It’s almost impossible to avoid being contacted no matter where you are at any given point during the day. We’ve all been in the very awkward situation of having our phone ring when we don’t want it to, or having text after text distract us from something we were doing beforehand. In many ways, our world is becoming even more of a community than ever. But at some point, we need to take a step back from this interconnectedness and take time to get to know someone new… ourselves.
I’ve taken a great amount of inspiration from Michel de Montaigne, a French Renaissance philosopher and author who recognized that solitude was one of the most powerful things anyone can practice. Spending time in solitude gives us the opportunity to digest our day, to think deeper and clearer, and to prepare us for experiences in our everyday lives. For many people, finding alone time can be very difficult given family obligations or work schedules, and so we become more and more disconnected from our own interests and necessities – and that truly is a modern tragedy.
Try to set aside at least 10 minutes to yourself every day. Years ago, I promised myself that I would give myself at least half an hour of alone time each day. Some days I pop in my headphones and listen to music, other days I take a walk in nature, and still other days I sit and read, drink a coffee, or just lay down and meditate. Disconnect yourself from emails and texts, if only for a bit. Treat yourself to lunch alone even – what better company could you have than yourself? It’s a very liberating feeling to ask for a table for one.
I’ve matured and grown more in these moments of aloneness than through any other experiences. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself when you spend enough time with yourself. It’s thanks to these moments that I’ve built self-confidence, too. Being alone gives you an idea of what you can do, and it makes you realize just how powerful you actually are. It makes you realize all of the values and all of the nuances of your personality, so that when you get into a situation where someone might try to devalue you, you’re already prepared and know what you have in your toolbox.
Spending time alone in public is equally of great value. You begin to perceive more than you ever would had you been surrounded by others. As a person, it’s made me much more empathetic when I get to observe others. I’ve learned so much about different personalities just by watching or overhearing conversations in cafés. In the long run, it’s made me much more conscious of others’ feelings and reactions.
You might be saying to yourself right now “but being alone can feel so lonely.” This is the best example I can give of the disconnect between yourself and your world. Modern society is so interconnected that when we are alone, society casts a judgemental eye. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a pitiable glance in a café or restaurant when I was enjoying time on my own. And believe me when I say, I received many a shocked expression when I told others that I had travelled on my own to France last year.
Don’t be afraid of spending time alone. Loneliness is the exact opposite of solitude. I have felt lonely in crowds, but when I’m enjoying time on my own, I’ve never felt that way. Unravelling your own enigma can provide more support than anything else or anyone else can provide to you.