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How to Embrace Loneliness

Photo by Eduardo Izquierdo
You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with. ~Wayne Dyer

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been in search of a “group,” — friends that were interconnected by commonalities, a support system that I could rely on no matter the circumstances.

Everything seemed easier for those people who were a part of a whole, they could always count on having weekend plans and any party they threw had a pre-planned invite list. They belonged.

I, on the other hand, never had hobbies that revolved around a team; I switched schools more often than most of my peers; and I settled on a career that was driven primarily by individual effort.

But in my attempt to create the connections that weren’t happening organically and to stave off the loneliness I had been feeling for most of my life, I spent several years forcing friendships that didn’t reflect who I was and trying to stake a claim with groups that had no investment in me.

In reflecting on my past, I know that forming a positive relationship with myself and embodying the idea that I am enough on my own is the foundation for building positive, worthwhile relationships with others.

I shouldn’t avoid loneliness, I should embrace solitude as if spending time with myself is as rewarding as spending time with anyone else.

I can only say this with some certainty now because I’ve spent the last few months sitting with the silence — living alone, working at times in virtual isolation and dealing with the burden of a long distance relationship. I’ve been forced to reconnect with myself and drop unhealthy reliance on people who weren’t delivering.

I noticed that once I was comfortable being with myself, I didn’t feel the undercurrent of discontent when I didn’t receive an invite or wasn’t included in a group gathering. I had formed the foundation that allowed me to discern between which connections were working for me and which were not.

In stripping back to the basics, I’ve been able to recognize that those “filler” relationships I’ve spent so long trying to care for have served in large part only to make me afraid of loneliness, and fear should never be the driving force behind anything.

It wasn’t that anyone was “bad” it was simply a matter of spending my time in situations where I could make the connections I was looking for, and focusing on those who weren’t offering that to me was keeping the door closed on new relationships that could.

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting with a group I used to push to be included in with nothing to say and completely void of any feeling of being connected. Yet where I used to feel the need to fill the void with pointless conversation, I only felt at peace with the disconnect.

Now, instead of pouring energy where I receive nothing in return, I can nurture the relationship I have with myself, setting the foundation for meaningful, long-lasting relationships in the future.

Loneliness can’t be covered up, it’s an emotion that forces us to evaluate the amount of love and respect we have for ourselves and it will continue to reappear if we attempt to combat it with relationships and situations that don’t reflect who we are.

If we accept it and know that there is always an end to the intensity of the feelings it provokes, we can begin to see it as a platform for forging a deeper appreciation of ourselves.

Here are three ways you can embrace loneliness and learn to appreciate yourself as you would a friend.

Learn to do things by yourself that you would usually reserve for when you’re with others.

I have a friend who will take herself on “dates” on a regular basis — she’ll go out to dinner and order an expensive glass of wine, see the movie no one else wants to see, spend a day at the art museum. She doesn’t wait to be in the company of others to enjoy herself, she uses the time alone to do the things she really wants to do.

After spending several nights and weekends by myself, I began to follow her lead and see my time alone as a chance to treat myself. I would cook dinner instead of resorting to tasteless TV dinners and go on shopping trips where no one was around to rush me.

I noticed that once I reached a point where I was enjoying what I was doing, I actually looked forward to my alone time — and that has made my time spent with others that much better.

Recognize when you’re suffering from “the grass is greener” mindset.

Often times I would be perfectly content sitting at home by myself if I didn’t have a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that everyone else is out having a good time, surrounded by friends. But the truth is, everyone has these moments and no one has an active, happy social life all day every day.

There is no perfect recipe of outside circumstances and relationships that can provide me with happiness all the time, it’s simply a matter of being able to find a way to appreciate where I am and what I’m doing, regardless of what that may look like.

Knowing that all people from all walks of life have experienced some form of loneliness takes away the isolation I feel when I’m in the midst of it, and allows me to recognize that no one feels perfectly connected at all times.

Take note of all the things you use as fillers to mask your loneliness.

Ironically, in my attempts to avoid feeling lonely I became even more aware of its presence.  In turn, the harder I worked to push it away by maintaining unhealthy relationships and participating in things that didn’t speak to me, the more I felt it.

I know that I am able to create my own sense of peace and enjoyment when I am alone, but it is virtually impossible for me to feel good doing things that don’t represent who I am. I also know that I can be surrounded by people and still not feel connected to any of them.

Once I took away the fillers, I had more time and energy to concentrate on myself and the way I really wanted my relationships and life experiences to look. And that in and of itself is powerful.

Every human being has an innate desire to be connected to others, but how much we are able to pull from these connections relies heavily on our ability to be by ourselves, and tune in with who we are and what we desire.

Loneliness is simply a reminder to check in with you and find appreciation and gratitude in your own solitude.

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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7 thoughts on How to Embrace Loneliness

  1. Wow Kayla…if you had told me that I wrote this post I would have believed you!

    We definitely share vast similarities of thought and philosophy it seems.

    I have been a single male for the past 16 years and happily so! I have many great friends and a few close ones as well, both male and female. I learned long ago as a boy to enjoy my time, and if others joined in on my life so be it. I understood early on that I am the only one responsible for my happiness and outlook and it’s been that way my whole life.

    I also do what your friend does and it turns out I’m a cheap date :)

    Take care Kayla and thanks again for a thoughtful post. All the best.

    Lyle

  2. BP

    Well-written, heartfelt and thought-provoking. I agree with your perspective. Thank you.

  3. Sigrún

    Soooo good article !!! Hits directly to me, I am very good at finding stuff to fill my time.. and maybe thoughts too :) so Now I am excited for this project :D

  4. I

    It really spoke to me, thanx

  5. Being alone doesn’t have to mean lonely. I believe that we have to practice being lonely without feeling sad about it (loneliness). We are born alone and we will die alone… I guess kind of loneliness is a normal state which happens to all of us at some point, no matter of our life conditions.

  6. shimon

    wow u articalate all the things i know about in my heart

  7. To me loneliness is an indicator just like hunger and thirst. It prompts me to get out there and get me some social connection.

    I tried to embrace solitude but it almost killed me. In hindsight, I certainly didn’t have the right mental and emotional state of mind to give it a go. I was suffering from depression and loneliness. I cloistered myself away for a year. I surrounded myself with my aquariums and books. I focused on my passions but I still ended up slipping into severe depression.

    I think one of the reasons why I wasn’t successful is that I have a fervent heart and a high social nature and needs.

    In hindsight I realize that I should have been focusing on the critical inch of my life that was bothering me. The lack of good friends. It was only via social connection and the pursuit of good friends that I got better and ended banishing loneliness from my life completely.

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