Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash
This article first appeared on Your Tango and has been republished with permission.
Being alone is a picture painted for us as kids of an old woman with only cats to talk to, or a young child alone on a playground, or a middle-aged man with a stack of TV dinners in line at a grocery store. We are made to think that it is sad. Something to be pitied. Pathetic.
As we age, we start to fear loneliness, and silence. Who are we if we’re not talking to someone? And now with social media as a constant part of our everyday lives, who are we if no one is looking at us? It’s like if someone isn’t around us to experience our existence, are we even here at all?
If someone can’t comment on the things we are doing we could just fall of the face of the earth.
This is not meant to be bitter or sardonic. It’s just the truth.
The silence of solitude is where we find our loudest anxieties.
When we finally turn off our music, our phones, the television, put down the books, and just sit alone in silence, we fear our brains will tremble with every anxiety we are trying to suppress. We have to glance into our internal mirror and see ourselves as we are.
Mostly I think its hard to get started. Its hard to leave the house, keep your phone in the car, and have a glass of wine by yourself. Take yourself out for a nice meal, without posting its picture online. Have a cup of coffee by yourself with only a book for company.
Why is this so hard to start? Do we feel its too boring? Do we feel it’s too pathetic to look at? Or are we just afraid of our own thoughts?
1. Start small.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you need to start small. Don’t spend an afternoon alone before you take time to assess yourself.
After you do this a few times you will run out of anxieties. Eventually you will just feel bored. Boredom is the first step on the way to stillness.
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2. Go to coffee — without company.
When you feel like you’re ready, try going out for coffee alone. Don’t bring your computer and leave your phone in the car. Order a cup of coffee and don’t take it in a to go cup. Sit and let yourself enjoy your own thoughts.
Its not too stressful because, you are in complete control of how long you have to be there. Allow yourself to remember how to have thoughts that you don’t share with other people. Learn how to cherish keeping some thoughts to yourself. That is power. Silence is a power we have that we rarely utilize.
Learn how to be a mystery, so only the important people will be allowed the clues to solve you.
3. Carry a journal with you to keep you company (and busy).
We know that our most personal thoughts don't belong on the internet, but the urge to press share is always present. We so badly want someone to see this pain that we feel, someone to commiserate, to see us to understand us.
Sharing our feelings is a wonderful thing, but the internet isn't always the platform. A good middle man is to start keep a journal, or if you don't want to carry around a journal keep a list of your thoughts in your notes on your phone.
Look at the things you write down. Read them and re-read them. Address them and accept them. This isn't to say you should bottle them up. That is never the answer.
Therapy is a wonderful option, or even talk to your friends, in person about what you're going through. The idea of the journal is to take ownership of your feelings. Don't give them away for free. Trust yourself to understand yourself. Accept yourself first before you present yourself to the world.
4. Order a table for one.
The next step is a full meal. Go to a restaurant and sit down, sans phone and computer. Order a treat for yourself. Savor a glass of wine, or two. Order an appetizer. Sit for your meal. Treat yourself to something sweet at the end.
Allow your brain to wonder to places you don’t usually let it. Think about things that are painful. Remember things that are happy. Work through a problem that’s been bothering you, but has been too stressful to think about. Think about everything you don’t want to think about. Clear your brain of all of the things you’ve been suppressing. (When dining alone, a lot a little extra tip money for your server. They work hard.)
Once we have cleared out all of the mental garbage we’ve been hoarding, we have nothing else to fear. We will have beaten the beast in our brains that keep us from relaxing into our own solitude.
This isn’t to say that you should shun the internet. We are so lucky to live in a day and age where we can share information so quickly that a second is a gross overestimate of how quickly we can share our stories. Embrace it.
This is also not a suggestion that you ditch your friends. How lucky are we to be able to have friends that we want to share our thoughts with and our feelings? Keep them close!
This is, however, to help you realize that there is a strength you develop when you stop doing things for your friends and the internet’s reaction.
There is a peace you develop when you clear your mind of all of the thoughts you’ve been avoiding. There is a feeling of perfect stillness that comes when you learn to embrace the solitude of your own company. Eventually you will find a deeper understanding of who you are. You will love spending time alone. You will love yourself.