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  • Writer's picturedennisharris04

Alone Is Not The Same As Being Lonely

Being alone, enjoying alone time, finding yourself

A lot of people seem to make the mistake of thinking that being alone is the same as being lonely, but they are two completely different things. I think it comes down to people thinking they will be lonely if they are alone. The two become one. Why do people do this? I think there is a certain amount of living with yourself that people are afraid of. Why? I think it goes back to what my grandpa used to say. “In life, if you look in a mirror and like what is staring back at you, you are doing okay…”. I think about that every day and the courage it takes to get to know yourself. It is about being comfortable in your own skin and learning to love who you are and embracing the things you need to work on. That is a tough thing no matter who you are! We will always be our own biggest critic and I believe that scares a lot of us.

I was forced to start being by myself at an early age because of how dysfunctional my family home was growing up. I had a portable record player and my thoughts, because I had a lot of time by myself. You can read a more detailed version of those accounts when my book comes out later this year. Those times became crucial to me learning about me, and I started forming a personal belief system that I still carry the foundation of to this day. Out of those times, I started to develop inner strength and it gave way to my creative side. I started to pursue music, write poems, and create adventures that I didn’t need anyone else for. It may sound lonely, but my experience became set by my boundaries. I was becoming comfortable with myself because I was forced to start identifying who I was at a very early age. Over the years I have grown to enjoy socializing, especially with the right people, but I always appreciate the moments when I am alone with my thoughts and creativity.

So when I see people that always need a person or people consistently around, out of curiosity, I wonder why. I have met people who have been afraid of being alone and talked about their fears of dying alone. People deserve to get to know themselves on a deeper level, to embrace that kind of wholeness, but may not have the courage to look in the mirror like my grandad suggested. When you find that courage it is an amazing and uplifting feeling of confidence that gives unlimited strength to enjoy time by yourself. Out of that strength comes a genuineness that comes across when you do get together with people because you choose to be with them. People will feel a real warmth when you sit down to spend time because your presence will never seem forced or over-the-top because of your conscious effort to want to spend time. I think about this a lot because I find myself in group situations sometimes that I can tell that people require a setting like that to feel accepted. The brutal truth is, if you haven’t accepted who you are, you will never feel that way from others.

I have had people in my life that I care about look to me and others for reassurance to feel confident. I oftentimes would convey to them that I wished they could see themselves the way that others did. As fantastic people. So what if I told each of you that I have this great person that I think you should meet and get to know? It may take time and it may be a little scary. Spoiler alert…It’s you! We all owe it to ourselves to take the time to meet our best friend, embrace our faults, find creativity and build confidence. That will always be yourself. It will take courage, but once you hold yourself accountable to go on that mission, alone will take on a whole different meaning.

Don’t kid yourself, what I am suggesting is one of the hardest things you may ever do if you're being honest. If I asked you right now what you like about yourself, I bet you would hesitate. You are either uneasy about saying it out loud or haven’t taken the time to figure it out.

So many times I have had people ask me if I was okay to be by myself if they couldn’t make it or for whatever reason. Those questions come from a couple of places, being a good person of course, and picturing themselves in the same situation. The same people always question when you tell them that it is no big deal and not to worry about it. After they ask a bunch of times if you are sure, this is the point where they should take a pause, and realize if they are asking you…or themselves. If you are a person who has done that or does it, ask yourself why.

I’m telling you there is an amazing and warm feeling when you can enjoy your own company. Take the time to just be and if you haven’t, do not have any expectations of yourself other than being honest. It is pretty cool to be on a good level of acceptance with yourself because it makes relationships with other good friends that much better. Your healthiest relationship starts with you because it has the power to cultivate other friendships when you don’t expect anything from them, or need it. Your relationships will start from a warm and level place, which would make it far easier to let someone know you and you them. People will sometimes say,” all I need is my dog because I’m good on my own”. That is not being on your own, and owning who you are…The love of a pet is amazing, supportive and probably the only true unconditional love there is. Try again, spend some time with you.

I like my time with me so much that I get annoyed when it’s interrupted because it allows time to reflect, relax, and enjoy things that only I appreciate about myself. It makes me a better version of who I am when it comes time to be with family and friends. I have found it to be crucial when it comes to having healthier relationships. I choose my time with people and appreciate what comes out of that.

You will also likely start to realize things you want to work on about yourself, and that’s called progression. The world would be a pretty savage and routine place if we didn’t seek to better ourselves by looking for new lessons, brought by new experiences. Without progress, we would all still be wearing loincloths and swinging clubs. Brutal routine, which in my opinion is not exciting.

Are you the kind of person that is good with some alone time, or do you consistently need interaction? If so, why? We all like a little validation from others once in a while, that’s a very human thing that is important. But, is that validation hollow if you don’t validate yourself first? Don’t get me wrong, it's nice to be appreciated by others who value your effort, like to share your adventures, or look at pictures you took on your travels. That is one of the positive things about the world of Social Media, seeing the world through the eyes of others and catching up with friends and family. It is great to get likes on things you post and stories you share, but it shouldn't be needed for validation. It should just be one more thing to bring people together sharing like-minded and different ideas. Essentially something to make the day a little less dull and get to explore one hundred different things, when you only have time for one.

Great suggestions come from all forms and it is easy to accept them when you have yourself at least mostly grounded, which starts with looking in the mirror and the reflection. I have posted a ton of pictures of me paddleboarding and enjoy sharing those moments, also seeing other people’s adventures as well. What you don’t see is the moment when I’m sitting on my board by myself, floating with my feet dangling in the water, letting the spray from the water hitting the board hit my skin, the rock of the wave and me in my thoughts. That is one of my peaceful moments, it usually comes right after I have put in a good core workout for a couple of hours, but I truly appreciate those moments. It is one of the places I do my best thinking and feel the most at ease with myself and the world. I do not feel alone, or lonely which is amazing considering I’m by myself in the middle of a body of water. Those moments are far more peaceful than my early years of being by myself, but everything comes if you are willing to put the work in. We all have to start from somewhere and for some, it will take more time, others have no choice, but if you embrace that time and learn from it, I think it will become a thing of value for you. I think that you will come to appreciate and want it in time.

Can you think of a time you were by yourself and you felt uneasy just because you were alone? Why did you feel that way? Was it because you were lonely? Do you need people around all the time? Why?

Now if you are alone all the time and are lonely that brings up a bunch of other concerns that need to be sorted out. Do you have people you can reach out to and haven’t? Why? Are there things that are holding you back and you just haven’t figured out a way? The point is we all need to be social, it is an important part of human need, but we also need to be comfortable enough to be alone without feeling lonely. You will never find complete balance in life, but should always be in search of it and hoping for the harmony that discovers that we are capable of being with and without people. Enjoy both, because you need both, but do it in a healthy way so that you have the most complete life for yourself. Relationships will be better, sharing on social platforms will be more genuine and you will appreciate your time with and without people. The quality of your life will increase to a level that you look forward to your day, share with people, or don’t, but you will appreciate it.

Have you ever heard the term “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? After a day of being on my board, I appreciate sitting down for dinner with my family or having drinks with friends. After the alone time, I feel more invested in the time spent with them, more engaged, and am willing to give them my utmost attention, because I took some alone time to reboot. That time to get my mindset back on track is huge and I wish over the years I had done more of that before I decided to take whatever I was feeling into a social setting. We have all had those bad days or a week where nothing seems to be going right and we can’t put it behind us fast enough. We get to Friday, go out with some friends to blow off some steam, add some drinks and it doesn’t always turn out good if you are already feeling shitty. I’m not talking about those times that a few drinks with friends while venting a bit, that is just what the doctor ordered in a lot of cases… I’m talking about those times you are not in a good place at all and should be left alone to sort out what you are feeling. I wish I had the wisdom in my younger days to realize that almost every Friday was like that for me and for pieces of that time I did. Every Friday I would pick up my favorite beer, watch the Chris Isaak show and avoid people. It was what I needed to do at the end of the week. I didn’t always follow that regimen and it didn’t end up great and would have been better in some cases to spend that time with myself. Nowadays on Friday if the week has gotten me into a funk, I take an hour by myself to recharge before I spend time with my family, so that time is quality and not me half invested. I’m thankful for that time to get my thoughts and feelings sorted, it makes for a much happier life…

After all, being alone is not the same as being lonely, go get to know your best friend, if you haven’t already.

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