Disconnected. Isolated. Unaccompanied. What comes to mind when reading these words?
Do they trigger positive or negative thoughts?
For most of us, it’s the latter.
Often, there is a depressive connotation associated with being alone. In a world of 7,655,957,369 people who are always connected—if not in person, then by technology—the concept of being alone seems unsound.
Loneliness is in fact one of the most prominent diseases in our society. But is it loneliness that is really the issue, or is it our inability to feel wholeness on our own?
Human connection is important, but an honest connection with yourself is the key to fulfillment; and I believe this can only be experienced by being alone.
These are the lessons I learned from solo travel, and how I went from being afraid of being alone, to being okay with being alone.
I used to be afraid of being alone.
I would take measures to ensure that I was always either surrounded by people, or connected with people via technology.
When it came to going out to eat, taking a road trip, or engaging in a social event—best believe I had a friend or two to accompany me. The thought of enduring these situations by myself gave me anxiety, to the point that I would rather sit out an event than go to it alone.
If I wasn’t hanging out with a friend, I was talking to one on my phone. Texting, FaceTiming, scrolling through Instagram and refreshing my feed, failing to realize the hours I lost in this technological vortex. Failing to realize the contradicting effect that it was having on me.
As I strived to fill every minute of my day with connection, I was denying the ability to feel connected to myself. To knowing myself. To loving myself.
To being okay with being alone.
In order to fathom the concept of being alone, we must first understand the factors that prevent us from enjoying this solitary state—vulnerability, insecurity, and the sometimes-unnoticed necessity for external validation.
Whenever we experience fear of being alone, one of these factors is working hard beneath the surface.
Being vulnerable is scary, so we surround ourselves with people we know to maintain a level of comfortability.
Our unconscious habits of comparing ourselves to others deepens our insecurities and derails us from self-acceptance.
And searching for happiness, joy, and love outside of ourselves puts us on a merry-go-round of validation conquests that ultimately fail to give us the exact feelings we are intending to feel.
We’ve all heard the term, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. As cliché as it sounds, the truth in this statement is one of the reasons why being alone is so important to knowing and being content with ourselves.
Having moved across the world alone, I chose a non-conventional way to test this theory out.
Nothing will make you feel more alone than being in a country where nobody speaks the same language as you, where you don’t know a single soul, and don’t know your geographical environment or how to even get around it. (Check out my blog post “First Time Foreigner—Reality Check From Across the World” to read more about this experience).
Not only did I have to endure the new set of challenges of simply figuring these things out—I had to do it alone.
Cue the vulnerability, insecurities, and absence of external validation; I had no choice but to use these previous kryptonites as tools for my survival—and sanity.
Now when I think of being alone, I think of freedom.
The ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want. The opportunity to open yourself up to new people and places. The chance to face challenges with excitement for the lessons and growth they will bring you.
Traveling alone has allowed me to break free from my once obsessive need of fulfillment through my connection with others. And ironically, it has allowed me to deepen my connection with others, as I can now bring my whole self to my relationships.
All the inner-work that I was forced to do from my time in solitude allowed me to fill my once-empty cup.
It gave me the confidence to endure social situations alone. It revealed the power of vulnerability and the rewards that being your true, exposed self can bring. It transformed my comparative insecurities to appreciation of the uniqueness that makes me, and every one of us different from anyone else in this world.
It is during times of extreme uncomfortability, vulnerability, and insecurity (like being alone) that we find ourselves, our strength, and our power.
When we stop focusing on all the things (and people) outside of us to fill our inner void, we can become content with ourselves…we can be okay with being alone. And, paradoxically, embracing this loneliness becomes the key to strengthening our connections with others.
So, step forward into your loneliness, instead of away from it. Get to know yourself. Learn to love yourself. Find power in your solidarity. And watch how this self-discovery shifts the way you show up for yourself and your relationships.
Be okay with being alone.