It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of being a parent. Your schedule can encompass taking care of others, organizing meals, running errands and still maintaining a career. Once you have a moment alone, it can be tough to feel your own emotions and thoughts suddenly catch up to you. Perhaps you may even feel isolated or unsure of who you are if you’re not taking care of yourself or surrounded by others.
Being alone and feeling lonely are often thought of as being one and the same.
While some people seek out solitude, others run away from the idea of spending time with themselves. Even the most renowned psychologists occasionally find it difficult to be alone. Take Dr. Angela Duckworth as an example. She’s a brilliant psychologist, mother and writer who studies grit and self-control. And yet, she also has her reservations about loneliness. In a recent podcast episode, she shared that she struggled to cope with loneliness.
Differentiating loneliness from being alone is challenging, but necessary.
Learning to be alone and embrace your own identity can initially be scary. But once you master this skill, you’ll see it as a necessary pillar for your growth and ability to sustainably support others.
When you’re surrounded by others all the time, you’re often trying to read and cater to another person’s emotions. You could risk losing touch with your own feelings. Think of being alone as a muscle or skill you can work to develop. The more you practice it, the easier it will become. At the same time, you’ll learn what works for you the most. You’d be surprised how enjoyable a solo movie theater outing can be! Try to get into the habit of treating yourself to a solo walk once a week. Take time to discover more about your likes, dislikes and way of being in the world.
Rather than endlessly giving to others around you, learning to be alone gives you insight into your needs. You’re able to understand what makes you happy, upset and feel connected. With that knowledge, it’s easier to set boundaries with others. And over the long-term, you can build a social support system that feels authentic to you.
Similarly, being alone can help you identify the people who that you value the most. For example, evaluate who you want to spend your free time with while you go on your solo walks. Reflect on what they bring into your life and why you care for them. You might even discover something new about your connections.
If you want to take it a step further, try practicing gratitude. When you practice gratitude, you can calm your anxieties and enjoy everything around you more. Write out a gratitude letter. Elaborate on the blessings you see around you and how they are important in your life, and truly thank them! You’ll feel a sense of connection and fulfillment and you’ll no doubt strengthen your sense of self-esteem and self-awareness.
Finding Your “Why”
Being alone can put you down if it feels like a punishment or you feel excluded from connections. So, balance your alone time with bouts of social interactions. And if learning to be alone is a goal for you, reflect on your “why”. What would change if you learned how to be independent? How would you grow if you had a deeper self-awareness and prioritized your needs? With this self-confidence, you’ll learn to trust your instincts and make decisions without anyone else’s validation.
Truly understand what it means to make a choice for yourself, knowing who you are, what you want, and trying to identify ways to achieve your goals are all difficult tasks. No one expects you to find the answers right away. However, simply reflecting on these will help you feel more confident and will progressively ease your anxieties.