The following post is the first in a series inspired in part by the work “How to Be Alone” by poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis and filmmaker Andrea Dorfman as seen in the video below.
It hits home in a way that has brought millions of views on YouTube, and in a Feel Good Lifestyle way, you’ll learn how to get comfortable with being alone…
Delete your Facebook account. Take away Twitter. Get off of Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, CouchSurfing, Foursquare, Flickr, and Chatroulette.
Yes, especially Chatroulette.
Sound like a lesser circle of hell? Let’s go a step further.
Destroy your smart phone, your laptop, your desktop, your iPod.
We’re not finished. Imagine you live in a new city. You have food, clothes, and shelter, but you have no occupation, no friends, no contacts. You don’t speak the local language.
You are existing separated from a society which continues to exist, to breathe, to move around you.
You are alone.
How do you feel?
Maybe the first emotion you experience is a sense of disconnectedness. You’re freaking out, undergoing some serious culture shock and withdrawal…
Your normal methods of communication have been thrown out the window. There is no more reaching for your cell phone to text a friend with a question, no way to reach your parents who live in another country when you’re dealing with a problem. Your social support system does not exist.
Feeling like you’d go a bit more than crazy? I know I would, at first…
So what do you do? When everyone you know and love is unreachable, what do you have left?
Remember, your daily life just took on a completely new form. You’re not running around trying to meet up with friends, professors, clients. You don’t have homework assignments or job responsibilities to busy yourself with. (Remember, no more school, and no more work.) Your schedule for the day just got really, really empty.
Again, what do you do?
Maybe you feel a lack of purpose – an unsettling discontent that you have nothing to do and no one to do it with. What do you have left?
You. Just you. (Here’s where it gets intriguing…)
Alone vs. Lonely
Does the concept of being by yourself for a whole day make you seriously uncomfortable? As in, cringe-worthy, nails-on-a-chalkboard uncomfortable? Let’s take a step back and look at things from another perspective…
When you’re by yourself, do you feel alone or lonely?
Can you spot the difference? One is freeing, and can enable you to do more of what you want to do in a more focused, efficient way. One is an emotional trap, a feeling that bogs you down, and over an extended period of time, can have serious emotional and physical effects.
Alone = free from others
Lonely = trapped with yourself
It’s often a simple matter of perspective. Take, for example, the life of the emerging group of entrepreneurs who make a living through their online businesses. They might spend entire days without a single meaningful, personal interaction, working via Wi-Fi in cafes around the world. They have a choice: Feel disconnected and lonely as the rest of the world runs on a 9 to 5 clock or embrace being alone and use it to their advantage.
The same goes if you decide to live by yourself in a foreign country. I made the continental switch from the States to Europe almost two years ago and haven’t looked back. The challenge is there – your daily social support system isn’t – so you can choose to be lonely or simply alone.
What would you choose?
I may be going out on a limb here, but let’s say you’d rather not feel lonely if you suddenly had to lead a more solitary life.
Here’s the thing: you’re going to have to give yourself a chance to be your own awesome company. You – yeah, you – that person in the mirror – is going to stick around for a while, so you might as well start hanging out. (I mean, you don’t think you’re that intimidating, right?)
I need you to do something really quickly for me – it’ll just take a minute. Run to the closest mirror and stand in front of it for a full minute, without interruptions. Yep, seriously, let’s do this: look into the eyes of the face that you see (come on, just go with this for a sec…)
(Intermission music…la di da da dum da da dum dum di dum…)
Was it easy? Did you feel comfortable? Did you see anything you weren’t expecting to see? What thoughts went through your head while you were looking into your own eyes?
If it was easy and your passing thoughts were mostly positive, that’s fantastic! You’re probably ready to have a picnic with yourself in a crowded park and not feel silly :)
If it was difficult or uncomfortable and if the thoughts flitting across your mind weren’t exactly the most pleasant, don’t worry; now you know that being okay with being alone with yourself might be a bit more of a challenge…
Here’s where “How to be Alone” comes into play. Have a look at this brilliant video before we continue:
Now, for your challenge:
If you were uncomfortable looking at yourself in the mirror, I especially want you to try one of the following…
-Take yourself out to coffee/tea and leave your electronic distractions (and reading materials!) at home. Sit, sip, and observe yourself and others in the café. See what happens.
-Have lunch in a crowded place, where most of the customers are with others. Again, no distractions allowed; just sit and enjoy your meal, and see what happens.
-Go all out: reserve a fancy dinner for one, be your elegant self, and enjoy your own candlelit company!
(FYI: I’ll be doing the third challenge within the next two weeks by myself…it’ll be a mini trip outside of my comfort zone, but that’s the point!)
These times with yourself should help you along the path to being more comfortable and content alone, happier with your own, fantastic self, and ultimately, to becoming a more independent person. The next post will continue this guide, so check back in a couple of weeks for a follow-up to my “dinner for one”.
In the meantime, I’d be thrilled to hear from you about how your date with yourself goes, so please do leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – good luck!
Please share this post so that more people can learn to be happy alone
About the Author
Ginger is a Peak Performance Coach and the Feel Good Team’s resident nomad. Through her coaching, she helps you navigate major transitions, whether to new locations, new jobs or to new phases in life. Ginger also coordinates with writers for The Feel Good Lifestyle so that you have fresh, inspiring content.