Solitude provides an escape from the noise. It gives space to reflect on and apply meaning to the mundane. As you retreat from the busyness, reflect on what matters, and step away from the demands and expectations of life, solitude poses a question if we allow ourselves to hear it.
Introverts and highly sensitive people need time alone. It’s how we recharge. External stimulation uses the batteries. Internal rest powers them back up.
Solitude and Numbness
How do you use moments of solitude? With intention and joy, or with fear and dis-ease?
So many people are terrified of solitude. We distract ourselves from the thoughts that might peak out if we stop for long enough. The TV goes on. The phone comes out. We find ways to reassure ourselves that we are not alone. And yet, this stuff can disconnect and isolate us even further. The very crutches we reach for to feel less alone, make us feel even more lonely.
We choose the wrong stuff. When we spend time alone numbing ourselves to the chaos of life, it gets pretty lonely. We can feel disconnected and cut off. But there is a big difference between getting comfortable with being alone, and living life in such a way that leaves you lonely.
When we neglect solitude, we miss a beat. We literally step in time to a different rhythm. Because, whoever we are, whatever kind of personality type, solitude is the foundation of a healthy, meaningful life. If we all gave ourselves enough time and space to get to know ourselves, we wouldn’t be so desperate to prove to the world that we’re something else.
A Message from Childhood
Quantity over quality. More over less. The kids with fewer friends or even no friends are the weird ones. The loners, geeks, nerds, strange ones. The…”introverts”.
As kids we name call those who are different. But where does that come from?
Often it is rooted in fear and envy. We ridicule in others what we wish we had ourselves. The wish that we had the courage to step through life, comfortable in our own skin, able to travel without a crowd we have to fit into.
Solitude and Loneliness
Many people associate being alone with being lonely. It’s seen as something to avoid at all costs. Right from when we are children, we condition this fear of being alone, which rather than encouraged as a healthy thing, is painted with negative language.
There is of course, an evolutionary element to being a part of community (we survive in groups and die alone). But healthy communities are made of healthy individuals. And we can’t be healthy individuals if we don’t know how to be content when we’re alone.
Solitude and Growth
Solitude is our opportunity for deep, foundational, gentle growth. How we spend those moments alone can massively impact our effectiveness and ability to thrive in the world. Solitude is a choice. It’s choosing to go somewhere you want to go alone, rather than waiting for someone to take you. Or saying yes to the opportunity even though you don’t know anyone (yet). These moments build us, they help us grow, and confront us with chances to build our confidence.
But there are small things that help us grow in solitude too. Reading, writing, getting creative, or learning something new. Then there are bigger things, like travel, starting a business, or embarking on some kind of challenge.
In our solitude we build the foundations for the kind of life we want to design and live. We get to choose the stuff that actually matters to us. To do what appeals to us, learn what draws us towards it, and go to places that spark our curiosity and ignite our imaginations.
When we follow these instincts it opens up a whole range of interesting avenues. And fills us with a special kind of energy and optimism about the world.
Solitude and Confidence
Have you noticed that confidence grows through clarity?
When you’re clear on what you need to do, it feels a lot more doable. We gain the confidence to act when we have both clarity of what needs doing, and a lack of option except to do it ourselves. If you’ve ever done solo travelling you’ll know what I mean. There are aspects which at the outset you doubt whether you’ll have what it takes to do it. But because you’re alone you have no choice. And before you know it, you’ve done it and it wasn’t actually as hard as you feared it would be.
So often we lack confidence simply because there is a way out. Not because we can’t do something, but because we don’t have to do it. Or there is someone else who can do it instead. But if we are forced to act because there is no one else to do it, or if we don’t do something we will suffer, we find the will and the way. We muddle through, get it done, and wonder what we were so worried about.
Everything Is Impossible Until You Do It
I bet you can think of a time in your life when you saw someone doing something, or you were at the start of a process, and it felt impossible. Maybe a new job. The start of a qualification. Or learning a new skill. “I could never do that” is the overriding thought. Or, “I will never be as good as them”. But once you crack on and begin to dig in, you realise that bit by bit you can work it out and find your way. And it turns out not to be quite as impossible as it first seemed.
But until you HAVE to make that leap and begin the work, the confidence alludes you. This is why we must never wait for confidence in order to start the important, meaningful stuff in life. Because we will be waiting forever.
These moments are tests of solitude. We are alone because we are faced with the question of whether or not we are going to act with courage, despite the fear. Or remain safely wrapped up in fear and anxiety. Confidence is built, brick by brick on the other side of that question. It is not about becoming competent enough. It has nothing to do with ability. But is born of clarity and experience. Getting over that initial hurdle. Permission to act, despite the fear. And there is nowhere better to get opportunities like those than in moments of solitude.
Solitude and Intentionality
Do you use moments of solitude with intention and purpose? What does that look like for you? I’d love to hear your response to this.
Many of us settle into routines of numbing and comfort. The TV binge, the social media mindless scroll, or through looking with longing at all those things we don’t have but should desire. But we can learn to recognise solitude as our greatest friend. The ultimate time giver. For when we make things happen, use it to grow, and deepen our character in even the smallest ways, it never feels like a waste of time.
First and foremost, solitude is our chance to get comfortable with ourselves. To nurture that relationship with ourselves, and to create stuff. I love creating stuff. And I love seeing what others create. It’s by far and away my favourite thing about human beings. That we can just magic stuff out of nothing into existence through the power of ideas. By imagining something and then working out how to make it.
Wow. That’s always time well spent.
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