of needing another person in my life to feel complete at all romantic! I prefer to think of a whole person who finds another whole person and together they become a couple who form a relationship. One of equal parts and not one being less than the other.
This cannot be done unless each person feels secure and sound in their aloneness first. Not that I'm advocating that we all must live solitary lives until we find somebody who we would like to join with. But, to first find contentedness within yourself and to recognize that you are enough just as you are! How lovely to have two people who are self actualized coming together and creating a relationship of shared independence, versus two people who are co-dependent on the moods and wishes of the other?
I suggest that if there are things that scare you to do alone that you tackle them one at a time. Is there one thing you might do today that would assert your independence? Something that previously filled you with dread, or fear but that you are desirous of overcoming? It can be very liberating to push yourself a bit outside of your comfort zone. When you've done something that filled you with fear and realized that it wasn't that scary after all you have built your confidence and made a step in the direction of more independence!
Maybe you've never been able to go to a movie alone, or to have a meal in public by yourself? But, imagine yourself doing just that! Can you picture yourself going through the motions and then find yourself able to try it? Let's take the example of going out for a bite to eat by yourself. Maybe at first, it would be easier to order a coffee or a beverage and just sit quietly with a book but in a public place. Rather than taking on the idea of an entire meal, just go out and order a drink and sit and see how it feels. I suggest taking a book or having something loaded on your phone that you might look at as you sit and sip. Maybe you are a people watcher and that can keep you occupied as you sit quietly on your own.
Or how about going to a movie on your own? It can feel a bit lonely at first to do this, but once you have your ticket and your refreshments you can go find your seat. Before long, the theater will darken and the movie will start and nobody is talking, so being by yourself is not such a strange thing after all. When the lights come up you simply file out of the theater and go on with your day. While it can be more fun to have a person along to discuss the movie afterward, you can always find people to chat with about the movie even if you didn't see it together.
By doing these simple activities without another person you have established that you are capable of doing for yourself independently and that it is not essential to have somebody else along for you to have fun.
It is till perfectly reasonable to ask somebody to accompany you for those things that are a bit bigger and scarier, but perhaps as you are able to do more things by yourself, the things that seem scary will diminish. As you are able to do more of what feels scary, maybe there will be less to be afraid of?
You've Got This!
I have faith in you! I know that if you really want to be more independent that is exactly what you will be! Nothing worth doing or having is ever easy, but it is in overcoming the difficulty that strength is built!
As I've written before, by loving yourself you open yourself to appreciating your own company. It is much easier to spend time with those whom we enjoy and love, and that includes yourself! If you can remember to form a loving relationship with yourself then finding trust in doing things independently is sure to follow.
Continue to avail yourself of the companionship as it is offered you, but also remember to carve out time to simply be on your own companionably. The more you develop a comfortable relationship with your solo self, the more you will be able to accomplish without fear. And by being independent, we are better able to rely on others without feeling ourselves to be consumed or to lose our place.
I know for myself that I need some alone time even while in a relationship or I get anxious. We all have varying degrees of comfort in and out of relationships, so it's important to strike a balance that is comfortable for you! As with all of my writing, it's about creating a life of healthy balance that is meaningful but very individual.
The "One Size Fits All" mentality is not going to work in this area. Be true to yourself and create the life that makes you happy!