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Alone But No Longer Lonely

cliff

I spend much time alone and love each minute of me-time.  Periods of solitude are healthy. I engage with myself, support myself, have established intimacy with myself which means I know me inside and out and am comfortable with who I am. It’s in my alone time when I am most creative.  Today I am absolutely okay being alone. But there was a time in life I spent most of my time alone and I hated it. And, there were good reasons why I felt lonely even when I was surrounded by other people.

I felt lonely because I told myself I was lonely.  I know it sounds funny but our thoughts create our behavior.  I was completely focused on the huge chasm between my desire for hanging out with people and the reality of my social interaction level.  That means I wanted lots of friends and to be popular but I wasn’t. What I focused on – my being lonely – I created.

Even though I wanted to be around other people I remember panic set in each time I had to go to a party or be in a social setting. I felt lonely because I did not initiate conversation. I was uncomfortable talking to others and tended to retreat into a corner to be alone.

The lack of self-confidence to initiate conversation and personal interaction caused me to go inside my head. My mind made up all sorts of untrue things such as people were judging me. I felt like an outsider, like I just did not fit in.  I did not feel anyone understood me. I felt separate from other people and disconnected from life. One day I just could not live this way any longer. That is when I learned to stop being lonely I had to be okay being alone.

To become okay being alone meant I had to go inward to heal the causes of my shyness and feelings of unworthiness and shame.  I healed my loneliness by taking action in two specific ways. First, I did my own kind of therapy. I was lonely because I told myself I was lonely.  I’d done so for years without once questioning why I was telling myself I was lonely.  So I started unraveling my muddled mind by making a list of everything I was fearful of with regards to being alone, to having friends, a life partner, public speaking, conversations with strangers.  The goal was to identify what thoughts were driving my loneliness such as “You’ll never fit in or no one wants to talk with you.”

Who says?  Where did those thoughts come from?  Finding the source of why I did not feel worthy of friends and being the belle of the ball was less important to me than identifying the thoughts I’d been playing in my mind for so long. You’re not pretty.  You don’t have anything important to say.  No one is interested in you.  People are judging you.  You’re an outsider and just don’t fit in.  You’ll never be liked.  WOW what horrible things to think about myself.  And most importantly they were NEVER true.

Somewhere in my early life these kinds of thoughts began taking over. Maybe people said them to me.  Or maybe I had created all of them in my mind. Over time the same negative self-loathing tapes caused my horrible lack of self-confidence and feelings of unworthiness, which resulted in isolating myself causing my feelings of loneliness.

Regardless where the negative, limiting “You’re not good enough and will never fit in” thoughts came from, the real healing came in realizing all of the thoughts that drove my feelings of inadequacy – the reasons for my social isolation and feeling lonely – were not true.  I realized I felt lonely because I was telling myself I was lonely. I was believing my thoughts rather than to confront them and change them.

The second step I took was getting up and doing things for myself to make me feel good about me.  Isolation only fed the negative thoughts of being lonely.  So I began doing positive things to build myself up. I began exercising, joined a gym, worked on my body and eating healthy, took long walks alone in nature, and spent lots of time with my pets.  When I felt more confident I began seeking out people to join in activities I liked.  I joined a bowling team.  I began volunteering for an AIDS organization.  I signed-up to be a stage manager for a local theater/music group.

While being with other people helped me develop my communication skills and feelings of making a difference, the change for me that came from being among other people was feeling more connected to who I am.  By putting myself out there I was intentionally connecting to my heart, the inner workings of Regina. By connecting to who I am bu appreciating my own company I finally ended the negative mind chatter of “You’re not good enough” and “You’re so lonely.” By mastering my negative “You’re lonely” thoughts it opened the door for me to learn how to see myself as I really was, not who I had been telling myself for so many years that I was.

Today I can honestly say I have not felt lonely in many years.  I don’t feel lonely because I am very okay being alone with myself.  I now understand me. I know what I value and work hard each day to stay true to being an honest, kind, compassionate and happy person.  I seek my own counsel as my own best friend.  I like myself because I like my behavior.

It took work to get me to the point where I don’t feel lonely.  I had to accept my warts and all to become my own biggest fan.  I had to work hard to change things about myself I did not like.  I had to care enough about me that I stayed true to myself rather than caring about pleasing others.  I now define success as begin a person of good character.   That is why I can say from experience, you will stop being lonely when you see yourself as the best friend you’ll ever have.