Hello everybody, welcome to episode 194 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on how to get more comfortable with being alone.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Our asker today is very self-aware, as you’ll see. However, self-awareness doesn’t make everything easy. She’s feeling as though she should be in a romantic relationship, but also believes she has to get much better at being alone before doing so. In spite of some of the impressions I might’ve given about this kind of thing in the past, I wonder just how necessary this really is, and if other, more important things should be factored in first. Let’s hear her question and see if we can tie these thoughts together to give her a good strategy going forward. Here’s what’s on her mind…
QUESTION: “I feel that I should and want to be in a romantic relationship, but I know that a partner will not fill any of the sadness or loneliness. I think some of the struggle is simply that I enjoy others' companionship and I am trying to find the grounds to be happy alone by becoming my own favorite companion. This is hard because my love language and personality are not used to being alone.”
The Dating Obligation
Ah yes, the dating obligation. I think we’re all familiar with that. Especially in the past, the classic shaming or exiling of those that stay single forever has held true.
Seems like single life is coming back into fashion these days, though. But no matter. I think a big part of your or anyone’s journey to successful dating (even if it’s no dating at all) is to disregard obligation in either direction.
So let’s roll with that.
It’s true that the better you are at being alone, the better of a partner you’ll be because you will have tailored independence and healthy levels of attachment. However, everyone’s always able to work on themselves.
Plenty of people that have attachment issues can and do have successful relationships, so although it’s a bit of a stretch, it’s a logical fallacy to assume that someone who has a hard time being alone is doomed to failure in every relationship they find themselves in.
Being Alone vs. Dating to Fill a Void
What I’m saying is that if I were you, I wouldn’t make a concerted effort to avoid dating. You can date as long as it’s not done with the intent of filling a void.
It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s doable. And it’s particularly doable for someone like yourself who is self-aware enough to acknowledge the fact that attachment to other people is something you need to work on.
Going into the dating world with the understanding that you need to work on being alone and having the intention of doing so is fine; it just puts a different spin on the journey to being more comfortable alone.
This is because if you’re dating, you simply have more opportunity to stay on your toes and consciously be unattached. You’ll be faced with more opportunities to attach yourself to someone too much, but that means you’ll also be faced with more opportunities to empower yourself by creating space, being independent, and being romantically involved with someone to a healthy, non-obsessive degree.
So it just changes the journey to being better at being alone by adding more risk as well as more reward. The important thing to remember is that this doesn’t make the journey impossible, and that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Should You Be in a Romantic Relationship?
The part about your relationships that I’m a lot more concerned about is the “should” that you mentioned – that you “should be in a romantic relationship.”
Why should you be in a romantic relationship? Who says? I have a hunch that much of your sadness comes from this “should” and other “shoulds” you may be putting on yourself.
Dating aside, if we’re just talking about the journey of becoming your own favorite companion, the “shoulds” will be important to pay attention to. Each one of them is rooted in forms of self-hatred and self-shaming, you understand? If you “should” be one way, then you’re deeming yourself unacceptable until you are. Hone in on the parts of yourself that are so unbearable as they are, so unbearable to be alone with, and that you try to silence by distracting yourself with the presence of other people.
I’m guessing you already know the answers to these things, but just haven’t faced them yet. It’s time to do that – probably through therapy. But hey, I’m not going to complain about more OLA questions if you want to send a follow up.
So through this point, I don’t think dating has to be a big danger. You just have to be willing to put the effort in to rise to the occasion and not attach yourself to someone too much just because they might be there. The strength that you’ve exhibited in submitting this question shows me that you’re ready to take on that challenge. The priority is dissecting the sad and lonely parts of yourself, whether you’re single or dating.
Being Alone: Conclusion
Meanwhile, you’ll have to get some reps in by yourself. There’s no need to cut off all the time you spend with people. Spending time with people is, and always will be important. Instead, let’s work on bridging the gap.
What parts of yourself do you like most? Can you make more time for them? Can you engage in more activities that don’t involve other people that you still enjoy?
Try to consider how much time you spend with others per week and how much time you spend with yourself per week and bring them closer. If it’s 20 hours a week spent socializing and 5 hours a week by yourself, maybe start by trying 17 hours with other people and 8 hours alone – filling those 8 hours with your favorite things to do alone.
There’s no need to shun the side of yourself that likes spending time with others, but the more you can balance it and practice being alone (especially if you’re alone doing things that you like), the easier it’ll become.
This, combined with the self-work required to work through the parts of yourself that you’ve not accepted, will inevitably lead to a healthier relationship with yourself; setting the stage for healthier relationships with others.
Everyone, there are many things we choose not to do because we aren’t ready. While acknowledging this can be very mature, we need not always be so afraid of entering things completely unprepared.
And we also shouldn’t assume that things are going to completely fail simply because there’s more risk than we’d like there to be. We always have the opportunity to channel this risk into further motivation to make good changes for ourselves, and the more new experiences we throw ourselves into, so long as we’re aware of the ways in which we’d like to improve, we have the ability to bring that mentality of growth to these new experience, thus extracting from ways to integrate our ideas of self growth.
That may seem wordy (not sure I even understand it), but your work can always be done alongside challenging situations, and doesn’t have to be done in spite of them. Food for thought. Walk the line of diving right in and constantly preparing and seeking to live as your highest self.
Time to wrap up, though. Big thanks to the asker for submitting this question and thanks to all of you for listening to the end and supporting the show. We’re getting out of here now, so enjoy your weekend and be sure to come back for the next episode on Monday. I’ll be waiting there for ya. Until then.